Former cyclo-cross world champion Mathieu van der Poel showed his strength in the first mass-start stage of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup on Friday, taking the win over Swiss rider Fabian Giger. Van der Poel swapped his 'cross bike for the fat tires in hopes of making the Olympic team for the Netherlands.
After coming 10th in the opening time trial, Van der Poel had 17 seconds to make up on race leader Florian Vogel, so he attacked with 13km to go and shattered the group.
Only Giger was able to catch the young Dutch rider, but used his bullets too soon, attacking at the start of the final climb. But Van der Poel rallied, caught the Swiss rider at the top of the climb and then outsprinted him for the win.
“It was hard and I have to get used to it, especially to the long climbs. But it’s really, really nice here," Van der Poel said.
British rider Grant Ferguson finished four seconds behind, but took over the race lead as Vogel finished over five minutes behind. Giger is second at three seconds, with Van der Poel now third at 12 seconds.
A rookie at mountain bike racing, Van der Poel is off to a solid start in his Olympic aspirations. In order to qualify for the Olympic Games, he will need to get at least one top six or two top-12 World Cup results.