Less than five minutes into the race, the rivals of Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) were already biting in the sand as the Dutch ace stormed away to his thirteenth victory of the season in Koksijde. The fifth Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup round of the season was the site of the third World Cup win in a row for the European champion.
Van der Poel was obviously pleased with yet another win. “It’s a World Cup, it’s always important. It’s one of my favourite races. I wanted to go flat out one more time before starting my training camp,” Van der Poel said in the post-race flash interview. World champion Wout van Aert fought back after a disastrous opening lap and finished as runner-up ahead of World Cup leader Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions).
Halfway through the World Cup, Aerts remains the overall leader. “I’m pleased. It was probably my best race ever in Koksijde. I did a good job in Tábor last week and now I only lost 5 points to Van Aert, who excels in the sand,” Aerts said.
Even during the warm-up, Van der Poel was showing off impressive sand-riding skills, and straight from the start it was clear that he was in a class of his own. Van der Poel managed the hole shot and led the pack through the first sand section, and into the fog that was hanging around cold Koksijde. Lars van der Haar marked his wheel for as long as was possible, and that turned out to be less than five minutes.
Behind the two Dutch riders, meanwhile, Van Aert was struggling. “I don’t know what happened but I clearly wasn’t focused. It’s a pity because after that opening lap I managed to keep up with Mathieu,” Van Aert said in the post-race press conference. “I’m pleased with my performance. I’ve got power in the legs.”
After the opening lap, Van der Poel was leading Van der Haar by 16 seconds. Toon Aerts received support from his brother Thijs and the duo passed the finish line with Corné van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions), 21 seconds down on Van der Poel. Van Aert found himself in tenth position at 37 seconds from his arch rival. From there, Van Aert rediscovered his rhythm and moved up through the field, bridging up with Toon Aerts during the third lap.
The Belgian duo briefly rode together but at the end of the fourth lap, Aerts had to let go of Van Aert. “I was focused on the sand sections and planned to ride at my own pace in the other sections. Van Aert had a gap of 5 metres and I didn’t want to dig too deep to close it back down. Maybe I let go of Van Aert too easily,” Aerts said.
During the second half of the race, Van der Poel and Van Aert kept each other in check with lap times that were hovering around seven minutes. At the finish line, Van der Poel had a lead of 25 seconds over Van Aert. “I probably lost focus because I started making more mistakes,” Van der Poel said, but it was more than enough to get his thirteenth win of the season. “It was my twelfth, I think,” Van der Poel noted during his post-race press conference, before correcting himself: “Oh, that was yesterday, sorry.”
There were no more battles in the top 3, with Van der Poel, Van Aert and Aerts keeping each other in check. Lars van der Haar found himself in no-man’s land, too, riding alone in fourth place for six laps. The battle for fifth place was more interesting with Corné van Kessel, Laurens Sweeck, Daan Soete and Michael Vanthourenhout in the mix. In the last lap, Van Kessel had most left in his tank, holding off the Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice duo of Sweeck and Soete. Joris Nieuwenhuis (Development Team Sunweb) won the sprint for eighth place from Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Bingoal) and last week’s hero Tom Meeusen (Corendon-Circus).
In the World Cup standings, Toon Aerts totals 350 points. Van Aert took back five points in Koksijde and trails his compatriot by 22 points. Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) had a difficult day in the sand of Koksijde and finished seventeenth. He does remain in third overall with 264 points. Mathieu van der Poel skipped the two opening rounds in the USA but with his three World Cup wins he has moved up to seventh place overall, on a tally of 240 points.
The next round of the World Cup will be held just before Christmas on the steep slopes of the citadel in Namur on December 23.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned)||1:04:13|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel)||0:00:25|
|3||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:00:48|
|4||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned)||0:01:45|
|5||Corne Van Kessel (Ned)||0:02:18|
|6||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)||0:02:22|
|7||Daan Soete (Bel)||0:02:26|
|8||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:02:37|
|9||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned)||0:02:40|
|10||Kevin Pauwels (Bel)|
|11||Tom Meeusen (Bel)||0:02:41|
|12||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:03:02|
|13||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:03:30|
|14||Thijs Aerts (Bel)||0:03:32|
|15||Michael Boroš (Cze)||0:03:33|
|16||David Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:03:48|
|17||Quinten Hermans (Bel)||0:03:58|
|18||Jens Adams (Bel)||0:04:03|
|19||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel)||0:04:12|
|20||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||0:04:24|
|21||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||0:04:36|
|22||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)||0:04:45|
|23||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:04:48|
|24||Tim Merlier (Bel)||0:04:55|
|25||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:05:13|
|26||Adam Ťoupalík (Cze)||0:05:44|
|27||Sieben Wouters (Ned)||0:05:58|
|28||Stan Godrie (Ned)||0:06:01|
|29||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa)||0:06:18|
|30||Fabien Canal (Fra)||0:06:42|
|31||David Menut (Fra)|
|32||Wietse Bosmans (Bel)|
|33||Braam Merlier (Bel)|
|34||Joshua Dubau (Fra)|
|35||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)|
|36||Simon Zahner (Swi)|
|37||Gosse Van Der Meer (Ned)|
|38||Gioele Bertolini (Ita)|
|39||Ian Field (GBr)|
|40||Yan Gras (Fra)|
|41||Severin Sägesser (Swi)|
|42||Timon Rüegg (Swi)|
|43||Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spa)|
|44||Lucas Dubau (Fra)|
|45||Alois Falenta (Fra)|
|46||Valentin Humbert (Fra)|
|47||Brian Matter (USA)|
|DNF||Thomas Edhofer (Ger)|