Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) salvaged what was left of his race at the UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Benidorm after crashing on the penultimate lap, remounting and finishing in fifth place 12 seconds behind solo winner Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) on Sunday.
The World Champion was racing among the lead group on the eighth of nine laps when the live streaming footage showed him suddenly on the ground on a hard-packed and dusty section of the circuit.
“After the sand pit I hit a spot, I thought it was a bit softer but it was not, I was on the ground and I knew the race was over. My shoulder is a bit sore, but it’s OK,” Van der Poel said in a post-race interview.
The event marked the 13th and penultimate round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup, and big crowds came out to watch what was the final clash of the season between favourites Van der Poel and Van Aert.
In addition, Benidorm’s position, both geographically and on the calendar, meant it attracted the biggest stars of the sport from their January training camps, many of which take place in the Calpe and Denía area, which is very close to the coastal town.
Van der Poel admitted that he had a slow start, caught behind the first 20 riders on the circuit after the opening lap, where he had a mechanical.
“In the beginning, my chain came off, and I had to chase, but that was OK,” Van der Poel said. “But in the penultimate lap, after the sandpit, I hit the spot a little too much with my shoulder, and I knew it was over.”
Van der Poel lost valuable time and positions as he cautiously remounted his bike after the crash, and he got back into the race but was 22 seconds behind the leaders. He managed to close the gap to just 12 seconds at the finish line, taking fifth place on the day.
“It’s better to have it [bad luck] now. It’s a super hard race, and I didn’t have the freshest legs as I thought, but maybe winning was still possible; it would have been difficult,” said Van der Poel, who will line up as defending champion at the World Championship in Tabor in February.
Van der Poel had won ten races in a row and won four consecutive rounds of the World Cup in Antwerp, Gavere, Hulst, and Zonhoven before lining up in Benidorm.
Asked if losing his winning streak bothered him, he said, “No, not really,” but added, “Of course, I would like to win, but I knew that it had to end someday. This is a super difficult race to win. It is difficult to make a difference, and I think I have to be satisfied with my place today.”
@mathieuvdpoel unfortunely crash.@AlpecinDCK @Ciclismoafondo_ @UCI_CX @tompidcock #cycling #CXWorldCup #CXBenidorm #MathieuVanderPoel #ThibautNys pic.twitter.com/DCOX4xsfhnJanuary 21, 2024