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Cyclo-cross World Championships: Van der Poel beats Van Aert to elite men's title

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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 Elite Men Oostende 31012021 Mathieu van der Poel Alpecin Fenix photo Dion KerckhoffsBettiniPhoto2021

Fourth world title for Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands (Image credit: Bettini Image)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Arrival Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands Celebration during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Mathieu van der Poel wins in Ostende (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Arrival Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands Celebration during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) crosses the line for fourth World title (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 Elite Men Oostende 31012021 Wout Van Aert BEL Team JumboVisma photo Nico VeerekenPNBettiniPhoto2021

Wout van Aert (Belgium) finished second for the silver medal (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Arrival Wout Van Aert of Belgium during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Wout van Aert of Belgium crosses the line in second, 20 seconds behind winner Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Arrival Toon Aerts of Belgium Celebration during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Toon Aerts of Belgium secures bronze medal for third year (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Arrival Thomas Pidcock of United Kingdom Disappointment during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Rolling in fourth, 13 seconds behind Toon Aerts, is Tom Pidcock of Great Britain (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 Elite Men Oostende 31012021 Mathieu Van der Poel Alpecin Fenix photo Dion KerckhoffsBettiniPhoto2021

Mathieu van der Poel took lead in Men's Elite contest on lap 3 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 Elite Men Oostende 31012021 Thomas Pidcock Gbr photo Dion KerckhoffsBettiniPhoto2021

Tom Pidcock (Great Britain) would finish fourth (Image credit: Bettini Image)
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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 - Elite Men - Oostende - 31/01/2021 - Wout Van Aert (Belgium / Team Jumbo-Visma) - Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin - Fenix) - photo Dion Kerckhoffs/BettiniPhoto©2021

Early in the race Mathieu van der Poel pursued closely by Wout van Aert (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 Elite Men Oostende 31012021 Wout Van Aert Belgium Team JumboVisma Mathieu van der Poel Alpecin Fenix photo Dion KerckhoffsBettiniPhoto2021

First lap on course for Elite Men (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Wout Van Aert of Belgium during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Wout van Aert of Belgium took the early lead, then suffered front puncture on third lap to fall to second (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Landscape Peloton Sand Beach Sea during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Elite men strung out on first lap of Worlds at Ostend as they exit beach along Black Sea (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Landscape Peloton Sand Beach Sea during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

View of beachfront at Ostend (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Landscape Peloton Sand Beach Sea during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Wout van Aert of Belgium leads group off the beach, closely pursued on first lap by Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Wout Van Aert of Belgium Sea Beach Sanitary Stop during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

After a puncture on lap 3, Wout van Aert lost sight of leader Mathieu van der Poel (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 Elite Men Oostende 31012021 Mathieu van der Poel NED Alpecin Fenix Dion KerckhoffsCVBettiniPhoto2021

Elite Men's World Champion for a third year in a row, and fourth overall, Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 Elite Men Oostende 31012021 Wout Van Aert BEL Team JumboVisma Mathieu van der Poel NED Alpecin Fenix Toon Aerts BEL Dion KerckhoffsCVBettiniPhoto2021

Elite Men's podium at 2021 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships - silver medalist Wout Van Aert (Belgium), champion Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), and bronze medalist Toon Aerts (Belgium) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2021 Elite Men Oostende 31012021 Wout Van Aert BEL Team JumboVisma Mathieu van der Poel NED Alpecin Fenix photo Nico VeerekenPNBettiniPhoto2021

Podium after Men's Elite race - Wout van Aert takes silver for Belgium behind World Champion Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Thomas Pidcock of United Kingdom Sea Sand Beach during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Tom PIdcock of Great Britain would finish one spot off the podium (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Heinrich Haussler of Australia Sea Sand Beach during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Heinrich Haussler of Australia would finish 35th (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Tim Merlier of Belgium Sea Sand Beach during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Tim Merlier of Belgium would finish 17th (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Curtis White of The United States Sea Sand Beach during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Curtis White of the United States would finish 20th (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Zdenek Stybar of Czech Republic Sea Sand Beach during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Zdenek Stybar of Czech Republic would finish 18th (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands Sea Sand Beach during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Men Elite UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) powers through surf on the beach for fourth world title (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Mathieu van der Poel recovered from a second lap crash before putting on a masterclass of bike riding to clinch a fourth elite men’s cyclo-cross world title. 

The 26-year-old completed a clean sweep of world titles for the Netherlands from the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in the Belgian coastal town of Ostend. 

As expected Wout van Aert (Belgium) was his main challenger, but a third-lap puncture gave his rival a 10-second margin which the Dutchman grew to an unassailable margin. 

Toon Aerts (Belgium) took his third World Championship bronze medal in as many years after seeing off a late challenge by Tom Pidcock (Great Britain). 

“The flat tyre [for Wout van Aert] was a little bit of luck from my side to come back but at that moment I didn’t feel the race was over yet,” said Van der Poel.

“The course changed and became a bit faster at the beach section and I felt a bit better. I felt better legs by then and I improved every lap running through the sand, so the good feeling was growing lap by lap and that made the difference for me today.” 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions no crowds and only limited personnel were allowed on the site of the race in Ostend. 

“It means a lot but it feels really strange and doesn’t really feel like a World Championships, there’s no crowd, no friend and no family around the track,” added Van der Poel. 

“It feels a bit weird but when I pull the jersey on the podium maybe it will come to mind that I’m world champion again.” 

How it unfolded

Pidcock and Van Aert jostled for position going into the first corner. As the course narrowed onto the bridge, Pidcock and Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) were two of the riders who were delayed.  

Van Aert hit the sand first riding in the waves of the North Sea to find the hardest ground, closely monitored by Van der Poel. The leading duo showed their skills riding the sand section to go clear of four Belgium riders chasing, while Pidcock was fighting his way back into the top 10. 

On the second time through the sand, Van Aert dealt the first mental blow passing his rival and was able to ride a section that the reigning champion was forced to run. 

Under pressure Van der Poel then crashed over the bars on a slick muddy section as he looked to pull back the slender gap to his rival. 

Van Aert had a gap of 15 seconds on van der Poel after the second lap, while Aerts had gapped his Belgian teammates a further 15 seconds back. 

On the third time through the Ostend sand, Van der Poel pulled the margin back to 10 seconds to his rival as they went head-to-head. 

At the front Van Aert had a puncture allowing Van der Poel to ride straight past on the muddy section approaching the finish, and put an 11-second gap into his rival with over half of the race remaining. 

In the battle for bronze, Pidcock, who will be riding the Belgian classics for Ineos Grenadiers on the road this season, pushed through the Belgian quartet and went in pursuit of Aerts. 

In role reversal from earlier in the race, Van Aert could see the slender gap between himself and Van der Poel as the course pulled back on itself on the grassy turns. Just as Van Aert looked to have ground the gap back to his rival, two small mistakes in the sand saw the Belgian dismount allowing Van der Poel to pull out an advantage to 13 seconds once again with three laps remaining. 

Meanwhile, Pidcock was on a charge pulling back the gap to Aerts before the Belgian responded riding clear in the sand in the fight for bronze. Once he regained an advantage, Aerts put Pidcock under pressure and grew his gap out to 16 seconds, while Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) closed down on the British rider. 

At the bell Van der Poel had a margin of 29 seconds over Van Aert, while Aerts was over a minute and 30 seconds behind the lone leader. 

Van der Poel had time to take the final corners cautiously before celebrating a fourth world title and third in a row. Van Aert maintained his chase but had to settle for silver while Aerts had to sprint for bronze as a fast-finishing Pidcock closed him down in the closing stages. 

Results
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) 0:58:57
2Wout van Aert (Belgium) 0:00:37
3Toon Aerts (Belgium) 0:01:24
4Thomas Pidcock (Great Britain) 0:01:37
5Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) 0:02:05
6Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) 0:02:14
7Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) 0:02:18
8Quinten Hermans (Belgium) 0:02:23
9Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) 0:02:41
10Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands) 0:03:15
11Corne van Kessel (Netherlands) 0:04:09
12Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium) 0:04:21
13Kevin Kuhn (Switzerland) 0:04:29
14Daan Soete (Belgium) 0:04:57
15Yan Gras (France) 0:05:11
16Joshua Dubau (France) 0:05:28
17Tim Merlier (Belgium) 0:05:34
18Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) 0:05:42
19Timon Ruegg (Switzerland) 0:05:50
20Curtis White (United States Of America) 0:06:33
21David van der Poel (Netherlands)
22David Menut (France)
23Gioele Bertolini (Italy)
24Jakob Dorigoni (Italy)
25Jonas Lindberg (Denmark)
26Felipe Orts Lloret (Spain)
27Steve Chainel (France)
28Cristian Cominelli (Italy)
29Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spain)
30Gilles Mottiez (Switzerland)
31Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spain)
32Sebastian Fini Carstensen (Denmark)
33Michael Boros (Czech Republic)
34Sascha Weber (Germany)
35Heinrich Haussler (Australia)
36Marek Konwa (Poland)
37Ondrej Glajza (Slovakia)
38Nicolas Samparisi (Italy)
39Antonio Folcarelli (Italy)
40Matej Ulik (Slovakia)
41Mariusz Michalek (Poland)
42Philipp Heigl (Austria)
43Jakub Kurty (Slovakia)
44Patryk Kostecki (Poland)

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