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Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) began 2024 by extending his undefeated streak to eight races, soloing away from rival Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) on the first lap and never looking back. Pim Ronhaar (Baloise Trek) was third.
“I enjoyed it, it is always a fun cross that suits me well,” Van der Poel said. “This is the most fun as a cyclocross rider, a very technical course with those deep ruts. It was difficult, but the fairest and most fun.
“Wout immediately set a fast pace. I took over, had a nice gap again and then rode fairly clean. It was a nice day.”
Van Aert took the hole shot and stayed with the world champion on the first lap but had to let go soon after, leaving Van der Poel to yet another solo victory.
“To be honest I was surprised I was so far behind, Mathieu was super strong,” Van Aert said. “I had a good start and I think I owe it to myself to try. I put energy in the first two laps, made a mistake, and then had to go back to my own pace. It was the start of a one-man-show.”
On a wet, muddy, treacherous course at the Sven Nys Cycling Centre in Baal, Van der Poel followed Van Aert with a quick start and the pair were together with Pim Ronhaar (Baloise Trek) on the opening lap, being chased by Thibau Nys (Baloise Trek).
But it wasn’t long before Van der Poel powered clear, and a small mistake from Van Aert in a deep mud puddle was the opening he needed to leave the Belgian behind.
Ronhaar clung onto Van Aert as the gap yawned to 48 seconds by the end of the second lap, while Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) was in a chasing trio with Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek).
Van der Poel continued splashing away while Van Aert dropped Ronhaar as rain began to fall and remained flawless through to the finish while Pidcock vanished from the chasing group in the closing laps.
Van Aert cruised in for second place almost two minutes down, while Ronhaar persevered in third at 2:44.
Van der Haar extended his lead in the X2O Trophy with fourth ahead of Vanthourenhout, while Nys chased him to the line for sixth.
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