After a tumultuous race, Wout Van Aert (Belgium) extended his cyclo-cross world title in Bieles, Luxembourg. After a week with freezing temperatures, thaw came and a massive amount of rocks surfaced at the reshaped industrial area. Countless mechanical problems ruined the race in the Elite men's race, taking out Van Aert's major opponent Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), who finished as runner-up at long distance. Kevin Pauwels (Belgium) won the battle for third place at more than two minutes from winner Van Aert.
The 22-year-old winner overcame knee problems that kept him off the bike shortly before the championships. In the end, there was no straightforward duel, with Van Aert winning the gear battle. He opted for old-fashioned green Michelin tubulars and punctured only once during the race, whereas Van der Poel punctured at least four times.
"I really didn't expect this," Van Aert said in the post-race flash interview. "Last week I was a week without bike. It seemed like nobody believed me. It was not the best preparation. I just wanted to give full gas for one hour. It's also a pity that bad luck is with Mathieu when he has a flat tire. Of course I couldn't wait for that. I'm so happy with my second world title."
Early on, Van der Poel was displaying excellent form. The Dutch 22-year-old powered away and quickly opened up a gap on his rivals. Van Aert struggled early on and found himself at fifteen seconds from the leader after the opening lap.
"I thought it would be a race for second place but then in the second lap I found my good rhythm," Van Aert said.
Van der Poel punctured in the second, third and fourth lap, and was caught back by Van Aert in that lap. Halfway the race, after four laps, the top duo was 43 seconds ahead of Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium), Corné van Kessel (Netherlands), Lars van der Haar (Netherlands), Tim Merlier (Belgium), Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) and Kevin Pauwels (Belgium).
Both Van Aert and Van der Poel punctured in the fifth lap, but the timing turned out to be crucial. Van Aert flatted just before the pit area, losing only a handful of seconds. When Van der Poel flatted for the fourth time, he was just before the finish at a long distance from the pit. By the time Van der Poel was able to get a new bike in the sixth lap he was trailing his Belgian rival by more than 20 seconds.
After the finish line Van der Poel burst into tears. During the podium ceremony he was still in tears. Afterwards he talked in the Sporza studio.
"It's no fun to lose a race due to bad luck. It's the biggest disappointment of my career," Van der Poel said, although he didn't want to blame the course. "There's many rocks in Namur as well. Despite my disappointment, I had great fun for the full hour on this real 'cross course. The punctures were just too much. It cost too much time and energy."
From there, the two protagonists stayed out of trouble, but a battle wasn't possible anymore. At the finish line, Van Aert was pounding himself on the chest. A massively dissapointed Van der Poel crossed the line at 44 seconds. Pauwels was best of the rest at 2:09 to take his fifth borne medal at the World Championships.
"The result couldn't be better," Pauwels told Sporza. I flatted three times. The last lap I took it easy to avoid a puncture. If you see the difference with the first two riders, then it's a good result."
In a testament to what the course did with the rider's gear, the next three riders a crossed the line - Van der Haar, Corné van Kessel and Laurens Sweeck - all finished with punctures.
"Six flats were too much to overcome," Van der Haar told Sporza. "I think I could've gotten third place easily. I did everything to avoid punctures but it kept happening. I'm happy with fourth place though after what happened in November."
Several riders ran out of gear, including 2008 World Champion Lars Boom (Netherlands) after five punctures. Sweeck flatted five or six times.
"Luckily, my team had the wheels of my brothers with them," Sweeck told Sporza. "It remains a mechanical sport."
Michael Boros (Czech Republic) and Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium) were running to the finish with broken derailleurs, finishing respectively seventh and eighth.
"I punctured seven or eight times," Vermeersch told Sporza. "My father shouted I had to keep riding because they no longer had bikes ready. I rode half the race on a flat tubular."
Simon Zahner (Switzerland) was unscathed in ninth place. Sascha Weber (Germany) closed out the top 10 at 4:29 from Van Aert.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Belgium)||1:02:08|
|2||Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands)||0:00:44|
|3||Kevin Pauwels (Belgium)||0:02:09|
|4||Lars van der Haar (Netherlands)||0:02:52|
|5||Corne Van Kessel (Netherlands)||0:03:09|
|6||Laurens Sweeck (Belgium)||0:03:29|
|7||Michael Boroš (Czech Republic)||0:03:47|
|8||Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium)||0:04:02|
|9||Simon Zahner (Switzerland)||0:04:08|
|10||Sascha Weber (Germany)||0:04:29|
|11||Jan Nesvadba (Czech Republic)||0:04:50|
|12||Tim Merlier (Belgium)||0:05:07|
|13||Philipp Walsleben (Germany)|
|14||Severin Sägesser (Switzerland)||0:05:18|
|15||Nicola Rohrbach (Switzerland)||0:05:28|
|16||Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibanez (Spain)||0:05:35|
|17||Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium)||0:05:40|
|18||Stephen Hyde (United States)||0:05:41|
|19||Julien Taramarcaz (Switzerland)||0:05:57|
|20||Luca Braidot (Italy)||0:06:05|
|21||Matthieu Boulo (France)||0:06:15|
|22||Emil Hekele (Czech Republic)||0:06:26|
|23||Alois Falenta (France)|
|24||Marcel Wildhaber (Switzerland)||0:06:29|
|25||Marek Konwa (Poland)||0:06:41|
|26||Tomáš Paprstka (Czech Republic)||0:06:49|
|27||Ismael Esteban Aguando (Spain)||0:07:03|
|28||Martin Haring (Slovakia)||0:07:18|
|29||Clement Venturini (France)||0:07:38|
|30||David Van Der Poel (Netherlands)|
|31||Francis Mourey (France)|
|32||Jeremy Powers (United States)|
|33||Kerry Werner (United States)|
|34||Stan Godrie (Netherlands)|
|35||Cristian Cominelli (Italy)|
|36||Kenneth Hansen (Denmark)|
|37||Ian Field (Great Britain)|
|38||Michael Van Den Ham (Canada)|
|39||Michal Malík (Czech Republic)|
|40||Daniele Braidot (Italy)|
|41||Steve Chainel (France)|
|42||Lex Reichling (Luxembourg)|
|43||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spain)|
|44||Lars Boom (Netherlands)|
|45||Joachim Parbo (Denmark)|
|46||Gusty Bausch (Luxembourg)|
|47||Jeremy Martin (Canada)|
|48||Aitor Hernandez Gutierrez (Spain)|
|49||Travis Livermon (United States)|
|50||Zsolt Búr (Hungry)|
|51||Hikaru Kosaka (Japan)|
|52||Scott Thiltges (Luxembourg)|
|53||Kohei Maeda (Japan)|
|54||Tommy Nielsen (Denmark)|
|55||Mark McConnell (Canada)|
|56||Ingvar Omarsson (Israel)|
|57||Tobin Ortenblad (United States)|
|58||Pit Schlechter (Luxembourg)|
|59||Jeremy Durrin (United States)|
|60||Christian Helmig (Luxembourg)|