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Wout van Aert outduels Mathieu van der Poel in mud at World Cup Dendermonde

Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma wins his second consecutive World Cup cyclo-cross race at the Dendermonde
Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma wins his second consecutive World Cup cyclo-cross race at the Dendermonde (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo – Visma) powered clear of World Champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin - Fenix) to take victory in Dendermonde. The World Cup 12th round saw the pair battle in cyclo-cross for the first time this season going head-to-head at the front of the race. Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) would cross the line third.

Returning from a knee injury, Van der Poel started quickly sprinting through the field to join Toon Aerts at the front. However, Belgium Champion Van Aert powered across to the early leaders in the muddy conditions before attacking only for Van der Poel to respond. 

Van Aert eventually broke his rivals after 40 minutes of racing riding away to a fourth cyclo-cross victory of the season, taking back-to-back World Cups. 

After making his move on the fifth lap, the Belgian extended his gap to an unassailable lead of 49 seconds ahead of Van der Poel in second, while Aerts finished third. 

Van Aert was disappointed that he couldn’t enjoy his victory with fans at Dendermonde due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

“It’s a beautiful victory in a World Cup on the highest level,” said Van Aert. “Unfortunately, it’s without the public but the week of Christmas is the most beautiful week to ride cyclo-cross races. 

“I’m happy to start like this and hopefully I can continue like that. It’s a big difference (riding without fans) especially on a course like this which is perfect for big crowds and a nice atmosphere. It’s such as shame as I don’t understand at all why it’s not possible to have the public here. I don’t think it’s dangerous for anyone. 

“Anyway, I’m a professional cyclist, I’m happy to do my job and try to be motivated and focused on my own race.” 

Van der Poel was satisfied with second place in his first cyclo-cross race of the season and hoped to improve on the second half of his race in future weeks. 

“It was quite OK,” added Van der Poel. “It was along with my expectations today. The first half was quite good and in the second half my shape let me down a little bit. I hope that will come soon with the races that I’m doing.” 

World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) finished in ninth, one place behind rival Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers). Iserbyt leads the World Cup by 85 points with three rounds remaining. The next World Cup round is in Hulst on January 2. 

How it unfolded 

Dendermonde hosted the cyclo-cross World Cup for the first time last season when Van Aert ran clear of Mathieu van der Poel to take victory. With Van der Poel making his first cyclo-cross start of the season the pair were to meet for the first time alongside Pidcock. 

The course featured less heavy mud than last season but was still gruelling with the addition of a downhill sand section to test riders’ abilities. 

With the top eight overall in the World Cup on the front row of the starting grid, Van Aert and Pidcock were on the second row while Van der Poel had a third-row start. 

Despite being gridded further back an opening straight sprint by Van der Poel catapulted him up the field while Toon Aerts led the early charge. Pidcock and Van Aert also had strong start with all three of the World Tour riders inside the top 10 positions. 

In a bid to take the challenge to his rivals Aerts pulled out a lead at the front while Van der Poel took over the opening lap chasing. 

Choosing not to change his bike Van der Poel, powered over the mud to bridge to leader Aerts after the opening lap with Van Aert leading the chasers seven seconds back. Undeterred by the presence of Van der Poel, a determined Aerts continued his pressure and gapped his Dutch counterpart before riding the difficult pump track section to good effect. 

After 13 minutes of racing, Van Aert pulled back Van der Poel with Aerts having a leading gap of six seconds. Misfortune had cost Aerts in last week’s World Cup round at Namur when he suffered a puncture whist part of the leading group and he was looking for a fourth win of the season. 

However, with two laps raced he was joined at the front by Van Aert and Van der Poel to leave a trio 14 seconds ahead of Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) and Quinten Hermans (Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team). 

Belgium Champion Van Aert sensed a weakness in his rivals and after 20 minutes of racing he forced a gap over his fellow leaders. However, after withstanding the effort by Van Aert, the World Champion hit the front again showing he was equal to the effort. 

After winning his opening three races of the cyclo-cross season, Van Aert continued to show his power pulling a gap on Van der Poel again while Aerts was losing contact with the leading duo. With almost 40 minutes of racing gone, Van Aert started to increase his margin over Van der Poel pulling out a lead of over 10 seconds for the first time. 

Vanthourenhout had won the World Cup in Namur the previous week but was left chasing alone in fourth while Pidcock was sitting in eighth. 

After a fluent lap at the front Van Aert had increased his lead to 24 seconds while Van der Poel was slowing and Aerts sat just 13 seconds further back. Van Aert looked in firm control of the race on the bell lap with a margin of 41 seconds over Van der Poel with Aerts sitting at 55 seconds. 

Van Aert was faultless in his pursuit of victory finishing 49 seconds ahead of Van der Poel while a determined effort by Aerts was rewarded with third 1:18 back. 

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Wout van Aert wins World Cup Dendermonde after going solo on fifth lap (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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DENDERMONDE BELGIUM DECEMBER 26 LR Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team JumboVisma and Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands and Team Alpecin Fenix competeduring the 2nd Dendermonde UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Mens Elite CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on December 26 2021 in Dendermonde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Wout van Aert (left) battles in early laps alongside World Champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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DENDERMONDE BELGIUM DECEMBER 26 A general view of the peloton competing in a stairs sector during the 2nd Dendermonde UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Mens Elite CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on December 26 2021 in Dendermonde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Men's elite field at Dendermonde World Cup (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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DENDERMONDE BELGIUM DECEMBER 26 Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team JumboVisma competes during the 2nd Dendermonde UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Mens Elite CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on December 26 2021 in Dendermonde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in sand (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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DENDERMONDE BELGIUM DECEMBER 26 Toon Aerts of Belgium and Team Baloise Trek Lions competes during the 2nd Dendermonde UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Mens Elite CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on December 26 2021 in Dendermonde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Toon Aerts of Baloise Trek Lions would finish third (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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DENDERMONDE BELGIUM DECEMBER 26 Gage Hecht of The United States and Team Aevolo competes during the 2nd Dendermonde UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Mens Elite CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on December 26 2021 in Dendermonde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Gage Hecht (USA) would finish 21st (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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DENDERMONDE BELGIUM DECEMBER 26 Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands and Team Alpecin Fenix crosses the finishing line on second place during the 2nd Dendermonde UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Mens Elite CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on December 26 2021 in Dendermonde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Second-place finish for Mathieu van der Poel (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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DENDERMONDE BELGIUM DECEMBER 26 White UCI CycloCross Worldcup Leader Jersey winner Eli Iserbyt of Belgium and Team Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal poses on the podium after the 2nd Dendermonde UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Mens Elite CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on December 26 2021 in Dendermonde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Eli Iserbyt in the white UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup Leader Jersey after he finished ninth at Dendermonde (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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DENDERMONDE BELGIUM DECEMBER 26 LR Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands and Team Alpecin Fenix on second place race winner Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team JumboVisma and Toon Aerts of Belgium and Team Baloise Trek Lions on third place pose on the podium ceremony after the 2nd Dendermonde UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Mens Elite CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on December 26 2021 in Dendermonde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

World Cup Dendermonde podium for elite men (L to R): Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin-Fenix on second place race, winner Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma and Toon Aerts of Team Baloise Trek Lions on third place (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma 1:03:48
2Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix 0:00:49
3Toon Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions 0:01:18
4Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:01:52
5Quinten Hermans (Bel) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team 0:02:09
6Corne van Kessel (Ned) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team 0:02:41
7Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:02:52
8Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:02:59
9Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:03:13
10Lars van der Haar (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions 0:03:24
11Thijs Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions 0:03:41
12Vincent Baestaens (Bel) CX Team Deschacht - Group Hens - Maes Containers 0:03:51
13Toon Vandebosch (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:04:25
14Marcel Meisen (Ger) Alpecin - Fenix 0:04:37
15Ben Turner (GBr) Trinity Racing 0:04:51
16Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix 0:05:14
17Curtis White (USA) Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld 0:05:22
18Daan Soete (Bel) CX Team Deschacht - Group Hens - Maes Containers 0:05:53
19Kevin Kuhn (Swi) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team 0:06:09
20David van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix 0:06:14
21Gage Hecht (USA) Aevolo 0:06:15
22Stan Godrie (Ned) 0:06:40
23Michael Boroš (Cze) 0:07:28
24Yan Gras (Fra) Team Podiocom CC 0:07:42
25Gioele Bertolini (Ita) Selle Italia - Guerciotti - Elite 0:08:05
26Thomas Mein (GBr) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team
27Lance Haidet (USA) L39ION of Los Angeles
28Aurélien Philibert (Fra) Ardennes Cross Team Gecibat
29Gosse van der Meer (Ned)
30Valentin Guillaud (Fra) Team Guevel Immobilier Laval Cyclisme 53
31Kerry Werner (USA) Kona Maxxis Shimano
32Caleb Swartz (USA) Giant/Neff Cycle Service
33Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa) Nesta - MMR CX Team
34Sandy Dujardin (Fra)
35Lubomír Petruš (Cze)
36Quentin Jauregui (Fra)
37Michael van den Ham (Can)
38Mario Junquera san Millan (Spa) Unicaja Banco-Gijon
39Finnegan O'Connor (USA)
40Lorenzo Marasco (Fra) Sebmotobikes CX Team
41Heinrich Haussler (Aus)
42Raphaël Kockelmann (Lux)
43Jakob Dorigoni (Ita) Selle Italia - Guerciotti - Elite
44Florian Hamm (Ger) Team Schamel p/b Kloster Kitchen
45Cameron Jette (Can)
46Philipp Heigl (Aut)
47Tyler Cloutier (USA)
48Nicholas Lando (USA)
49Yannick Mayer (Ger)
50Felipe Timoteo Nystrom Spencer (CRc)
51Miguel Llaneza Arguelles (Spa)
DNFŠimon Vaníček (Cze)
DNFSascha Weber (Ger)
DNSFelix Paul (Ger)

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