A magnificent Van der Poel becomes four-time Cyclo-cross World Champion
A great Mathieu Van der Poel recovered from a difficult first quarter of the race to win his fourth rainbow jersey.
A great Van Aert in the first part of the race
We had only seen half a lap and the two favourites for the final victory were already in the lead: Van Aert and Van der Poel took off, as if the rest of the riders let them do it, as if it was a matter of respect from the others. Van Aert in the lead, Van der Poel on his wheel, 17 seconds, after that first lap. It was just after crossing the finish line at the end of those first kilometres that Van der Poel took the lead and began to set a different pace, as if to measure his strength against Wout Van Aert.
Everything on a spectacular circuit. Whether you climb steps or cross an entire beach to get to the shore, which is where you can at least ride. A lot of running with the bike on your shoulder.
Van der Poel suffered more in the sand, Van Aert knew it and opened small gaps after the beach bays. In one of those, on the second lap, the gap was bigger: 10 seconds that became 15 at the finish. It looked bad for Van der Poel, but there were still 6 laps to go.
Behind, a group of Belgian jerseys followed him, maintaining the same gap as the minutes went by. Only Aerts seemed to be in a position to even fight between the two, and he was constantly controlling his distance to Van der Poel on the more visible sections.
On the third lap, Van der Poel was forced to change his bike. Things didn't seem to be going well for the Dutchman, who nevertheless managed to stop Van Aert from opening up any more distance. That kept him in the race, kept him in the fight, and he knew it. There was still a long way to go.
Van der Poel raises the pace and breaks the race
However, Van der Poel only needed one lap to catch Van Aert and change the pace to break him. After a flat tyre on Van Aert's front wheel, the Dutchman, who did not let up for a moment, not only managed to catch the Belgian, but also took 20 seconds off him and the story suddenly took on a different colour.
Now it was Mathieu Van der Poel who had everything to gain. At each section, he improved Van Aert's time by one or two seconds. Not only was he leading, but he was increasing his advantage. On lap seven he was already half a minute ahead of the Belgian and the sensations, the faces, were a couple of poems. Van der Poel, all concentration; Van Aert, all suffering, even now he was the one who changed his bike on the penultimate lap.
Meanwhile, Pidcock, who had come third in the last few World Cup races, was fourth, followed by Sweeck in fifth. In front of them, Aerts.
On the last lap, the script was half written: Van der Poel first, Van Aert at the same 30 seconds. Behind, a minute and a half behind, Aerts came in, with Pidcock 13 seconds behind, trying to make a breakthrough.
Van der Poel's fastest lap was 7.51, three seconds faster than any of the chasers. He was going to win and he knew it. His face was a real poem, he was breathing with power. Van Aert had tried, had been very close, had played his cards very well, and had put Van der Poel on the ropes especially on the third lap. But, as Van Aert himself said, Van der Poel was the favourite for a reason, and so it proved.
Four times World Champion Van der Poel, third time in a row for the Dutchman who is already a historic rider. Behind, a very worthy Van Aert came in second. A round of applause for the spectacle that these two tremendous riders have given us once again.
Behind, a nice fight between Aerts, bronze, and a Pidcock who was very close to the podium. That's how it all ended:
- 1. Van der Poel, Mathieu > 58.57
- 2. Van Aert, Wout +37"
- 3. Aerts, Toon +1.24"
- 4. Pidcock, Thomas +1.37
- 5. Sweeck, Laurens +2.05