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Van der Poel critical of Dendermonde, says course was not World Cup worthy

Belgian Wout Van Aert and Dutch Mathieu Van Der Poel pictured in action during the men elite race of the World Cup cyclocross in Dendermonde third stage out of five of the UCI World Cup competition in Dendermonde Sunday 27 December 2020 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Dendermonde's debut as a UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup venue was not as smooth as it could have been after winter storm Bella whipped the course into a thick, soupy mud bath.

After taking a distant second place in the elite men's race to a dominant Wout van Aert, World Champion Mathieu van der Poel said the race was not worthy of World Cup status.

"I knew in advance that this course is really something for Wout van Aert," Van der Poel said while shivering uncontrollably in the post-race interview.

"This was just not my thing. I thought it was a [crappy] course.

"It can't always be your thing, but I thought this was a bit unworthy of World Cup. That doesn't take away from Wout's performance, he was really extremely strong."

Heavy rain and high winds forced organisers to modify the route, taking out the fly-over bridge and, after several of the women got stuck in a knee-deep mud bog, removing a short climb on the course.

Organiser Jurgen Mettepenningen responded to Van der Poel's criticism on Twitter, suggesting the world champion could give race organisation a try. "All week and especially today flooding and today survived a storm! I was also able to cancel it, but together with my many volunteers I chose the hardest way," Mettepenningen wrote.

The round was originally to be in Wachtebeke but construction at the venue forced Mettepenningen to find a new location in July. They settled on Dendermonde only to have storm Bella flood the venue this week. The organisation met on Sunday morning to assess the conditions and had to shorten the route, taking out the bridge, but much of the course was still unrideable. 

Van Aert had a different assessment than Van der Poel after his victory, saying "It was one of the craziest crosses I ever rode. Each lap it got worse and the running sections got longer. I enjoyed it a lot."

After the women raced just 10 kilometres in 45 minutes, Lucinda Brand joked that she could have run the race faster. "I have already run 10 kilometers faster once. Maybe next time I should leave my bike at home."

Former US champion Katie Compton's partner Mark Legg was also critical of the organisation, complaining of broken power washers and the lack of parking for national teams.

"I've been to a lot of World Cup races and that might be the bottom of the barrel. I feel for all the course workers stuck in the rain and gusting wind all day," Legg wrote.

"I've attended World Cup races for over ten years. Dendermonde has no business being a World Cup event."

Compton was one of the riders who got caught up in the deep mud and lost time attempting to free her foot and bike before finishing in 25th place, four minutes behind women's winner Lucinda Brand.

The video clip of Compton's ordeal led several outlets to label it '2020 in one video'.