Van der Poel unflappable en route to elite World Championship victory

Van Aert salvages Belgium's hope beating van der Haar for silver

Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) emerged mud-spattered but victorious at the finish line of the elite men's race at the 2015 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships after soloing from the start of the second lap of the Tábor, Czech Republic course.

Wout Van Aert saved Belgium's hopes, denying Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) a Dutch 1-2 by catching and out-sprinting him in a close-fought final lap.

With a convincing win at last weekend’s final World Cup round of the season, Van der Poel declared he was a favourite for the World Championships. Straight from the start Van der Poel took the Tábor race in his hands. Only Wout Van Aert was able to hold his wheel but ran into the first of several problems.

While Van der Poel set the pace in front his rival Van Aert was running into mechanical problems on his new bike. At the end of the first lap Van Aert was forced to stop a first time with a dropped chain, but halfway into the second lap five riders managed to come back on the Dutchman. “I was really looking forward to be riding with my new bike but in the beginning it nearly ruined my race. I dropped my chain but I don’t know how,” Van Aert told Sporza.

At the end of the second lap Van Aert was sidelined again, and this time Van der Poel was gone for good. He was slowly eking out an advantage that was never more than 20 seconds. "Mentally it was a very hard race," Van der Poel said. "I didn’t have a big gap at all. The gap was always 10 seconds. It was difficult but I had a lot of confidence from last week.”

The chase group behind Van der Poel consisted of Pauwels, Van der Haar, Tom Meeusen (Belgium) and Klaas Vantornout (Belgium). Van Aert managed to come back in this group in the third lap but at then he crashed hard. “It was a painful crash. I needed some time to recover from that,” Van Aert told Sporza.

Wout Van Aert suffered a drop chain at the end of the first lap
Van Aert dropped his chain at the end of lap 1. Photo: Tim De Waele

Showing calm control that belied his young age Van der Poel - even younger than the day's U23 champion - held off a heated chase behind him. Pauwels led this chase on Van der Poel and quickly dropped Meeusen and Vantornout while Van der Haar was following the Belgian rider with ease.

Van der Poel was one of only a few riders who chose to bunny hop the barriers, and while he executed the hop imperfectly in the first few laps, he kept using the technique to keep his lead intact.

"In the warm up the barriers were difficult, but i knew in the race it could make a difference," Van der Poel said. "The first two laps weren't that great, but then I took time there every lap."

While Van Aert was moving back up towards fourth place Van der Haar attacked Pauwels on one of the longer climbs on the muddy course. Pauwels tried hard to stay with the Dutchman but faded. With three laps to go Van der Haar was trailing Van der Poel by 12 seconds. Pauwels was 16 seconds down while Van Aert was trailing the leader by 35 seconds.

“All race long I was in doubts. Until I was descending to the finish for the last time. Then I realized it. About five times I thought about sitting up to make them come back. But I always kept riding,” Van der Poel said.

Halfway through the sixth lap Van der Haar came back to seven seconds but he lost ground again when Van der Poel hopped the barriers. “I saw Pauwels was dead while I was much better. We agreed that one could try to go without someone else on your wheel. I tried and got a gap. I couldn’t go earlier because then Pauwels would’ve followed. It was a bit too far. When he hopped the barriers I had to start all over again. That killed me,” Van der Haar told Sporza. With two laps to go the gap was ten seconds.

Behind the two Dutch riders Pauwels was caught back by Van Aert at the end of the sixth lap. A stumble at the stairs from Pauwels ended his podium hopes, while Van Aert kept going flat out, trying to get back on Van der Haar.

Going into the final lap Van der Poel had 11 seconds on Van der Haar and 21 seconds on Van Aert. The latter flatted but that didn’t keep him from catching Van der Haar in the final descent. Meanwhile Van der Poel could not believe he won the World Championships. He zipped his shirt and had to hold back his tears. A few seconds later Van Aert passed Van der Haar in the final corner and won the sprint for the silver medal. When crossing the line Van Aert showed his anger. “I didn’t win silver, I lost gold,” Van Aert said.

Although Van der Poel was eligible to race the U23 category, he and Van Aert chose to compete with the elites, and he will now head into next season with the most prestigious jersey on his back. "It was the best choice of my life so far,” Van der Poel said. “It's a lot different. I don't think I have the confidence to know what it's going to mean in the next season, but it will be awesome to ride in that jersey."

Pauwels held on to his fourth place, finishing more than a minute behind winner Van der Poel. He was the first of four Belgian riders, with Vantornout, Meeusen and young Gianni Vermeersch being the next riders at the finish. German champion Marcel Meisen finished just ahead of his compatriot Philipp Walsleben. Mountain bike specialist Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) concluded a strong race in tenth place. Sven Nys (Belgium) rode an anonymous race and didn’t push on in the end, finishing 17th. Ian Field (Great Britain) was the first Anglo-Saxon rider in 21st place. Jonathan Page (USA) rode the race despite being hit by a family tragedy this week. He finished as first American rider in 23rd position. Zach McDonald (USA) was the last rider to finish in the lead lap in 35th place.

The elite men's podium was 2/3 U23 riders: Wout Van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Lars van der Haar.
Photo: Tim De Waele

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands)1:09:12 
2Wout Van Aert (Belgium)0:00:15 
3Lars van der Haar (Netherlands)0:00:17 
4Kevin Pauwels (Belgium)0:01:06 
5Klaas Vantornout (Belgium)0:01:12 
6Tom Meeusen (Belgium)0:01:17 
7Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium)0:02:26 
8Marcel Meisen (Germany)0:02:37 
9Philipp Walsleben (Germany)0:02:43 
10Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy)0:02:54 
11Julien Taramarcaz (Switzerland)0:02:56 
12Luca Braidot (Italy)0:03:13 
13Michael Boros (Czech Republic)0:03:19 
14Fabien Canal (France)0:03:26 
15Thijs Van Amerongen (Netherlands)0:03:27 
16Simon Zahner (Switzerland)0:03:30 
17Sven Nys (Belgium)  
18Tomas Paprstka (Czech Republic)0:03:38 
19Rob Peeters (Belgium)0:03:56 
20Francis Mourey (France)0:03:59 
21Ian Field (Great Britain)0:04:00 
22Mariusz Gil (Poland)0:04:22 
23Jonathan Page (United States Of America)0:04:33 
24Lubomir Petrus (Czech Republic)0:04:41 
25Marcel Wildhaber (Switzerland)0:04:47 
26Niels Wubben (Netherlands)0:04:51 
27Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga Ibanez (Spain)0:04:53 
28Arnaud Grand (Switzerland)0:05:00 
29Matej Lasak (Czech Republic)0:05:05 
30Kenneth Hansen (Denmark)0:05:21 
31Martin Haring (Slovakia)0:05:29 
32Jeremy Powers (United States Of America)0:06:18 
33David van der Poel (Netherlands)0:06:39 
34Aitor Hernandez Gutierrez (Spain)0:06:40 
35Zach Mcdonald (United States Of America)0:07:53 
36Aaron Schooler (Canada)-1 lap 
37Marek Konwa (Poland)  
38Kazuhiro Yamamoto (Japan)-2 laps 
39Radomir Simunek (Czech Republic)  
40Karl Heinz Gollinger (Austria)  
41Jaroslav Chalas (Slovakia)  
42Mark Mcconnell (Canada)  
43Vaclav Metlicka (Slovakia)  
44Paul Redenbach (Australia)-3 laps 
45Yu Takenouchi (Japan)  
46Gabor Fejes (Hungary)  
47Garry Millburn (Australia)  
48Lukas Batora (Slovakia)  
49Mike Garrigan (Canada)-4 laps 
50James Driscoll (United States Of America)  
51Oleksiy Ukhanov (Ukraine)  
52Angus Edmond (New Zealand)-5 laps 

Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) emerged mud-spattered but victorious at the finish line of the elite men's race at the 2015 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships after soloing from the start of the second lap of the Tábor, Czech Republic course.

Wout Van Aert saved Belgium's hopes, denying Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) a Dutch 1-2 by catching and out-sprinting him in a close-fought final lap.

With a convincing win at last weekend’s final World Cup round of the season, Van der Poel declared he was a favourite for the World Championships. Straight from the start Van der Poel took the Tábor race in his hands. Only Wout Van Aert was able to hold his wheel but ran into the first of several problems.

While Van der Poel set the pace in front his rival Van Aert was running into mechanical problems on his new bike. At the end of the first lap Van Aert was forced to stop a first time with a dropped chain, but halfway into the second lap five riders managed to come back on the Dutchman. “I was really looking forward to be riding with my new bike but in the beginning it nearly ruined my race. I dropped my chain but I don’t know how,” Van Aert told Sporza.

At the end of the second lap Van Aert was sidelined again, and this time Van der Poel was gone for good. He was slowly eking out an advantage that was never more than 20 seconds. "Mentally it was a very hard race," Van der Poel said. "I didn’t have a big gap at all. The gap was always 10 seconds. It was difficult but I had a lot of confidence from last week.”

The chase group behind Van der Poel consisted of Pauwels, Van der Haar, Tom Meeusen (Belgium) and Klaas Vantornout (Belgium). Van Aert managed to come back in this group in the third lap but at then he crashed hard. “It was a painful crash. I needed some time to recover from that,” Van Aert told Sporza.

Showing calm control that belied his young age Van der Poel - even younger than the day's U23 champion - held off a heated chase behind him. Pauwels led this chase on Van der Poel and quickly dropped Meeusen and Vantornout while Van der Haar was following the Belgian rider with ease.

Van der Poel was one of only a few riders who chose to bunny hop the barriers, and while he executed the hop imperfectly in the first few laps, he kept using the technique to keep his lead intact.

"In the warm up the barriers were difficult, but i knew in the race it could make a difference," Van der Poel said. "The first two laps weren't that great, but then I took time there every lap."

While Van Aert was moving back up towards fourth place Van der Haar attacked Pauwels on one of the longer climbs on the muddy course. Pauwels tried hard to stay with the Dutchman but faded. With three laps to go Van der Haar was trailing Van der Poel by 12 seconds. Pauwels was 16 seconds down while Van Aert was trailing the leader by 35 seconds.

“All race long I was in doubts. Until I was descending to the finish for the last time. Then I realized it. About five times I thought about sitting up to make them come back. But I always kept riding,” Van der Poel said.

Halfway through the sixth lap Van der Haar came back to seven seconds but he lost ground again when Van der Poel hopped the barriers. “I saw Pauwels was dead while I was much better. We agreed that one could try to go without someone else on your wheel. I tried and got a gap. I couldn’t go earlier because then Pauwels would’ve followed. It was a bit too far. When he hopped the barriers I had to start all over again. That killed me,” Van der Haar told Sporza. With two laps to go the gap was ten seconds.

Behind the two Dutch riders Pauwels was caught back by Van Aert at the end of the sixth lap. A stumble at the stairs from Pauwels ended his podium hopes, while Van Aert kept going flat out, trying to get back on Van der Haar.

Going into the final lap Van der Poel had 11 seconds on Van der Haar and 21 seconds on Van Aert. The latter flatted but that didn’t keep him from catching Van der Haar in the final descent. Meanwhile Van der Poel could not believe he won the World Championships. He zipped his shirt and had to hold back his tears. A few seconds later Van Aert passed Van der Haar in the final corner and won the sprint for the silver medal. When crossing the line Van Aert showed his anger. “I didn’t win silver, I lost gold,” Van Aert said.

Although Van der Poel was eligible to race the U23 category, he and Van Aert chose to compete with the elites, and he will now head into next season with the most prestigious jersey on his back. "It was the best choice of my life so far,” Van der Poel said. “It's a lot different. I don't think I have the confidence to know what it's going to mean in the next season, but it will be awesome to ride in that jersey."

Pauwels held on to his fourth place, finishing more than a minute behind winner Van der Poel. He was the first of four Belgian riders, with Vantornout, Meeusen and young Gianni Vermeersch being the next riders at the finish. German champion Marcel Meisen finished just ahead of his compatriot Philipp Walsleben. Mountain bike specialist Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) concluded a strong race in tenth place. Sven Nys (Belgium) rode an anonymous race and didn’t push on in the end, finishing 17th. Ian Field (Great Britain) was the first Anglo-Saxon rider in 21st place. Jonathan Page (USA) rode the race despite being hit by a family tragedy this week. He finished as first American rider in 23rd position. Zach McDonald (USA) was the last rider to finish in the lead lap in 35th place.

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