Sunday’s UCI World Cup cyclocross round in Benidorm brought the fifth meeting of the ‘big three’ this season, with Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease A Bike) coming out on top with a win.
However, anyone hoping for a finish line showdown between the Belgian, Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) would come away disappointed as the latter duo were hit by crashes that took them out of contention for the win.
World Champion Van der Poel came down after hitting a padded pole on the penultimate lap and eventually recovered to fifth place, while Pidcock crashed on the last lap while trying to bunnyhop over barriers in the race to the finish.
Van Aert made his winning move for a solo victory on the last lap, however, it was not without drama when he crashed after running the barriers. As he remounted his bike, his leg knocked against the saddle and sent it flying off the seatpost, allowing second-placed Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) to gain ground for a close finish.
Skip to the bottom of the article for video of all three unfortunate moments.
While Van der Poel ended up fifth, 12 seconds down on Van Aert, who had his own crash late on, losing his saddle, there simply wasn’t enough time left in the race for Pidcock to mount a recovery ride and he’d have to settle for ninth place, 27 seconds down.
A video shot by a fan at the race showed Toon Vandebosch (Crelan-Corendon) and Van der Poel jumping over the barrier at speed while Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) dismounted.
A split second later, Pidcock could be seen hitting the barrier with his front wheel and going over the handlebars of his bike, luckily managing to stay on his feet before narrowly avoiding being hit by Spanish champion Felipe Orts (La Vila Joiosa-Neteo).
Van Aert’s own crash came just after the barriers as he attempted to remount his bike, the spill leaving him without a saddle for the final run to the line ahead of European champion Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), and Thibau Nys (Baloise Trek Lions).
The race marked the end of the 2023-24 cyclocross season for both Pidcock and Van Aert, who will now turn their focus to preparing for the road season – Pidcock taking aim at the Tour de France GC while Van Aert will make his Giro d’Italia debut.
Van der Poel, meanwhile, still has three more races on his schedule – the X2O Trofee Hamme (January 27), UCI World Cup Hoogerheide (January 28), and the UCI World Championships in Tabor (February 4).
Van Aert lost his saddle in a crash a few minutes before the finish! 😅#CXWorldCuppic.twitter.com/IOLxIHauoMJanuary 21, 2024
@mathieuvdpoel unfortunely crash.@AlpecinDCK @Ciclismoafondo_ @UCI_CX @tompidcock #cycling #CXWorldCup #CXBenidorm #MathieuVanderPoel #ThibautNys pic.twitter.com/DCOX4xsfhnJanuary 21, 2024