Mathieu van der Poel's 408-day cyclo-cross winning streak came to an end at the DVV Verzekeringen trofee Hotondcross in Ronse on Saturday. The reigning world champion was beaten by more than two minutes and finished in third place behind the day's winner Belgian champion Toon Aerts (Telenet-Baloise Lions) and runner-up Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal).
"I was not good enough," Van der Poel told Wielerflits after the race. "I always go for the win, but you can't win them all. Toon Aerts was very strong today. He always shows up very well on this kind of courses."
Aerts denied Van der Poel his 36th consecutive cyclo-cross victory at Hotondcross. Van der Poel's winning streak began at the Koppenbergcross in 2018. He has won nine races in this season in November and December.
His victories this fall included Telenet Superprestige Ruddervoorde, UEC Cyclo-cross European Championships, Jaarmarktcross, Tabor World Cup, DVV Verzekeringen trofee Flandriencross, Ambiancecross, Koksijde World Cup, and DVV Verzekeringen trofee Kortrijk. He also won Lampiris Zilvermeercross in December.
The cyclo-cross world champion had just returned to racing in Ronse after spending two weeks at a training camp in Spain to prepare for the road season.
"Normally I always have to compete with him in good faith, but after a [training camp] I always have to wait. It wasn't bad either. I have come back worse from a [training camp], but sometimes better," Van der Poel said.
On a wet and muddy course in Ronse, Van der Poel wasn't able to follow Aerts when he made his winning move in the opening laps.
Aerts built his lead from 30 seconds to over a minute on runner-up Iserbyt. Van der Poel surged partway through the race to try and close the gap but ultimately faded and struggled to maintain third position at over two minutes down. Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) finished four seconds behind him in fourth place.
"If you start the difficult parts with less concentration, you will make more mistakes. I knew very quickly that I would not close the gap anymore," Van der Poel said.
Van der Poel will take the start line at the Vlaamse Druivencross on Sunday where hopes to have a better performance.
"It may be better the second day, of course," he said. "But the [training camp] has been very difficult. So maybe it will be for next week."