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.
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.
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 Koppenbergcross earlier 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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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).
Two Americans took the start line, in Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) and Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing).
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.
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.
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
|1||18||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||NED||22||BEOBANK - CORENDON||1:03:21||80|
|2||1||VAN AERT Wout||BEL||23||CRELAN-VASTGOEDSERVICE CONTINENTAL TEAM||+00:21||70|
|3||3||PAUWELS Kevin||BEL||33||MARLUX-NAPOLEON GAMES CYCLING TEAM||+00:31||65|
|4||5||MEEUSEN Tom||BEL||29||TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+00:53||60|
|5||25||VENTURINI Clement||FRA||24||COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS||+01:08||55|
|6||4||SWEECK Laurens||BEL||24||ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS||+01:24||50|
|7||19||VAN KESSEL Corne||NED||26||TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+01:32||48|
|9||6||VANTHOURENHOUT Michael||BEL||24||MARLUX-NAPOLEON GAMES CYCLING TEAM||+01:53||44|
|11||16||ADAMS Jens||BEL||25||CRELAN-VASTGOEDSERVICE CONTINENTAL TEAM||+02:00||40|
|12||2||AERTS Toon||BEL||24||TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+02:02||39|
|13||7||MERLIER Tim||BEL||25||CRELAN-VASTGOEDSERVICE CONTINENTAL TEAM||+02:03||38|
|14||20||VAN DER POEL David||NED||25||BEOBANK - CORENDON||+02:03||37|
|15||11||AERNOUTS Jim||BEL||28||TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+02:22||36|
|16||15||BAESTAENS Vincent||BEL||28||BEOBANK - CORENDON||+02:27||35|
|17||46||BOROS Michael||CZE||25||ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS||+02:28||34|
|18||17||SWEECK Diether||BEL||24||ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS||+02:29||33|
|19||13||VANTHOURENHOUT Dieter||BEL||32||MARLUX-NAPOLEON GAMES CYCLING TEAM||+02:47||32|
|20||9||VANTORNOUT Klaas||BEL||35||MARLUX-NAPOLEON GAMES CYCLING TEAM||+02:56||31|
|22||41||TARAMARCAZ Julien||SUI||30||ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS||+03:09||29|
|23||39||WILDHABER Marcel||SUI||32||SCOTT-ODLO MTB RACING TEAM||+03:10||28|
|24||22||GODRIE Stan||NED||24||RABOBANK DEVELOPMENT TEAM||+03:11||27|
|25||10||SOETE Daan||BEL||23||TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+03:15||26|
|26||12||PEETERS Rob||BEL||32||CRELAN-VASTGOEDSERVICE CONTINENTAL TEAM||+03:47||25|
|27||21||VAN AMERONGEN Thijs||NED||31||TELENET FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+03:50||24|
|28||48||NESVADBA Jan||CZE||26||EXPRES CZ-MERIDA TEAM KOLIN||+03:54||23|
|30||43||HYDE Stephen||USA||30||CANNONDALE P/B CYCLOCROSSWORLD||+04:05||21|
|31||14||HOEYBERGHS Daan||BEL||23||BEOBANK - CORENDON||+04:12||20|
|32||53||SUAREZ FERNANDEZ Kevin||ESP||23||+04:14||19|
|34||47||PAPRSTKA Tomas||CZE||25||EXPRES CZ-MERIDA TEAM KOLIN||+04:41||17|
|36||61||HARING Martin||SVK||31||DUKLA BANSKA BYSTRICA||+04:55||15|
|37||24||VAN LEEUWEN Patrick||NED||32||CYCLINGTEAM JO PIELS||+04:58||14|
|38||45||SIMUNEK Radomir||CZE||34||ERA REAL ESTATE - CIRCUS||+05:12||13|
|39||52||RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ Javier||ESP||38||+05:19||12|
|44||30||WALSLEBEN Philipp||GER||30||BEOBANK - CORENDON||-2LAP||7|
|48||56||DIAS DOS SANTOS Vincent||LUX||27||-2LAP||3|
|59||36||KURSCHAT Wolfram||GER||42||KOCH ENGINEERING / MUESING RACING TEAM||-4LAP|
|62||59||SCHLECHTER Pit||LUX||27||LEOPARD PRO CYCLING||-5LAP|