Van der Poel wins his fifth World Championship
Van der Poel is already a five-time cyclo-cross world champion by taking the victory in Hoogerheide after beating Van Aert in a sprint. The race was marked by the duel between these two stars of the discipline, which finally fell to the Dutchman after ten laps of maximum equality.
Van der Poel wins the World Championship after beating Van Aert in a race with maximum equality between them
The race began in Hoogerheide with Van der Haar taking the lead at the start. Van der Poel was in his compatriot's wake and Van Aert was third after a few corners.
Van der Poel took just three and a half minutes to deliver the first attack. The attack left everyone but Van Aert behind for the eagerly awaited duel between the two to begin in the early stages of the race.
At the first finish line, it was clear that the race was going to be a two-man affair. Van der Poel and Van Aert had already opened a gap of 16 seconds with the others, led by Vanthourenhout.
The Dutchman was leading while Van Aert preferred to stay behind. At times it seemed that Van der Poel pushed, although it was not enough to leave behind his biggest rival. Van der Poel let the Belgian pass so that he was the one who led just before the finish line and certify that the race was going to 10 laps.
Behind, Kuypers and Vanthourenhout escaped in the fight for third place.
Van der Poel again took the lead to pull on his quadriceps again, although Van Aert's immediate response was enough to placate the attack. The Dutchman was able to put a few meters of difference to the passage through the boards, but the Belgian regained the distance a few corners later.
Fourth lap. Van Aert ahead. Kuypers and Vanthurenhout joined forces, crossed 24 seconds later and opened a gap with the next group led by Venturini, Khun and Sweek who passed 38 seconds behind the leaders. A great Felipe Orts was thirteenth, 44 seconds behind.
Everything remained the same up front. Maximum equality between the two. Van Aert held the lead for almost the entire lap, until Van der Poel took first place on the boards. The change of leader did not change the course of the race: the two were hooked together with neither one leaving the other behind.
Van Aert pushed hard and Van der Poel did the same to stay in his wake. As on other occasions, the Dutchman passed in front in the plank area and the sixth lap began.
Vanthourenhout got rid of Kuypers in his particular fight for the last step of the podium and crossed the finish line 30 seconds behind the leaders.
The race had been in a kind of truce for a few minutes between the two favorites to save their strength. And then came an onslaught of Van der Poel to face the long climb. He squeezed his legs to leave Van Aert behind and although he managed to gain a small gap, the Belgian was back on his wheel soon after.
Behind, the fight for bronze changed hands. Van der Haar and Iserbyt were flying and showed their chances for the podium.
The calm between Van der Poel and Van Aert returned during the eighth lap. The penultimate lap began and Van Aert moved into the lead. The cautious pace caused Van der Haar and Iserbyt to get closer to 18 seconds.
Every corner they drove together increased the chances that the victory would have to be decided at the end. And now it was. The last lap began. Van der Poel in front. Van Aert just behind.
Positions were exchanged. The Belgian pressed to get a few meters to the Orange Beast, which could recover to get on the wheel. And again Van der Poel in front. But neither of the two wanted to use up their energy reserves early. So they kept an eye on each other, but there were no attacks.
They passed the planks without problems. They reached the asphalt. Van Aert in front. Van der Poel broke into a sprint at the start of the long asphalt straight, passed the front and held on to cross the finish line, while Van Aert had to settle for second place.
In this way, Van der Poel raised his arms to wear the rainbow jersey that accredits him as five-time CX World Champion.
For his part, Iserbyt took the bronze after winning his tight fight with Van der Haar.
World Cyclocross Championships 2023 Hoogerheide - Elite Men's
- Mathieu Van der Poel (Netherlands) +1h07'20"
- Wout Van Aert (Belgium) +0’’
- Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) +12"
- Lars Van der Haar (Netherlands) +13"
- Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) +46"
- Gerben Kuypers (Belgium) +54"
- Niels Vandeputte (Belgium) +57"
- Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) +59"
- Cameron Mason (UK) +1'08"
- Clément Venturini (France) 1'30"