Image 1 of 20
World Champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) dominated the ninth round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Antwerp, winning the race by 30 seconds ahead of his nearest rivals.
It was a highly anticipated round of the World Cup, with fans expecting a battle of the so-called “big three”. However, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished a distant second place with world cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) in third, and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), who was feeling ill earlier this week and crashed off the start line, finished in eighth at over a minute back.
“I missed my start a bit. I clipped out of my pedal, got caught up in the chaos and had to take my time to get to the front. I felt the legs were good, so I didn’t panic and took my time to get there,” said Van der Poel, who then spent 40 minutes of the eight-lap race solo.
“I was behind Eli, and he made a mistake and I noticed they were struggling a bit with the sand section, so I tried to get there as smooth as possible. I immediately had a gap. I hoped that behind me, they would look at each other because it was quite a fast race with a lot of wind. I managed to keep my pace and felt good until the end.”
Van Aert also finished second to Van der Poel in the previous day’s Exact Cross Mol and said that he chose to race more conservatively in Antwerp.
“[My legs] felt quite good. I was in a good position in the beginning, and I think I took the race more conservatively, trying to follow the wheels. It was the right tactic,” Van Aert said.
“It was necessary. I don’t have the form yet to go full-gass the whole hour. I think I still could have accelerated with Iserbyt in the last two laps, and I reached the best result possible.”
How it unfolded
The ninth round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup started in high anticipation, given the ‘big three’ were on the start line: Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers).
Chaos quickly ensued as Van der Poel unclipped from his pedal off the grid, and then Pidcock crashed in the first few hundred metres off the race.
Joris Nieuwenhuis (Baloise Trek Lions) took the early lead with Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Corendon), Pim Ronhaar (Baloise Trek Lions), Ryan Kamp (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Thibau Nys (Baloise Trek Lions), Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) and Toon Vandebosch (Crelan-Corendon).
Van Aert settled in among the lead group, but a bobble while dismounting his bike through the sand cost him a few places. Meanwhile, Van der Poel quickly gained ground and moved up into the front group, just behind Van Aert on the second lap. Pidcock also worked his way forward after his crash into 12th place.
Van der Poel, who was significantly faster than any other rider on the course, used the length of the beach to move his way forward into second place behind Vanthourenhout, and the pair raced through the finish line for the start of the third of eight laps.
Van der Poel accelerated around Iserbyt as the World Cup series leader struggled to clip back into his pedals. The World Champion accelerated again at a speed that chasers Iserbyt, Ronhaar, and Vanthourenhout could not match.
Van Aert appeared to be racing more conservatively in Antwerp, positioned among the second chase group with Pidcock further back, struggling to regain contact.
By the fifth lap, Van der Poel had pushed his lead out to 43 seconds ahead of the chase group: Van Aert, Iserbyt, Sweeck, Rohnaar, Vandeputte, Nieuwenhuis, Vanthourenhout, Nys and Pidcock.
As Van der Poel maintained his gap over the last three laps, the battle for second place played out between Van Aert and Iserbyt.
Van Aert surged on the last lap to claim second place over a distanced Iserbyt, but the day’s victory went to the most dominant rider of the race, Van der Poel, in what was his first World Cup win of the season.
Results powered by FirstCycling