Van Aert second to Van der Poel in World Championships lead-up

Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) racing cyclo-cross in Loenhout
Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) racing cyclo-cross in Loenhout (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) landed on his first cyclo-cross podium of the season, finishing second to world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) in the C2-ranked Kasteelcross in Zonnebeke, the penultimate race before the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Dübendorf, Switzerand next week.

In the women's race, Luxembourg champion Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) out-sprinted Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) in the Dutch rider's first race back from a six-month ban for an anabolic steroid doping positive.

Van Aert was surprised at how he felt. "It was a very tough cross," Van Aert said. "I had a better feeling than expected because I was feeling a bit sick the past days. So I didn't know what to expect. Today was a matter of finding the right balance and trying to keep a steady pace.

"I am very happy with my first podium and with the progression I am making every week. That gives a lot of confidence."

Jens Adams, who missed out on making Belgian squad for Worlds, was third.

Although Van Aert had a strong showing, he was still 35 seconds in arrears of Van der Poel, who surged on the first lap and soloed to victory.

"I felt pretty good right from the start," Van der Poel told Sporza. "There was a bit of trying to find the right lines behind all the wheels, but once I could ride my own lines, I was satisfied with my race.

"The course was treacherous with a lot of deep ruts. I had to watch all the time. On the off-camber I struggled a few times but was also perfect a few times."

The Hoogerheide World Cup on Sunday is the final test for the riders before Worlds. "The cross tomorrow is a real home race. It is always nice that a lot of people come to watch that I know. I'm already looking forward to it," Van der Poel said.

Both Van Aert and Betsema are trying to ramp up for the Worlds after time away from the races: Van Aert because of his serious injury from the Tour de France and Betsema after a ban for two positives for anabolic steroids during last year's 'cross season. 

The Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal rider successfully argued the positives were the result of cross-contamination of supplements from a pharmacy and received a six-month, off-season suspension from the UCI. Her case was finalized this week, allowing her to return to racing immediately.

Her teammate Laura Verdonschot told Sporza she thinks Betsema can be a wildcard at Worlds. "If Betsema is selected for the World Championships, she can be the surprise. She doesn't have much rhythm yet but she doesn't have the tiredness we have from a whole season."

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Cyclingnews is the world's leader in English-language coverage of professional cycling. Started in 1995 by University of Newcastle professor Bill Mitchell, the site was one of the first to provide breaking news and results over the internet in English. The site was purchased by Knapp Communications in 1999, and owner Gerard Knapp built it into the definitive voice of pro cycling. Since then, major publishing house Future PLC has owned the site and expanded it to include top features, news, results, photos and tech reporting. The site continues to be the most comprehensive and authoritative English voice in professional cycling.