The mud bath at the fifth round of the Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Zeven, Germany proved to be perfect setting for world champion Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Charles) to prevent European champion Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) from claiming a fifth consecutive World Cup win on a cloudy Saturday afternoon.
Van Aert didn't allow Van der Poel to bounce back from a dropped chain on the opening lap, and he finished 47 seconds ahead of his Dutch rival. Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) finished just behind in third, like at last week's World Cup round in Bogense, Denmark. Van Aert takes back 10 points from Van der Poel's huge lead in the World Cup classification but still has a deficit of 90 points.
"It's always fun to win. I had a good day and the course was perfectly suited for me. I'm glad to head back home with a win," Van Aert said in the post-race flash interview.
As Van Aert stated, the course certainly offered him the perfect setting to challenge Van der Poel. Nevertheless, it would always be a difficult task to beat the in-form Dutch rider. Both riders had a good start, which was in stark contrast to US-champion Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) who slipped and had to fight back from behind, just like in Bogense last week. In front, Van der Poel quickly opened up the gas and created a first gap on Van Aert, Corné van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions), Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Napoleon Games), Michael Boros (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) and Toon Aerts, who didn't have a perfect start. Van Aert bridged back up with Van der Poel and the pace dropped a little. The front six ended the first lap together, with the rest of the field already trailing by at least 13 seconds. None of them would get back into the top 5.
Early on in the second lap, all riders in the lead group took a clean bike, except Van der Poel who gestured to the pit crew to lower the pressure. The site featured two loops up and down the main hill, and Wout van Aert led the front group ahead of Van der Poel, Aerts and the others when they reached the highest point of the course. At the foot of the climb, Van der Poel suddenly dropped his chain and had to put a foot to the ground. He seemed to stay cool but sixteen riders passed the Dutchman before he was able to ride his Stevens bike again. Meanwhile, Boros nearly collided with Van der Poel as he missed a corner in the following loop.
It turned out to be the decisive moment in the race. Toon Aerts was in third place when Van der Poel came to a stop, and he never got back up to the wheel of Van Aert. Van der Poel was caught in traffic and nearly forty seconds down on Van Aert. He was never able to get much closer than half a minute behind the leader. "I knew second place was the best possible result. I'm certainly not going to say that I was the strongest rider today," Van der Poel said in the post-race flash interview.
In the new race situation, Van Aert was alone in front, distancing the Telenet duo of Toon Aerts and Corné van Kessel, as well as Vanthourenhout. With six of eight laps to go, Van Aert was 12 seconds ahead of the chase group. "When I reached the top of that climb I saw Mathieu standing still. Of course, he's our major rival and it was the sign to set a good pace. It wasn't about attacking on this course. Quite smoothly, I was able to distance the others," Van Aert said.
With six laps remaining, Van Aert was 35 seconds ahead of Van der Poel, who blasted back from seventeenth to seventh place in half a lap. Halfway through the fourth lap, Van der Poel was back in second position but still at half a minute behind the lone leader. At that moment, the race was still undecided. Van der Poel clocked the fastest lap of the race in the fourth lap but still, he had only made up six seconds in two laps. Soon afterwards, however, Van der Poel was the first rider to make a mistake and suddenly his deficit was back at forty seconds with only three laps remaining. He sat up and entered cruise-control. "Straight away, I knew that I wouldn't be able to close a gap of half a minute but it could be close. I felt that Wout was going well. Getting back into second position went smoothly. Nothing was lost today, except for the victory maybe. It's a pity I lost it this way," Van der Poel said.
Van Aert, meanwhile, was a happy man. "As soon as the gap grew, it was a matter of controlling and finishing the race. It's been a long time since I raced like this. It's useless to discuss who was the strongest rider today. The mud was sticking to the bikes and it was important to keep everything moving. All race long I feared that I would run into bad luck too. Luckily I was spared," Van Aert said.
On the final lap, Aerts closed in on Van der Poel and nearly snatched second place away from him. "I was closing in on him in the two final laps but I probably made the mistake of taking a fresh bike in the final lap. Anyway, I was dead empty," Aerts said. "I was probably taking it a bit too easy in the end," Van der Poel admitted.
Van Kessel was best of the rest in fourth place. Vanthourenhout was the first of three Marlux-riders, finishing ahead of Kevin Pauwels and veteran Klaas Vantornout. Home rider Marcel Meisen (Steylaerts-Betfirst) got his best result of the World Cup season in eighth place. Belgian riders Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Tom Meeusen (Beobank-Corendon) closed out the top 10.
Behind the main protagonists Van der Poel (390 points) and Van Aert (300 points), the World Cup standings changed a lot in Zeven. Aerts moves up from 7th to third place with 264 points. Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions) drops a spot after finishing 11th. Van Kessel moves from 8th to 5th place. Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus) finished 19th in Germany and drops from 4th to 9th place with 240 points.
Next month, the World Cup moves to Belgium. The sixth round of the World Cup will be held at the citadel in Namur on December 17.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Crelan - Charles||1:07:32|
|2||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) Beobank-Corendon||0:00:47|
|3||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:00:50|
|4||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:39|
|5||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||0:01:57|
|6||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||0:02:16|
|7||Klass Vantornout (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||0:02:25|
|8||Marcel Meisen (Ger) Steylaerts - Betfirst||0:02:34|
|9||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:02:42|
|10||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Beobank-Corendon||0:02:46|
|11||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:03:08|
|12||David Van Der Poel (Ned) Beobank-Corendon||0:03:12|
|13||Tim Merlier (Bel) Crelan - Charles||0:03:16|
|14||Jens Adams (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice||0:03:18|
|15||Michael Boros (Cze) Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice||0:03:19|
|16||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions|
|17||Daan Soete (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:03:59|
|18||Wietse Bosmans (Bel)||0:04:09|
|19||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Era-Circus||0:04:23|
|20||Steve Chainel (Fra)||0:04:27|
|21||Jan Nesvadba (Cze)||0:04:38|
|22||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:04:50|
|23||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||0:04:55|
|24||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:04:58|
|25||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)||0:05:02|
|26||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)||0:05:12|
|27||Fabien Canal (Fra)||0:05:27|
|28||Twan Van Den Brand (Ned)||0:05:33|
|29||Simon Zahner (Swi)||0:05:38|
|30||Stan Godrie (Ned)||0:05:50|
|31||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)||0:06:08|
|32||Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibañez (Spa)||0:06:12|
|33||Marek Konwa (Pol)||0:06:19|
|34||Tomáš Paprstka (Cze)||0:06:39|
|35||Martin Haring (Svk)||0:06:55|
|36||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned)||0:07:10|
|37||Severin Sägesser (Swi)||0:07:21|
|38||Gioele Bertolini (Ita)||0:07:22|
|39||Alois Falenta (Fra)||0:07:29|
|40||Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spa)||0:07:37|
|41||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned)|
|42||Nicolas Samparisi (Ita)|
|43||Nicola Rohrbach (Swi)|
|44||Diether Sweeck (Bel)|
|45||Ondrej Glajza (Svk)|
|46||Yorben Van Tichelt (Bel)|
|47||Lorenzo Samparisi (Ita)|
|48||Wolfram Kurschat (Ger)|
|49||Martin Hunal (Cze)|
|50||Kenneth Hansen (Den)|
|51||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa)|
|52||Max Lindenau (Ger)|
|53||Joachim Parbo (Den)|
|54||Christian Pfäffle (Ger)|
|55||Martin Eriksson (Swe)|
|56||Jeremy Durrin (USA)|
|57||Grzegorz Grabarek (Pol)|
|DNF||Stephen Hyde (USA)|
|DNF||David Eriksson (Swe)|
|DNF||Henrik Jansson (Swe)|
|DNF||Manuel Müller (Ger)|