Mathieu van der Poel (Coredon-Circus) won the seventh round of the World Cup in Heusden-Zolder at the Terlaemen car racing circuit on Thursday. The world champion beat Laurens Sweeck (Pawels) and Quinten Hermans (Telenet-Baloise) by six seconds.
Van der Poel had to work hard for his fourth successive World Cup victory. "Zolder is one of the hardest courses to ride alone up front because you're never out of sight," Van der Poel told Sporza.
Fresh World Cup leader Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) feared that the two broken ribs and two fractured ribs which he sustained in a crash at the previous World Cup round in Namur on Sunday would keep him from defending his leader’s jersey.
In the end, Aerts did a great job as he captured a fourteenth place, right behind his major contender Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal).
"Eli's teammates were playing team tactics. In the end I’m happy with the result," Aerts told Sporza.
Van der Poel's fourth-ever win in Zolder ended up being a hard-fought one. "It's especially hard here when there's a group behind where there's co-operation. You're dying on the long straight sections where they can keep the gap at bay and on the technical sections you’re completely dead,” Van der Poel told Sporza.
He was asked how he felt about the comeback from Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in Loenhout's Azencross on Friday. "It's good for the sport. It's positive that he's back. I expect him in the top-5 straight away," Van der Poel said.
During the first half of the race, Van der Poel seemed to keep quiet in the large front group although - as he explained - that was harder than one would expect. Belgian road champion Tim Merlier (Creafin-Fristads) managed the hole shot ahead of Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) but further back Toon Aerts had a disastrous start.
The rider in front of him - former cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step) missed his pedal and slipped away, which forced Aerts to crash on his plagued ribs. Out of dead-last position Aerts had to fight back.
"There was little respect in the start. Riders were riding into me. Stybar made a small mistake but he soon realized that and made up for it by doing some work on the long straight sections," Aerts said.
Meanwhile, a dozen of riders were leading the race with a very active Quinten Hermans (Telenet Baloise Lions) trying to cause damage. "Before the race I had doubts because I didn't feel great the last few days. During the race I felt great but I did too much work early on; I just don't like the pushing in a group," Hermans told Sporza.
Nearly halfway through the race, when hitting the fourth lap, a crash took out 2012 and 2013 Heusden-Zolder winner Lars van der Haar (Telenet Baloise Lions) and Daan Soete (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) from the lead group. That seemed to be the sign for Van der Poel to kick on his engine.
"I wanted to wait a little bit longer but further back in the group it's hard too. Twice I had to dig deep to come back on the long straight sections and I wanted to avoid that," Van der Poel said.
Just when Van der Poel accelerated Corné van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions) punctured and was unable to hold his wheel. In no time, Van der Poel collected a bonus of 13 seconds. A bit of rain started to come down on the riders and during the following lap a crash from Merlier split the chase group in two halves, with Sweeck. Hermans, Vanthourenhout and Gianni Vermeersch (Creafin-Fristads) featuring in the first half.
Van der Poel’s bonus over the first chasers grew up to 22 seconds but mainly thanks to the efforts from Laurens Sweeck the leader had to dig deep. "I was too far back in the group to react. It's a pity because I felt good. I tried to engage everybody in the group to work but the gap was too big to overcome," Sweeck told Sporza.
In the sprint, Sweeck easily held off Hermans and teammate Michael Vanthourenhout. "I felt like I had a good rhythm. It wasn’t enough for the win but I’m pleased with second place,” Laurens Sweeck told Sporza.
It’s the third time for Sweeck to finish as runner-up in Heusden-Zolder. For Hermans, it was his first World Cup podium result of the season. With Aerts and Iserbyt struggling to recover from their efforts in Namur, Vanthourenhout did a good job with his fourth place. He moves from third to second place in the World Cup standings, at 45 points from leader Toon Aerts.
Zdenek Stybar mostly rode with Toon Aerts but then punctured out of the top-20. Also Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain-Merida) tested his ‘cross legs in Belgium, finishing 51st.
Next month, Mathieu van der Poel will not be at the start of the penultimate World Cup round in Nommay, France.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned)||1:02:22|
|2||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)||0:00:06|
|3||Quinten Hermans (Bel)|
|4||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:00:09|
|5||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:00:20|
|6||Corne Van Kessel (Ned)||0:00:21|
|7||Tim Merlier (Bel)|
|8||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned)|
|9||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned)||0:00:37|
|10||Thijs Aerts (Bel)||0:00:59|
|11||Tom Meeusen (Bel)||0:01:01|
|12||David Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:01:02|
|13||Eli Iserbyt (Bel)||0:01:03|
|14||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:01:04|
|15||Jens Adams (Bel)||0:01:15|
|16||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||0:01:34|
|17||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||0:02:04|
|18||Timon Rüegg (Swi)||0:02:08|
|19||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)||0:02:19|
|20||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:02:25|
|21||Steve Chainel (Fra)||0:02:32|
|22||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:02:36|
|23||Stan Godrie (Ned)||0:02:38|
|24||Sieben Wouters (Ned)||0:02:39|
|25||Michael Boroš (Cze)||0:02:41|
|26||Jan Nesvadba (Cze)||0:02:52|
|27||Sascha Weber (Ger)||0:02:59|
|28||David Menut (Fra)||0:03:00|
|29||Joshua Dubau (Fra)||0:03:02|
|30||Stephen Hyde (USA)||0:03:05|
|31||Lander Loockx (Bel)||0:03:15|
|32||Zdeněk Štybar (Cze)||0:03:21|
|33||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)||0:03:23|
|34||Lucas Dubau (Fra)||0:03:24|
|35||Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spa)||0:03:39|
|36||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa)||0:03:50|
|37||Michael Van Den Ham (Can)||0:04:05|
|38||Curtis White (USA)||0:04:16|
|39||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:04:28|
|40||Braam Merlier (Bel)||0:04:35|
|41||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)||0:04:44|
|42||Maik Van Der Heijden (Ned)||0:04:58|
|43||Cristian Cominelli (Ita)||0:05:19|
|44||Yan Gras (Fra)||0:05:38|
|45||Nicolas Samparisi (Ita)|
|46||Kerry Werner (USA)||0:06:23|
|47||Tomáš Paprstka (Cze)|
|48||Arthur Tropardy (Fra)|
|49||Gilles Mottiez (Swi)|
|50||Mario Junquera San Millan (Spa)|
|51||Heinrich Haussler (Aus)|
|52||Andrew Juiliano (USA)|
|53||Ondrej Glajza (Svk)|
|54||Max Judelson (USA)|
|55||Frederik Hähnel (Ger)|
|56||Daniel Ania Gonzalez (Spa)|
|57||Jimmy Turgis (Fra)|
|58||Andrew Giniat (USA)|
|59||Cameron Jette (Can)|
|60||Lex Reichling (Lux)|
|61||Miguel Llaneza Arguelles (Spa)|
|62||Thomas Edhofer (Ger)|
|DNF||Daan Soete (Bel)|
|DNF||Simon Zahner (Swi)|
|DNF||Lorenzo Samparisi (Ita)|
|DNS||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel)|
|DNS||Jonatan Östlund (Swe)|
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