ZEVEN, Germany—The UCI Cyclocross World Cup cyclocross returned on Saturday after last week’s scheduled Koksijde turned into the Windy City last weekend. Saturday’s race in Zeven, located in northern Germany near Hamburg, was the first cyclocross World Cup race in Germany in 13 years and the first ever at the venue.

The grassy circuit that really lacked a definitive feature likely looked familiar to many amateur American racers; the circuit wound its way through a flat grass section in the first half, and then featured a number of technical, punchy hills spread across a large hill in the second half. The weather for the event was chilly and a little drizzly early on in the morning, but the well-drained grass left the course tacky and fast by the time the men took the start line.

A shot of the start/finish line during the Elite Men's race at the 2016 Zeven World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

A shot of the start/finish line during the Elite Men’s race at the 2016 Zeven World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

If one were to quickly glance at the results from the Elite Men’s race, it would be fair to conclude that it was another epic battle between Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank–Corendon) and Wout Van Aert (Crelan–Vastgoedservice).

That conclusion, however, would not really be true. Early in the race Van Aert appeared poised to run away with his third World Cup victory of the season, with Van der Poel suffering a mechanical in the sandpit and getting caught well back in the pack while Van Aert charged to the front. Showing form that should probably be scary for Van Aert and the other cyclocross racers, Van der Poel calmly made his way through the field and back to the World Champion at the front of the race. The two rode together for a hot second before Van der Poel exploded off the front and opened up a gap he wouldn’t relinquish en route to his second straight World Cup victory.

Wout Van Aert leads eventual winner Mathieu Van Der Poel through the sand pit at the 2016 Zeven Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men's race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Wout Van Aert leads eventual winner Mathieu Van Der Poel through the sandpit at the 2016 Zeven Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men’s race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

The talk of the race early on was Tom Meeusen (Telenet Fidea Lions). The Belgian roared out to a fast start, taking the holeshot and throwing out a demonstrative outrigger heading off the tarmac and out onto the course. Wout Van Aert and Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Napolean Games) followed Meeusen’s lead as a large group strung out at the front of the race.

As the group rolled through the start/finish after the first lap, Van der Poel was well back from the front in 19th place. In a post-race interview, the Dutch rider indicated he suffered a small “Ay Yay Yay” in the sand, “In the sandpit, someone touched my rear wheel and some spokes went out. I couldn’t get in my light gear anymore and it was a lot of time before I could change my bike.”

During the second trip through the circuit, Wout Van Aert jumped to the front and pushed the pace as Meeusen tried to hang onto the World Champion’s wheel. At Koppenbergcrossearlier this month, Van Aert sensed trouble for his Dutch rival early on and launched an early-race attack to effectively bury his toughest rival. This may have been what the Belgian sought to do again on Saturday, as he opened up a seven second lead on Meeusen over the latter half of the third lap. The question was, would it be enough to keep Van der Poel away for the full 60 minutes?

Kevin Pauwels (BEL) would finish the day in third place for the 2016 Zeven UCI Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men's race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Kevin Pauwels (BEL) would finish the day in third place for the 2016 Zeven UCI Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men’s race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

While Van Aert was moving at the front, Van der Poel was slowly making his way back into the race. He bridged from the second chase to the first, and then picked up a spot or two at a time as he worked up the pecking order in the first chase of about eight riders. By the end of the fourth trip around the bumpy track, Van der Poel had passed Meeusen to take over second and close the gap to Van Aert from 30 seconds to just 10.

For Van der Poel, breaking through the chase was a goal he wanted to achieve quickly, “It was a really nice chase. In the beginning I had some difficulties passing some riders, but when I was in front and could ride my own pace and my own lines it went really well. I immediately felt that I would close the gap.”

Coming and going #zeven #cyclocross #telenetucicxwc

A photo posted by Balint Hamvas (@cyclephotos) on

Close the gap he would, as Van der Poel finally completed his long journey back to Van Aert during the sixth lap when the two competitive rivals rode the sandpit together. Van der Poel would pull around to take the lead heading through the start/finish, and it appeared that another epic MvdP/WVA battle would be in order. As the two rivals headed up the race, the state of the race for third became clear as Meeusen held an 11 second gap on the fourth place Laurens Sweeck (ERA Real Estate – Circus) and Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napolean Games) sat a handful of seconds behind Sweeck in fifth.

Stephen Hyde (USA) ended up the top American in in 30th place for the 2016 Zeven Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men's race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Stephen Hyde (USA) ended up the top American in in 30th place for the 2016 Zeven Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men’s race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Fans who came to see another epic van der battle would be left disappointed, as Van der Poel and Van Aert rode together briefly before Mathieu Van der Poel went to the whip through the grassy maze section and dared Van Aert to follow the pace he was able to lay down. Van Aert appeared spent, as Van der Poel opened up a six second lead through the sandpit. The Dutch rider’s lead momentarily appeared to be in jeopardy when he briefly put his foot down on the steepest and toughest uphill, but Van Aert would also struggle to ride the climb cleanly as well. When the dust settled from the definitive seventh lap Van der Poel had opened up a 13 second lead on Van Aert and save a major disaster or a personal Koksijde-like headwind, appeared destined for his second straight World Cup victory.

There would be no major disasters for Mathieu van der Poel. He would continue his incredibly impressive ride for the next three laps and finished with a comfortable 21 second victory. Van der Poel’s pat of his bike at the finish indicated he felt good about his victory, and after the race he said that he is feeling good about his form as well, “Ever? I don’t know. I am feeling really really good. Two weeks ago I was in Spain, which was really good for my form. And this week in training I felt that my legs were just fine. I hope to have this form for a couple of weeks.”

Van der Poel’s performance also provides a good lesson for young and new riders. Despite the early setback, he remained calm and trusted his training as he slowly worked his way back up through the field. His comeback could have easily been derailed by trying to make up too much ground too quickly or railing it too fast through some of the technical sections. Instead he worked his way up spot by spot and left enough in his legs to launch his impressive performance on the definitive seventh lap.

Bam bam bam ?? #telenetucicxwc #zeven #cx #cyclocross #sand #whataday #awesome #photography #sportsphotography #bombastic

A photo posted by Elisa Haumesser (@lizziehaumesser) on

The action behind the afternoon’s winner would get moderately interesting as Wout Van Aert sought to maintain his second place position. On the penultimate lap, Pauwels broke away from Meeusen and cut the gap to the second-place Van Aert down to just 10 seconds entering the bell lap. There would be no shocking finish for Pauwels due to a combination of Wout Van Aert riding just a bit harder and the hard-charging Pauwels running out of steam.

Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED) leading during the 2016 Zeven UCI Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men's race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED) leading during the 2016 Zeven UCI Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men’s race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Van Aert took his second straight second place World Cup finish (21 seconds) and Pauwels rode his strong finish to third (31 seconds). Meeusen (53 seconds) held on for fourth and the young Frenchman Clement Venturini (Cofidis, Solutions Credits) did not tire while taking fifth (1:08).

Jeremy Powers at the 2016 Zeven World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Jeremy Powers at the 2016 Zeven World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Two Americans took the start line, in Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) and Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing).

Morning! world cup 5 in Germany today.

A photo posted by Jeremy Powers (@jpows) on

Unfortunately, both were non-factors in the race. Hyde finished in 30th, four minutes behind the winner, and Powers was pulled with two laps to go in 47th.

Mathieu van der Poel proved once again he's the one to beat in Zeven, Germany at the 2016 World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Mathieu van der Poel proved once again he’s the one to beat in Zeven, Germany at the 2016 World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Despite finishing second, Wout Van Aert retained the leader’s jersey and extended his overall World Cup lead. The big mover after Saturday was Kevin Pauwels, who moved into second, five points ahead of Laurens Sweeck. The afternoon’s winner currently sits in 8th with a perfect 160 points after missing the two American World Cup stops.

Elite Men's podium: Mathieu Van Der Poel (first), Wout Van Aert (second) and Kevin Pauwels (third) at the 2016 Zeven World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Elite Men’s podium: Mathieu Van Der Poel (first), Wout Van Aert (second) and Kevin Pauwels (third) at the 2016 Zeven World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Mathieu van der Poel proved once again he’s the one to beat in Zeven, Germany at the 2016 World Cup. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Be sure to scroll down to the photo gallery below for more great pix from the 2016 UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Zeven, Germany

2016 Zeven, Germany UCI Cyclocross World Cup Results: Elite Men

PlBibNameNatAgeTeamTimePts
118VAN DER POEL MathieuNED22BEOBANK - CORENDON1:03:2180
21VAN AERT WoutBEL23CRELAN-VASTGOEDSERVICE CONTINENTAL TEAM+00:2170
33PAUWELS KevinBEL33MARLUX-NAPOLEON GAMES CYCLING TEAM+00:3165
45MEEUSEN TomBEL29TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM+00:5360
525VENTURINI ClementFRA24COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS+01:0855
64SWEECK LaurensBEL24ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS+01:2450
719VAN KESSEL CorneNED26TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM+01:3248
88VERMEERSCH GianniBEL25+01:3846
96VANTHOURENHOUT MichaelBEL24MARLUX-NAPOLEON GAMES CYCLING TEAM+01:5344
1031MEISEN MarcelGER28+01:5942
1116ADAMS JensBEL25CRELAN-VASTGOEDSERVICE CONTINENTAL TEAM+02:0040
122AERTS ToonBEL24TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM+02:0239
137MERLIER TimBEL25CRELAN-VASTGOEDSERVICE CONTINENTAL TEAM+02:0338
1420VAN DER POEL DavidNED25BEOBANK - CORENDON+02:0337
1511AERNOUTS JimBEL28TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM+02:2236
1615BAESTAENS VincentBEL28BEOBANK - CORENDON+02:2735
1746BOROS MichaelCZE25ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS+02:2834
1817SWEECK DietherBEL24ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS+02:2933
1913VANTHOURENHOUT DieterBEL32MARLUX-NAPOLEON GAMES CYCLING TEAM+02:4732
209VANTORNOUT KlaasBEL35MARLUX-NAPOLEON GAMES CYCLING TEAM+02:5631
2132WEBER SaschaGER29+03:0830
2241TARAMARCAZ JulienSUI30ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS+03:0929
2339WILDHABER MarcelSUI32SCOTT-ODLO MTB RACING TEAM+03:1028
2422GODRIE StanNED24RABOBANK DEVELOPMENT TEAM+03:1127
2510SOETE DaanBEL23TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM+03:1526
2612PEETERS RobBEL32CRELAN-VASTGOEDSERVICE CONTINENTAL TEAM+03:4725
2721VAN AMERONGEN ThijsNED31TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM+03:5024
2848NESVADBA JanCZE26EXPRES CZ-MERIDA TEAM KOLIN+03:5423
2940ZAHNER SimonSUI34+03:5522
3043HYDE StephenUSA30CANNONDALE P/B CYCLOCROSSWORLD+04:0521
3114HOEYBERGHS DaanBEL23BEOBANK - CORENDON+04:1220
3253SUAREZ FERNANDEZ KevinESP23+04:1419
3326BOULO MatthieuFRA28+04:3018
3447PAPRSTKA TomasCZE25EXPRES CZ-MERIDA TEAM KOLIN+04:4117
3542SAEGESSER SeverinSUI25+04:4516
3661HARING MartinSVK31DUKLA BANSKA BYSTRICA+04:5515
3724VAN LEEUWEN PatrickNED32CYCLINGTEAM JO PIELS+04:5814
3845SIMUNEK RadomirCZE34ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS+05:1213
3952RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ JavierESP38+05:1912
4023WUBBEN NielsNED29-1LAP11
4127FALENTA AloisFRA28-1LAP10
4228GICQUIAU IvanFRA24-1LAP9
4334GRUNER YannickGER23-1LAP8
4430WALSLEBEN PhilippGER30BEOBANK - CORENDON-2LAP7
4566SAMPARISI LorenzoITA24-2LAP6
4663HANSEN KennethDEN26-2LAP5
4744POWERS JeremyUSA34ASPIRE-2LAP4
4856DIAS DOS SANTOS VincentLUX27-2LAP3
4933LINDENAU MaxGER23-2LAP2
5055BAUSCH GustyLUX37-3LAP1
5149HEKELE EmilCZE40-3LAP
5251MALIK MichalCZE28-3LAP
5365SAMPARISI NicolasITA25-3LAP
5429BOMME ClementFRA25-3LAP
5558THILTGES ScottLUX25-4LAP
5657REICHLING LexLUX25-4LAP
5754HELMIG ChristianLUX36-4LAP
5835QUAST OleGER28-4LAP
5936KURSCHAT WolframGER42KOCH ENGINEERING / MUESING RACING TEAM-4LAP
6037SCHMIDT MarvinGER25-4LAP
6164LAUSTSEN MortenDEN33-5LAP
6259SCHLECHTER PitLUX27LEOPARD PRO CYCLING-5LAP
6360HEIGL PhilippAUT24-5LAP
6467OMARSSON IngvarISL28-5LAP
50LASAK MatejCZE25DNF4

2016 Zeven UCI Cyclocross World Cup Men’s Race Photo Gallery:

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Wout Van Aert had a solid race but finished in second place at the 2016 Zeven UCI Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men's race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

Wout Van Aert had a solid race but finished in second place at the 2016 Zeven UCI Cyclocross World Cup Elite Men’s race. © C. Jobb / Cyclocross Magazine

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