All season it has been the Mathieu van der Poel show. He has had arguably the greatest season ever. However, our Rider of the Year is someone who came on to the scene last year and has continued to improve. Toon Aerts had an incredible season from start to finish. He won his second race of the season this year and ended his season with a win in Leuven and a second place in Oostmalle. Not only was this Aerts best season ever, it was such a solid season that it earned him our Rider of the Year.
Aerts first burst on the scene when he won the European Championship in 2016. Last season he tried to continue that success, but couldn’t seem to find the podium as much as expected. He had only one victory last season at Jaamarktcross in Niel. He wound up with 16 podium appearances in 39 races. He failed to win any of the major series, but did finish third in the World Cup and UCI rankings.
This season was drastically different for the young Belgian. He won the first two rounds of the World Cup en route to an overall victory in the series. He finished second overall in the Superprestige and DVV Trofee, as well as third in the UCI rankings. Perhaps most importantly, he won the Belgian National Championship. All in all, Aerts finished on the podium 31 times in 38 races and never finished outside the top ten. It was an impressive season.
As we mentioned in a previous column, it is possible that both Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel will take a small step back next cross season. While both have committed to racing cross, the effects of a long road and mountain bike season could alter their plans and/or performance. With that in mind, we wonder if next year Aerts will convert those podiums into wins. It will be interesting to see how things shake up this fall.