Just two weeks ahead of the 2018 Cyclo-Cross World Championships there is no end to the domination of Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus).
The Dutchman turned 23 just two days ago and gave himself the gift of success in the eighth and penultimate World Cup round in Nommay - Pays de Montbeliard (France). Thanks to his sixth World Cup win of he season, Van der Poel also racked up the overall victory in the World Cup.
Van der Poel finished solo yet again, 30 seconds ahead of world champion Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Charles), with Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) over two minutes back.
“I’m very pleased with the World Cup victory. It was a classification that I hadn’t won in the elite category. It’s the most international and prestigious classification, so it’s great to add my name to the list of winners. The most important race of the season still has to come and that’s something I’m looking forward to,” Van der Poel said in the post-race interview.
Overnight rain turned the course in Nommay into a muddy battleground. Van der Poel showed he dealt best with the conditions, outclassing his rivals in front of his grandfather Raymond Poulidor. A few metres after the finish line, he halted and gave a big hug to his grandfather.
“It’s always fun when he’s around. In the past he came over to Belgium for Christmas but he’s getting older so this is the only race this season that he attends. That makes it special,” Van der Poel said.
During the two first of nine laps, it seemed as if Van Aert and Aerts would be able to put up with a good fight and take on van der Poel. The Belgian riders profited from a chaotic early bike switch by the Dutch champion.
What happened? As nearly all riders entered the second pit area during the opening lap, van der Poel passed Aerts in the pit area but didn’t realize that he was passing his mechanics. Van der Poel had to suddenly brake fiercely; run back to take a clean bike and so was passed by quite a few riders. Naturally Van Aert and Aerts didn’t wait for Van der Poel.
“I was focused on finding my crew at the back of the pit area. As World Cup leader you’re give first choice and I told them to get the penultimate box, which would be good to hit the following corner. For some reason they ended up halfway down the pit area. I entered the pit, was focused on a bike switch near the end until I heard them shouting,” Van der Poel explained.
At the end of the opening lap, Van der Poel was trailing leader Van Aert by ten seconds. Yet halfway through the second lap the gap was already closed thanks to Van der Poel hopping the barriers and Van Aert making stumbling on a climb. For a brief moment, there were three leaders: Van Aert, Van der Poel and Aerts but that soon changed.
Van Aert kept the pace high and quickly dropped Aerts during the second lap. The world champion impressed by making it to the top of climbs on his bike whereas Van der Poel hopped off his bike earlier. The Dutch rider seemed to struggle to find grip on the slippery course but then van der Poel got an edge by riding over the barriers. The duo switched bikes in different pit areas that also resulted in minor gaps.
Further behind there was a spectacular crash with Francis Mourey and Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions). The French veteran got his foot stuck in the spokes of the Dutch riders wheel and it took what seemed like ages before he was released. Van der Poel’s manager eventually cut the spokes to free him.
At the end of that second lap, Van der Poel and Van Aert enjoyed a lead of 13 seconds on Aerts on Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus).
A gap opens
During the third lap, Van der Poel took the initiative. Van Aert was able to close the gap after switching his bike early on in the lap. However on the following climb, the tide turned. Van der Poel reached the top on his bike for the first time while Van Aert had to hop off his bike for the first time. Suddenly, there was a clear gap. It was only three seconds but it would never be closed down by the Belgian rider.
“I was briefly able to come up with a fight but when he pulled hard I had to shift back. Again, second place was the best possible result. The course suited me and I felt good, but… when he accelerated I wasn’t able to keep up. It’s clear you can’t win a race in the opening lap,” Van Aert said, with a resigned smile.
Van der Poel gained time on most sections but especially on the combination of barriers and a climb. Van der Poel rode both obstacles while Van Aert ran them. After two solo laps, Van der Poel’s gap was up to forty seconds. It was game over.
A final touch, a show of confidence
Van der Poel added the finishing touch during the final lap by riding up the first climb of the course. He was the only rider who pulled off that trick on Sunday.
“That was a bit of a game with Tom Meeusen. He wanted to pull it off. I said it wasn’t possible but in the final lap I gave it a try. I’ll send him a message,” Van der Poel said.
Van der Poel clearly dealt his rivals with another blow. He brims with confidence, with the most important race of the season - the world championships - now so close.
“This isn’t a mental blow for Wout. In the past, the same happened before worlds and still he won it. He’s strong enough in the mental front to work towards that one goal. I’m certainly taking into account that it might become a close race,” Van der Poel warned.
Van Aert emphasized that not much had changed, although he had hoped to discover weaknesses in Van der Poel.
“I haven’t become any wiser. We’ve seen this story a lot before. The Worlds is a one-day race so anything can happen but I didn’t learn a lot from today,” Van Aert said.
More than two minutes behind the winner, Toon Aerts easily held onto the final podium spot and he was pleased with that result.
“It’s great to finish third behind two top guns and to see my brother win the Men U23 race. Last week I wasn’t happy with the way I rode through the sand [at the Belgian national championships in Koksijde] but today I’m satisfied,” Aerts said.
“I’m becoming a better cross racer. I’m pleased with the choices I made regarding tubulars and the pressure in them. Technically, I was able to come along with the best. Once alone, I didn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
The first man to finish off the podium was Tim Merlier but he clinched his fist to celebrate that result. Van Aert’s teammate is in the mix to crack the Belgian selection for worlds.
The home crowd was pleased to see fresh French champion Steve Chainel (Chazal-Canyon) finish in the top-10 for the first time this season, just behind David van der Poel and nearly four minutes behind his winning brother.
With only a maximum of 80 points up for grabs in next week’s final World Cup in Hoogerheide (Netherlands), Van der Poel’s lead of 100 points is more than enough to secure overall in the World Cup.
Van Aert and Aerts seem certain to hold their respective second and third place but four riders are in the mix for fourth place: Vanthourenhout, Sweeck, Corné van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Bingoal). That will be next week’s final battle before the fight for the rainbow jersey and world title.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) Corendon - Circus||1:06:56|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Crelan - Charles||0:00:33|
|3||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:02:09|
|4||Tim Merlier (Bel) Crelan - Charles||0:02:31|
|5||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux - Bingoal||0:02:47|
|6||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Era-Circus||0:03:06|
|7||Michael Boros (Cze) Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice||0:03:11|
|8||David Van Der Poel (Ned) Corendon - Circus||0:03:48|
|9||Steve Chainel (Fra) Team Chazal Canyon||0:03:50|
|10||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Marlux - Bingoal||0:03:54|
|11||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Corendon - Circus||0:03:59|
|12||Fabien Canal (Fra)||0:04:02|
|13||Daan Soete (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:04:14|
|14||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:04:26|
|15||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Steylaerts - Betfirst||0:04:46|
|16||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:04:52|
|17||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa) Ginestar - Delikia||0:05:07|
|18||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:05:18|
|19||Wietse Bosmans (Bel) Era-Circus||0:05:19|
|20||Marcel Meisen (Ger) Steylaerts - Betfirst||0:05:39|
|21||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:06:04|
|22||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)||0:06:27|
|23||Lars Forster (Swi)||0:06:36|
|24||Gioele Bertolini (Ita)||0:06:44|
|25||Stan Godrie (Ned) Crelan - Charles||0:06:45|
|26||Severin Sagesser (Swi)||0:07:00|
|27||Alois Falenta (Fra)||0:07:12|
|28||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)|
|29||Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spa) Ginestar - Delikia|
|30||Diether Sweeck (Bel)|
|31||David Menut (Fra)|
|32||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa)|
|33||Tomas Paprstka (Cze)|
|34||Jan Nesvadba (Cze)|
|35||Eric Thompson (USA)|
|36||Kerry Werner (USA)|
|37||Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibanez (Spa)|
|38||Emil Hekele (Cze)|
|39||Luca Braidot (Ita)|
|40||Arthur Tropardy (Fra)|
|41||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)|
|42||Michael Van Den Ham (Can) Garneau-Easton P/B Transitions Lifecare|
|43||Florian Trigo (Fra)|
|44||Daniele Braidot (Ita)|
|45||Garry Millburn (Aus)|
|46||Yannick Mayer (Ger)|
|47||Philipp Heigl (Aut)|
|48||Tyler Cloutier (USA)|
|DNF||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions|
|DNF||Jens Adams (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice|
|DNF||Sascha Weber (Ger)|
|DSQ||Francis Mourey (Fra)|
|DNS||Andrew Juiliano (USA)|
|DNS||Daniel Ania Gonzalez (Spa)|
|DNS||Manuel Muller (Ger)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) Corendon - Circus||615||pts|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Crelan - Charles||515|
|3||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||445|
|4||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux - Bingoal||409|
|5||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Era-Circus||406|
|6||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||389|
|7||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Marlux - Bingoal||382|
|8||Tim Merlier (Bel) Crelan - Charles||358|
|9||Daan Soete (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||357|
|10||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||351|
|11||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||326|
|12||Michael Boros (Cze) Pauwels Sauzen -||287|
|13||Marcel Meisen (Ger) Steylaerts - Betfirst||285|
|14||Jens Adams (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen -||266|
|15||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Steylaerts - Betfirst||263|
|16||Steve Chainel (Fra) Team Chazal Canyon||260|
|17||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Corendon - Circus||258|
|18||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||241|
|19||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)||205|
|20||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)||197|
|21||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||188|
|22||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||185|
|23||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||175|
|24||David Van Der Poel (Ned) Corendon - Circus||171|
|25||Stan Godrie (Ned) Crelan - Charles||165|
|26||Stephen Hyde (USA) Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld||159|
|27||Wietse Bosmans (Bel) Era-Circus||147|
|28||Gioele Bertolini (Ita)||144|
|29||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa) Ginestar - Delikia||137|
|30||Fabien Canal (Fra)||135|
|31||Simon Zahner (Swi)||119|
|32||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)||113|
|33||Twan Van Den Brand (Ned) Destil - Jo Piels Cycling Team||108|
|34||Severin Sagesser (Swi)||105|
|35||Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibanez (Spa)||100|
|36||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||97|
|37||Jan Nesvadba (Cze)||84|
|38||Tomas Paprstka (Cze)||82|
|39||Alois Falenta (Fra)||81|
|40||Kerry Werner (USA)||72|
|41||Ian Field (GBr)||70|
|42||Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||65|
|43||Lars Forster (Swi)||65|
|44||Sascha Weber (Ger)||65|
|45||Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spa) Ginestar - Delikia||61|
|46||Michael Van Den Ham (Can) Garneau-Easton P/B Transitions||53|
|47||Nicolas Samparisi (Ita) D'amico Utensilnord||51|
|48||Rob Peeters (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen -||47|
|49||Tobin Ortenblad (USA)||47|
|50||Yorben Van Tichelt (Bel) Era-Circus||45|