Mathieu van der Poel claimed the Dutch national cyclo-cross title for the third consecutive year on Sunday, just ten days after injuring his neck in a crash. The 21-year-old finished ahead of Corne van Kessel and Joris Nieuwenhuis.
"I waited for the first two laps here and eventually had the chance to accelerate enough to make a difference,” he told Ziggo Sport. "There were not many places to really get away. It was more riding from turn to turn."
Van der Poel was lucky not to have suffered a more serious injury at the Azencross race on December 29. He took a climb on the penultimate lap and crashed down the descent. He hit the ground hard and did not move for several minutes, before being eventually removed on a stretcher.
He apparently lost consciousness briefly, saying: “I can imagine the moment of impact but I can't remember it so well. I only know that I felt nothing in my face and had quite some pain in my neck. That was nasty.”
Fortunately there were no serious injuries, as he later tweeted: “I'm ok, nasty crash which was my own fault but I got lucky after all.”
He sat out two races to recover, with the Dutch championships being his first race back. His next goal is the World Championships in Luxembourg in three weeks, to regain the title he won two years ago.
“That is the most important jersey. I want that back. But if it does not work out, at least I still have the red-white-blue,” he told nu.nl.