The clash of the titans has taken place! Mathieu van der Poel became world cyclo-cross champion for the fifth time on Sunday after another epic duel against his traditional rival Wout Van Aert, second, at Hoogerheide in the Netherlands.
After more than an hour of an unbreathable suspenseful race, during which his two main protagonists will not have made any technical error, the Dutchman won the sprint he launched 120 meters from the line to unseat his Belgian opponent.
“The best of the rest”, the best of the others, the Belgian Eli Iserbyt won the bronze, at a distance (12 seconds) from the two favorites but ahead of the Dutchman Lars van der Haar, 4th, and the champion of Belgium and Europe, Michael Vantourehout, 5th.
Frenchman Clément Venturini achieved his goal, finishing tenth.
Already titled in 2015, 2019, 2020 and 2021, the grandson of Raymond Poulidor returns, with this fifth coronation, to the height of the French André Dufraisse, the Swiss Albert Zweifel and the Italian Renato Longo on the list of winners of the World Cyclo- cross, two lengths behind the Belgian Eric De Vlaeminck and his seven rainbow jerseys. Where Van Aert remains stuck at three.
“This victory, I classify it in the top-3 of the best moments of my career”, enthused Van der Poel for whom the key was “to have remained very relaxed throughout the race”.
Technically superior (especially in plank jumps), “VDP” was the most offensive but the power of Van Aert worked wonders on the completely dry and very fast circuit of Dutch Zeeland, five terminals from the Belgian border. .
– See you at Strade bianche –
“We both quickly realized that it would not be possible to let go of the other,” analyzed Van der Poel, whose explosiveness in the sprint surprised his opponent.
“I thought Mathieu would try something before the sprint, in crossing the boards approaching the finish. I was focused on this scenario. So I was a little taken aback that it didn’t happen like that. I left the impulse”, explained Van Aert, regretting “not having launched his sprint from afar because this circuit allowed it”.
A 3.2 kilometer circuit designed by the father of the winner and along which nearly 50,000 spectators gathered (according to the organization) who will have attended the first mano a mano of the season between two runners whose objectives will be identical in the coming weeks: the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“We’ve been fighting each other for ten years. We’re pulling each other up. Once our career is over, we can look back on this with pride,” explained Van der Poel, who had experienced a turbulent end to the 2022 season, with its legal disputes. following the Road Worlds in Australia when he was involved in an incident at his hotel the night before the race.
“I managed to turn the button and it’s clear that this world title will also do me good in view of the road season,” admitted Van der Poel.
A runner who will therefore be able to leave for training serenely to prepare for the spring classics where he will find the inevitable Wout van Aert on his way while at 28, the two athletes seem to be at the top of their game.
The next meeting between the two men is scheduled for March 4 in Italy on the roads of the Strade Bianche, a race they have already won.
“It will be a great fight again,” promised Van der Poel.