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Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) stormed away to his seventh consecutive victory of the 2023-24 cyclocross season, this time dismantling the field at the UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Hulst.
The World Champion attacked on the second lap unchallenged as two of his most significant rivals were beset by separate crashes and mechanicals.
Joris Nieuwenhuis and Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek) rounded out the podium.
“It’s never easy to win, it’s always one hour full gas,” Van der Poel said after the bumpy, muddy race where riders struggled to stay on their bikes. The World Champion explained his solo attack helped him avoid the problems that hit his competitors.
“I was in the wheel but I kept making too many mistakes because I couldn’t see the good line, so I went to the front to do my own pace.”
World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) got off the line the fastest but his opening surge was missed by the cameras who instead focussed on Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), who was caught up in a tangle just after the start in Hulst.
After bumping into compatriot Cameron Mason, Pidcock ended up on the bottom of a pile-up with his rear derailleur sheared off and bars askew. After a few moments where it appeared he would abandon, he turned and started running to the pits with a great deal of time to make up.
He wasn’t the only rider with early incidents – Van der Poel was briefly delayed when he slid out on an off-camber and lost a few places, coming to the end of the first lap at the back of the leading group behind Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Corendon).
Sweeck continued to lead as the chaos continued on the second lap as Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) slid out and dropped his chain on another off-camber, slotted in 20th place and faced a day of chasing.
Tibor Del Grosso (Alpecin-Deceuninck) led the group across the line to start lap three with Sweeck, Van der Poel, Lars van der Haar and Baloise-Trek teammate Pim Ronhaar. Van Aert closed his gap to 17 seconds while Pidcock was over two minutes in arrears, crossing the line as Van der Poel began to make his move off the front.
Van der Poel’s gap only continued to grow as Ronhaar left Van der Haar behind on lap four while Joris Nieuwenhuis joined his Baloise Trek teammates in pursuit of the World Champion, while Van Aert had lost more time, crossing the line 1:27 behind his rival after another bike change and Pidcock was in 39th two more minutes back.
On the penultimate lap, the Baloise Trek trio were still 37 seconds down while Van Aert had climbed into eighth at 1:08. Iserbyt abandoned after being seen dropping down the line of riders.
Van der Poel cruised into the last lap with 34 seconds over Nieuwenhuis and Ronhaar, with Van der Haar just behind, but the Dutch champion got ahead of his younger teammate to take the third podium spot.
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