A mud-clad Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) took his fourth consecutive World Cup win in Namur (Belgium) on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The European champion finished more than a minute ahead of Belgian riders Wout van Aert and Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) in the sixth World Cup round of the season.
“It was good to feel well on a tough course, for once. In the past, I’ve struggled on these tough courses. I was keen to perform well in these conditions,” Van der Poel said in the post-race flash interview.
The demanding course around the Namur citadel was the last major battleground where world champion Wout van Aert took a World Cup win, one year ago. Both Van Aert and Aerts skipped Saturday’s race in Sint-Niklaas, where Van der Poel took the win, and were expected to be fresher. It didn’t change a single thing as there were no changes in the pecking order.
World champion Van Aert missed his pedal at the start and World Cup leader Toon Aerts struggled with illness. Taking into account the circumstances, Aerts did well with his third place as he salvages his World Cup leader’s jersey. Van der Poel moves up from seventh to third place at 95 points from Aerts in the World Cup standings. Van Aert remains in second place but takes back five points from Aerts and is now 17 points down on his compatriot.
“I hit the pedal with my spikes and got stuck,” Van Aert explained. “Once I got my foot out, I slipped off the pedal. I was in about 20th position at the first climb and got into traffic. It’s too bad because after a few poor starts in the last few weeks I aimed to start well over here. I was very focused and then there was that mistake. From there it was a long chase to get back to the front.”
After some controversy in the last few races following a late arrival at the podium, the UCI decided to give Van Aert a warning this week. After the last rider finished the race, a 10-minute countdown clock was started and shown on a screen. Earlier in the week, Van der Poel had complained about having to wait for his rival to begin the podium ceremony. On Flemish radio, Van Aert explained that he didn’t understand the way the problem was dealt with.
“It’s bizarre. I’m unable to hurt Van der Poel at all this year and still he’s annoyed that I need two more minutes to be washed. If I'd have won nearly 20 races I wouldn’t worry about that, I think,” he said.
Meanwhile, Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) had taken a blisteringly fast start. The Belgian rider was marked by Corné van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions), Van der Poel. Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal), World Cup leader Aerts and Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Bingoal).
Halfway through the opening lap, these six riders were already 20 seconds ahead of a large chase group that was led by Joris Nieuwenhuis (Development Team Sunweb) and included Van Aert at the back of it. On a climb at the back-end of the course, Van Aert found the space to move up towards Nieuwenhuis, passing a dozen riders on the way.
During the second of nine laps, Van der Poel showed off his class as he kept his feet in the pedals on the famous off-camber descent and passed leader Aerts. A few moments later, Aerts was no longer on Van der Poel’s wheel but he kept him in his sights until the next passage of the off-camber section. That’s when Aerts slipped away and tumbled into the mud.
“On Tuesday I became ill and mentally it became a difficult week because I was really looking forward to this race. It was clear that I wasn’t enjoying great legs. Luckily I took a good start and technically I was doing well too, apart from that slip I made on the off-camber section,” Aerts said in his post-race flash interview.
With still six laps to go, Van der Poel enjoyed an advantage of half a minute on a chase group with Aerts, Van Aert and Vanthourenhout. The latter punctured and lost touch with the group, and a few moments later Aerts got dropped by the world champion. Veteran teammate Kevin Pauwels, who was keeping Aerts in sight until the sixth lap, suddenly dropped away.
It seemed like the podium spots were gone but Nieuwenhuis put up a good fight. On the sixth lap, he bridged up with Toon Aerts. The World Cup leader went through some tough moments, but in the closing laps, he managed to hold off the young Dutch rider. Those positions remained the same until the finish line where Van der Poel crossed the line with a wheelie while Van Aert showed few emotions.
Aerts was high-fiving the crowd and clearly happy to hold on to the World Cup lead. Two minutes after the finish of Van der Poel, the fans at the finish line were treated by some air guitar performed by a mud-clad Nieuwenhuis. The latter held off Michael Vanthourenhout for fourth place. More than a minute later, Corné van Kessel took his typical sixth place well ahead of mud-specialist Marcel Meisen (Corendon-Circus) and fast starter Sweeck. Gianni Vermeersch (Steylaerts-777) deserves credit for his race, as he fought back from about 30th position to ninth place. He clocked the fastest lap time of the pack in the final lap, holding off Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions) and David van der Poel (Corendon-Circus). Pauwels rode most of the race in sixth place but had to settle with 12th place in the end.
Next up is the seventh World Cup round of the season, with a fast course at the car racing track in Heusden-Zolder in only three days time, on Boxing Day.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned)||1:03:37|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel)||0:01:04|
|3||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:01:50|
|4||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned)||0:02:02|
|5||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:02:21|
|6||Corne Van Kessel (Ned)||0:03:23|
|7||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:03:30|
|8||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)||0:03:38|
|9||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:03:41|
|10||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned)||0:03:50|
|11||David Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:04:10|
|12||Kevin Pauwels (Bel)||0:04:15|
|13||Quinten Hermans (Bel)||0:04:20|
|14||Daan Soete (Bel)||0:04:22|
|15||Gioele Bertolini (Ita)||0:04:30|
|16||Tim Merlier (Bel)||0:04:34|
|17||Michael Boroš (Cze)||0:04:52|
|18||Thijs Aerts (Bel)||0:05:04|
|19||Jens Adams (Bel)||0:05:09|
|20||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel)||0:05:14|
|21||Sascha Weber (Ger)||0:05:18|
|22||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:05:24|
|23||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||0:05:32|
|24||Sieben Wouters (Ned)||0:05:39|
|25||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)||0:06:17|
|26||David Menut (Fra)||0:07:07|
|27||Francis Mourey (Fra)|
|28||Stan Godrie (Ned)|
|29||Steve Chainel (Fra)|
|30||Tom Meeusen (Bel)|
|31||Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibañez (Spa)|
|32||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa)|
|33||Jan Nesvadba (Cze)|
|34||Yan Gras (Fra)|
|35||Gosse Van Der Meer (Ned)|
|36||Lucas Dubau (Fra)|
|37||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)|
|38||Severin Sägesser (Swi)|
|39||Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spa)|
|40||Joshua Dubau (Fra)|
|41||Stephen Hyde (USA)|
|42||Timon Rüegg (Swi)|
|43||Fabien Canal (Fra)|
|44||Michael Van Den Ham (Can)|
|45||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)|
|46||Braam Merlier (Bel)|
|47||Kerry Werner (USA)|
|48||Cody Kaiser (USA)|
|49||Kenneth Hansen (Den)|
|50||Lukas Winterberg (Swi)|
|51||Henrik Jansson (Swe)|
|52||Sören Nissen (Lux)|
|53||Garry Millburn (Aus)|
|54||Daniel Ania Gonzalez (Spa)|
|55||Max Judelson (USA)|
|56||Marvin Schmidt (Ger)|
|57||Luc Turchi (Lux)|
|58||David Eriksson (Swe)|
|59||Cameron Jette (Can)|
|60||Martin Eriksson (Swe)|
|61||Yu Takenouchi (Jpn)|
|62||Philipp Heigl (Aut)|
|63||Tyler Cloutier (USA)|
|64||Thomas Edhofer (Ger)|
|DNF||Diether Sweeck (Bel)|
|DNS||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)|
|DNS||Curtis White (USA)|
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