Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) made it three in a row at the UEC European Cyclo-cross Championships, prevailing against a race-long Belgian onslaught to beat Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) by three seconds after a final-lap battle. Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) rounded out the podium, 20 seconds down.
The Belgian squad had the strength in numbers throughout the race and continually put Van der Poel under pressure on the highly technical course, which featured 13 hairpin bends, thick mud and more corners besides.The 24-year-old had the answer to every acceleration and tactical move, though, and ultimately ended up in a one-on-one battle with his younger challenger Iserbyt, prevailing with an attack towards the end of the last of seven laps.
"I'm really happy with the jersey, not so much with the feeling," said Van der Poel after the finish. "It was quite a difficult course to make a difference, and I'm happy that I could finish it off in the end.
"The atmosphere and the fans were really great. It was nice to have a Euro Champ in Italy. It's a country we have to involve a bit more in cyclo-cross again. I'm happy with the jersey and the win here today."
Belgium led the way early on, with Toon Aerts and Quinten Hermans up front on the first lap. Iserbyt was also up with the leaders, while Van der Poel was the sole interloper. The world champion hung behind Hermans for much of the opening lap before suddenly putting in a series of stinging accelerations on one of the more technical parts of the course.
By the end of the first lap, Van der Poel had the lead, with Iserbyt and Hermans stuck to his wheel and four more Belgians in a large group five seconds back. The Belgian strength in numbers saw them put a move on Van der Poel on lap two, with Hermans letting Iserbyt push on in order to force the Dutchman to chase.
There were no big gaps opening up, though, with a few seconds separating Iserbyt and Van der Poel from the chasing Belgians – Quintens, Aerts, Michael Vanthourenhout and Tim Merlier – plus Tom Pidcock (Great Britain), who was working his way up after a slow start.
Van der Poel, riding the second race of his 'cross season so far, moved to the front on lap three, though still had the cadre of Belgians breathing down his neck. By the end of lap three, things had stratified somewhat, with Van der Poel leading Isebyt by two seconds and Vanthourenhout by five, while the rest had fallen away to more than 15 seconds back.
Vanthourenhout got back to the front on lap four, during which the lead trio stuck together as things settled down up front. The 25-year-old pushed on at the start of the lap and then again midway through, with Iserbyt attempting to hold up Van der Poel in a mirror of the duo's move two laps earlier.
Still, Van der Poel managed to shut the move down, though by the start of the penultimate lap he was alone against five Belgians, with more moves surely left to come from the men in blue. Once again, it was Iserbyt who proved the strongest of them, following Van der Poel as he pushed the pace towards the end of the lap.
The pair battled through the lap, but Van der Poel was on the front the entire time. During the final half lap, just as he was pulling away, the Dutchman made a mistake clipping in, letting Iserbyt close in.
But the Belgian couldn't quite close the gap fully, and that was all Van der Poel needed to push on once again and secure his third European title.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned)||0:58:22|
|2||Eli Iserbyt (Bel)||0:00:03|
|3||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)||0:00:20|
|4||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:00:24|
|5||Lars van der Haar (Ned)||0:00:25|
|6||Quinten Hermans (Bel)||0:00:38|
|7||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:01:01|
|8||Thomas Pidcock (GBr)||0:01:10|
|9||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:01:22|
|10||Tim Merlier (Bel)||0:01:42|
|11||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:01:51|
|12||David Menut (Fra)||0:01:54|
|13||Daan Soete (Bel)||0:01:57|
|14||Corne Van Kessel (Ned)||0:03:14|
|15||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned)||0:03:25|
|16||Steve Chainel (Fra)||0:03:28|
|17||Timon Rüegg (Swi)||0:03:29|
|18||Simon Rahner (Swi)||0:03:56|
|19||Michael Boroš (Cze)||0:05:28|
|20||Jan Nesvadba (Cze)||0:05:51|
|21||Nicolas Samparisi (Ita)||0:05:57|
|22||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)||0:06:13|
|23||Tomáš Paprstka (Cze)||0:06:29|
|24||Cristian Cominelli (Ita)||0:06:41|
|25||Ondrej Glajza (Svk)||0:08:02|
|26||Stefano Capponi (Ita)||+1 lap|
|27||Matej Ulik (Svk)||+2 laps|
|28||Manuel Müller (Ger)||+2 laps|
|29||Simon Vozar (Svk)||+2 laps|
|30||David Eriksson (Swe)||+3 laps|
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Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content on Cyclingnews and takes on live race text coverage throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Tro-Bro Léon, Strade Bianche, and the Vuelta a España.
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