Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) won the fourth round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Tábor, Czech Republic on Saturday afternoon. The world champion had to dig deep to get the win over World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), as Lars van der Haar (Telenet Baloise Lions) finished third at short distance.
After the death of his grandfather Raymond Poulidor - who passed away after an extended illness three days ago - Mathieu van der Poel still wanted to race in Tábor. He wasn’t displaying his usual dominance and only reached the front of the race after 40 minutes, but still managed to get the win.
During the post-race flash interview, Van der Poel was obviously emotional.
"It’s been a very tough week. It’s very hard. I’m glad that I’ve won but it’s been much harder than I thought it would be - both physically and mentally it was tough," he said.
"I’m glad that I kept on fighting. I really wanted to win here, also because Tábor is quite special to me. I’m glad that I won."
The 24 year-old Dutch rider has won in Tábor every time he participated in a race here since winning the Junior Men's World Cup round back in 2011. It’s also the place where he became became the youngest ever cyclo-cross world champion in 2015.
This was the first World Cup round of the season for Van der Poel and the new UCI rule that favours the top-24 in the World Cup standings forced the world champion to a third-row start position. While Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) and Iserbyt were storming to the front during the opening lap, Van der Poel was being pinballed around in the pack outside the top-15.
By the end of the second lap, Van der Poel seemed to have bridged up with a lead group of six riders but then he faded back again and, at one point, he was nearly half a minute down on Vanthourenhout.
"It was hard to get near the front. That took a lot of effort. They put the pressure on me. I felt that I had to put my money on the final lap," Van der Poel said.
Three laps later, nearly 40 minutes into the race, Van der Poel joined leaders Vanthourenhout, Iserbyt and Van der Haar once more. Vanthourenhout was the first to get dropped and eventually also Van der Haar was unable to battle for the victory because he lost too much time running the barriers while Van der Poel and Iserbyt flew over them.
Van der Haar was the last rider to win the World Cup in Tábor in 2013 just before Van der Poel moved up to the Men Elite category.
"It’s a course that suits me well. There’s a lot of climbing but also time to recover. For me it’s nearly impossible to win here if I don’t have a gap," Van der Haar said. "Those guys who hop the barriers and finish ahead of me are better. If I would not be happy with third place then I have to hop the barriers but I can’t pull it off. So I’ve got to be happy with third place. The last few weeks I’m going well. I hope that I will be able to continue this way," Van der Haar said.
Van der Poel and Iserbyt headed for a last-lap duel and Iserbyt tried early on. "Maybe it was too early but I went well through the muddy section and went for it," Iserbyt said.
At the back-end of the course, Van der Poel moved into the lead and from there Iserbyt was in the hurt box. Van der Poel copied Annemarie Worst’s move that earned her the win in the Women’s race two hours earlier and punched away on the final climb. Iserbyt was unable to close the small gap back down.
The 22-year-old Iserbyt was enjoying mixed feelings, too, after the race. Obviously he wanted to win the race but he was unable to shake off Van der Poel in the final lap.
"Mathieu's final acceleration was just a little bit too much for me," he said. "This was the ideal scenario for me and if I would’ve been clearly better I would’ve won but Mathieu was slightly better. It’s the proof that he’s a true big champion and that he’s able to cope with this. It’s not easy. I think he was even more motivated to show himself. Chapeau. He’ll be hard to control again tomorrow. It’s about being able to cope with that. Really, chapeau."
Then again, Iserbyt extends his lead in World Cup standings over Belgian champion Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions), who finished fifth. "Tábor and Koksijde are the courses that suit me the least in the World Cup so I’m really happy now," Iserbyt said.
Vanthourenhout finished just off the podium in fourth place at 42 seconds. The rest of the field was more than a minute down on the winner, with teammates Aerts and Corné van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions) finishing fifth and sixth.
The next World Cup round is a classic. The first Belgian World Cup round of the season will be contested next week in the sand dunes of Koksijde, at the North Sea.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus||1:01:56|
|2||Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Marlux-Bingoal|
|3||Lars van der Haar (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:00:12|
|4||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux-Bingoal||0:00:42|
|5||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:00|
|6||Corne van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:10|
|7||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:14|
|8||Tim Merlier (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal||0:01:17|
|9||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal||0:01:22|
|10||Jens Adams (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal||0:01:32|
|11||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team Sunweb||0:01:47|
|12||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Corendon-Circus||0:01:55|
|13||Marcel Meisen (Ger) Corendon-Circus||0:01:58|
|14||Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Team Wiggins Lecol||0:02:04|
|15||Thijs Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:02:18|
|16||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:02:25|
|17||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Corendon-Circus||0:02:32|
|18||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux-Bingoal||0:02:48|
|19||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:03:26|
|20||Timon Rüegg (Swi) Swiss Racing Academy||0:03:39|
|21||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:04:02|
|22||Michael Boroš (Cze)||0:04:06|
|23||Jan Nesvadba (Cze)||0:04:12|
|24||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa)||0:04:25|
|25||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)||0:04:32|
|26||Simon Zahner (Swi)||0:04:42|
|27||Steve Chainel (Fra)||0:04:59|
|28||Diether Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal||0:05:08|
|29||Lander Loockx (Bel)||0:05:11|
|30||Tomáš Paprstka (Cze)||0:05:26|
|31||Stan Godrie (Ned)||0:05:48|
|32||Sieben Wouters (Ned)||0:06:05|
|33||Maik van der Heijden (Ned)||0:06:15|
|34||Ondrej Glajza (Svk)||0:06:23|
|35||David van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus||0:06:34|
|36||Gilles Mottiez (Swi)|
|37||Severin Sägesser (Swi)||0:06:47|
|38||Valentin Humbert (Fra)||0:06:53|
|39||Simon Vozar (Svk)|
|40||Daniel Mayer (Cze)|
|41||Matej Ulik (Svk)|
|42||Frederik Hähnel (Ger)|
|43||Philipp Heigl (Aut)|
|44||Max Judelson (USA)|
|45||Tyler Cloutier (USA)|
|46||Jakub Kurty (Svk)|
|DNF||Daan Soete (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal|
|DNS||Braam Merlier (Bel)|
|DNS||Manuel Müller (Ger)|
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