There seems to come no end to the dominance of Mathieu van der Poel in cyclo-cross this season. On Boxing Day, the European champion - a lover of fast cars - unleashed his brutal power at the car racing circuit of Terlaemen during the seventh round of the Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.
Van der Poel completed an impressive solo, winning ahead of world champion Wout van Aert and new kid on the block Joris Nieuwenhuis (Sunweb Development Team). On the podium, Van der Poel was joined by his grandfather, Raymond Poulidor. It’s Van der Poel’s 18th victory in 20 races.
“I’m at the start line with the goal to win a race,” Van der Poel said in the post-race flash interview. "I didn’t make a lot of mistakes here. Maybe I shifted back too easily on a steady pace once I had half a minute because Wout was able to close in on me. I was a bit too relaxed."
Next month, Van der Poel will not be taking part in the penultimate World Cup round in Pont-Chateau, France, on January 20. Earlier he also skipped the two opening rounds in the US. Despite capturing five successive wins in the World Cup and being third overall, it means he’ll miss out on the chance to win the World Cup.
“Before the season we decided to skip Pont-Chateau,” Van der Poel said. "We also skipped the US-rounds. If I hadn’t done that then I would’ve done Pont-Chateau, but I’m not chasing the win in the World Cup so I’ll skip the French round."
In the World Cup standings, leader Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) lost 10 points from his 17-points bonus over Van Aert in Heusden-Zolder. Early on in the race, it seemed like Aerts would be able to gain points on the world champion when the latter punctured. On the fast course in Zolder, a mechanical often means it’s impossible to bounce back. Aerts stormed to the front but not with the goal to bother Van der Poel.
“It’s my job to go for the World Cup,” Aerts said in the post-race flash interview on Sporza. "It’s a close battle between Wout and myself. I heard the MC announce that Van Aert had punctured. I didn’t know where he was but I decided to up the pace, hoping to put him out of contention but you’re never done with a good Wout. He returned to the front much faster than I hoped for."
Once Van Aert bridged back up, Aerts rode tactically. His only goal was to stay with Van Aert. Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal) profited and rode away in the fourth of nine laps. Behind him, Van Aert was fighting out a tactical battle with Aerts and 22-year-old Nieuwenhuis, and Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) didn’t have the power to close the gap back down. They were helped when Vanthourenhout dropped his chain and was forced to run to the pit, losing 1:30 and suddenly finding himself out of the top 10.
In the closing laps, Van Aert was able to drop Aerts. Nieuwenhuis was riding in between the Belgians and also Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) managed to bridge up with Aerts. Van Aert kept going full gas until the finish line and reached it 'only' 16 seconds after Van der Poel. Nieuwenhuis stood tall for third place and managed his best-ever elite result in the World Cup, shortly after his fourth place in Namur.
Sweeck was on the verge of dropping Aerts in the closing lap. In a worst-case scenario, Aerts would finish fifth and lose 15 points. It didn’t happen because Aerts narrowly won the sprint for fourth place from Sweeck.
“Before the race I calculated that I might lose five points today,” Aerts said. "It ended up being 10 points. This was a race to learn from. I had good legs, but in the past I would’ve wasted my energy. Tactically I rode better today than I would’ve done in previous years, although it wasn’t perfect."
With two World Cup rounds left to race, Aerts remains leader with a small bonus of seven points over Van Aert.
“It’ll be decided by details," Aerts said. "Pont-Chateau will be decisive, also about how the following races will be tackled since the final World Cup round in Hoogerheide is only one week ahead of the world championships."
Much further back, former cyclo-cross world champion and now road cyclist Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) made a brief return to the cyclo-cross discipline. With a back-row start and few training sessions in his legs, the Czech rider didn’t have major expectations. He didn’t have a great start and ended up racing well outside the top 10. He finished 21st at more than two minutes from winner Mathieu van der Poel.
“It was very hard. I suffered a lot,” Stybar said in the post-race flash interview on Sporza. "I hoped to take a good start but that wasn’t possible. In the opening laps I was always running behind the other riders on the climbs. The final laps were very hard and I made a lot of technical mistakes.
"I did enjoy the race somewhat," Stybar said. "I hope that the next races go better and hopefully I can get in the top 12. Worlds? It’s very hard because it’s so close to the road season. It demands very intense training because I don’t want to race for 14th position there. I don’t think I’ll take the risk. One race I want to win on the road? Roubaix."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned)||1:02:49|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel)||0:00:16|
|3||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned)||0:00:29|
|4||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:00:35|
|5||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)|
|6||Quinten Hermans (Bel)||0:00:55|
|7||David Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:01:03|
|8||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned)||0:01:07|
|9||Corne Van Kessel (Ned)||0:01:10|
|10||Daan Soete (Bel)||0:01:17|
|11||Tim Merlier (Bel)||0:01:43|
|12||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:01:44|
|13||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:01:52|
|14||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:02:08|
|15||Kevin Pauwels (Bel)||0:02:15|
|16||Thijs Aerts (Bel)||0:02:22|
|17||Stephen Hyde (USA)||0:02:23|
|18||Jens Adams (Bel)||0:02:37|
|19||Tom Meeusen (Bel)||0:02:42|
|20||Michael Boroš (Cze)||0:02:43|
|21||Zdeněk Štybar (Cze)||0:02:48|
|22||Sascha Weber (Ger)|
|23||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||0:03:10|
|24||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel)||0:03:12|
|25||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||0:03:14|
|26||Fabien Canal (Fra)||0:03:19|
|27||Sieben Wouters (Ned)|
|28||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa)||0:03:20|
|29||Stan Godrie (Ned)|
|30||David Menut (Fra)||0:03:46|
|31||Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spa)||0:03:49|
|32||Timon Rüegg (Swi)||0:03:52|
|33||Simon Zahner (Swi)||0:03:58|
|34||Jan Nesvadba (Cze)||0:04:29|
|35||Braam Merlier (Bel)||0:04:37|
|36||Joshua Dubau (Fra)||0:04:38|
|37||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)||0:04:47|
|38||Severin Sägesser (Swi)||0:04:55|
|39||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)||0:04:56|
|40||Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibañez (Spa)||0:04:59|
|41||Michael Van Den Ham (Can)|
|42||Lucas Dubau (Fra)||0:05:17|
|43||Curtis White (USA)||0:05:28|
|44||Gosse Van Der Meer (Ned)||0:06:07|
|45||Kenneth Hansen (Den)||0:06:18|
|46||Florian Trigo (Fra)||0:06:20|
|47||Kerry Werner (USA)||0:06:53|
|48||Ondrej Glajza (Svk)|
|49||Cody Kaiser (USA)|
|50||Tomáš Paprstka (Cze)|
|51||David Eriksson (Swe)|
|52||Daniel Ania Gonzalez (Spa)|
|53||Garry Millburn (Aus)|
|54||Scott Thiltges (Lux)|
|55||Vincent Dias Dos Santos (Lux)|
|56||Cameron Jette (Can)|
|57||Yu Takenouchi (Jpn)|
|58||Frederik Hähnel (Ger)|
|59||Henrik Jansson (Swe)|
|60||Luc Turchi (Lux)|
|61||Philipp Heigl (Aut)|
|62||Martin Eriksson (Swe)|
|63||Tyler Cloutier (USA)|
|64||Thomas Edhofer (Ger)|
|DNF||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)|
|DNF||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)|
|DNF||Max Judelson (USA)|
|DNF||Luis Junquera San Millan (Spa)|
|DNS||Marvin Schmidt (Ger)|
World Cup Standings
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea||475||pts|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Cibel Cebon||468|
|3||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon Circus||400|
|4||Quinten Hermans (Bel)||352|
|5||Corne van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea||341|
|6||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)||337|
|7||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||334|
|8||Lars van der Haar (Ned) Telenet Fidea||330|
|9||Daan Soete (Bel)||316|
|10||Kevin Pauwels (Bel)||289|