Mathieu van der Poel takes his first ever World title. Bart Hazen

Mathieu van der Poel takes his first ever World title. ©Bart Hazen

View our complete coverage of the 2012 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Koksijde, Belgium on our Full Coverage page.

by Chris Bagg and Christine Vardaros

KOKSIJDE, BELGIUM—Winning on the same historic course on which his father, Adri, took home a victory 16 years ago, Mathieu van der Poel won the Junior Cyclocross World Championship in Koksijde today in fine style, riding away from a group of Belgians motivated to defend their home turf. For Van der Poel, the win continued a remarkable 2011-2012 season, during which he finished lower than first place exactly once, at Ruddervoorde. “I had really bad legs early,” the newly crowned champion said after the race, “and I had stomach cramps. But at the end I was able to ride better and come back.”

Mathieu van der Poel’s (Netherlands) win is significant for two reasons – in addition to the obvious.  He is the first Junior ever that can wear the jersey for a full year following his win as he is a first-year Junior. “It’s a special feeling to be able to wear the Junior jersey all year long.  I hope next year I have a season like this year and I can renew my title again.”

The early lap congestion proved critical in separating the lead riders from the rest in Koksijde at the 2012 Cyclocross World Championships. ©Bart Hazen

The early lap congestion proved critical in separating the lead riders from the rest in Koksijde. ©Bart Hazen

Van der Poel was never far from the front, leading onto the legendary sand dunes after a start that removed American Cypress Gorry from contention. Gorry tangled with another rider a few meters after the start line, went down, and then had to chase. The front of the race, however, was already gone. Van der Poel, Wout van Aert (Belgium), and Gioele Bertolini (Italy) made the early selection before Van Aert gapped the other two riders. Van der Poel dropped back to the chase group, nursing those bad legs and stomach cramps, and Bertolini slipped steadily through the field.

As Van Aert rode gamely alone, a chase group of six riders formed: Van der Poel, Daan Soete (Belgium), Yorben Van Tilchelt (Belgium), Quinten Hermans (Belgium), Quinten Jauregui (France), and Silvio Herklotz (Germany). Going into the long sand dune at the beginning of lap two, Soete rode cleanly, making it up to Van Aert’s wheel. The sand, as expected, would be decisive all day, rewarding those who could ride and punishing those who had to dismount. Van der Poel, coming back into good legs, rode the second stretch of sand almost perfectly, displaying a Sven Nys-like mastery of his machine and rejoining the lead riders. Looking around, Van der Poel found himself surrounded by four sky-blue skinsuits and realized that, to win, he would have to find a way to limit the Belgians’ tactical advantage. Using the sand to his advantage, he did just that, attacking where numbers gave no assistance. Soon Van der Poel was alone, with Van Aert seven seconds back, Hermans and Van Tilchelt four seconds further afield, Soete 20 seconds behind, and the resilient Jauregui almost half-a-minute in arrears.

On the last lap Van der Poel maintained his lead, but “it was never more than 10 seconds, so I couldn’t raise the arms very early,” the winner said shortly after the race, referring to Van Aert, the only racer able to stay close to the leader. If the Dutch rider had slipped, bobbled or fallen, Van Aert had put himself in a great position, and he was clearly happy to cross the line in second.

When asked if he felt that the Belgians in his race weren’t creating a unified front, Van Aert said, “From the beginning, I created a small gap and continued to ride my own tempo. It is difficult when racing in your own land so I find it normal in the beginning for my own countrymates to chase me down as they are not sure if that person – me – up the road can win. It was a very special feeling for so many supporters to yell to me and maybe that gave me too much of a boost and I lost a few places. I find that a pity, but I knew that I could keep second place though.”

Behind Van Aert, Quentin Jauregui had miraculously found the group racing for third, and beat out two Belgians in a sprint for the bronze medal. He told Cyclocross Magazine, “I had to come back from far because I had a bad start. I tried to pass the Belgians ahead but fell back a bit from my effort. I was lucky to catch back to them by the fourth lap, I think. I saw Mathieu [van der Poel] had some problems, but by the time I was back up to the front, he was already so far up the road.”

American Drew Dillman, getting some revenge against his compatriot Logan Owen for Owen’s National Championship earlier this month in Madison, took 14th place, two spots ahead of the dominant Redline racer.

“I haven’t felt like this all year. The last couple of weeks I’ve just been having a hard time, like at Nationals. I just wasn’t feeling good. I was shooting for a top-ten or top-fifteen, and to get 14th I’m really happy with that. I was really proud to hit my goal. I raced [Koksijde] ]in November, so I was kind of used to all the sand, but this time was different. A lot of it was more ride-able. The past couple of days I was just getting better and better at it as I practiced. I tried to just ride most of the sections and save [energy] for the flat parts where it’s not sandy. That last little bit on the course, I was with a group of riders. I knew I had to get in front of them on that last technical sandy bit because I felt like I was better on that stuff, so I probably hit that the best I did the whole race. When I looked back and they weren’t there I was like Yes! and I just sprinted to the finish.”

Logan Owen and Andrew Dillman moving up to battle for a top 15. ©Thomas Van Bracht

Logan Owen and Andrew Dillman moving up to battle for a top 15. ©Thomas Van Bracht

Owen told Cyclocross Magazine, “I just didn’t have good luck today. I was taken out a couple of times. I moved back pretty far and had to catch back up. With two laps to go, I caught back to Drew [Dillman – who patted him on the back]. We were working well together and going pretty hard to drop the kids behind us. We dropped them all except for one who took me out on the last sand downhill section before the finish. Then all those guys passed me. Good thing I could help Drew get a better placing than I did.”

In other notable results, Swiss racer Andri Frischknecht, son of the great Thomas, grandson of legend Peter, came in 20th.

Cyclocross Magazine also caught up with Curtis White, the fourth American racer who took the 34th spot today.

“It was not as good as I expected, but it’s been a long season. I was hoping for a top 20. Overall I’ve had a very good season, but my ride here at Worlds was a little bit disappointing … But it’s alright. I came here for the EuroCrossCamp earlier this season. I had a few top 10s, so I was feeling really good. Then on this trip I came here for the World Cup last weekend [in Hoogerheide].

“This is the last race of my season, then I am taking some time off before gearing up for the road season with Hot Tubes.   Then I will be back for cyclocross, something I find a little bit more enjoyable than the road. I’ve been doing cyclocross since I started bike racing at 10 years old.”

Back to the winner, when asked about following in father Adri’s footsteps, Van der Poel quipped, “It’s a very good feeling… but my dad had to wait a bit longer than me though to win the jersey!” Although Van der Poel had a good road season last summer, he remains committed to racing cyclocross at the moment: It’s what he loves to do most.

Junior Men's Podium Thomas Van Bracht

Junior Men’s Podium: Van Aert, Van der Poel, Jauregui. © Thomas Van Bracht

Results follow the galleries.

Bart Hazen Gallery:

Jonas Bruffaerts Gallery:

Thomas van Bracht Gallery:

2012 Koksijde – UCI Cyclocross World Championships Results: Junior Men

1Mathieu VAN DER POELNED1743:36:00
2Wout VAN AERTBEL1843:44:00
3Quentin JAUREGUIFRA1843:57:00
4Quinten HERMANSBEL1743:57:00
5Daan SOETEBEL1843:57:00
6Yorben VAN TICHELTBEL1844:24:00
7Silvio HERKLOTZGER1844:36:00
8Daan HOEYBERGHSBEL1845:01:00
9Romain SEIGLEFRA1845:08:00
10Victor KORETZKYFRA1845:47:00
11Anthony TURGISFRA1845:59:00
12Dominic ZUMSTEINSUI1846:00:00
13Gioele BERTOLINIITA1746:16:00
14Andrew DILLMANUSA1846:44:00
15Felix DRUMMGER1846:47:00
16Tim ARIESENNED1846:48:00
17Logan OWENUSA1746:51:00
18Martijn BUDDINGNED1746:52:00
19Toki SAWADAJPN1846:52:00
20Marco K…NIGGER1747:06:00
21Andri FRISCHKNECHTSUI1847:41:00
22STAN WIJKELNED1747:43:00
23Dylan KOWALSKIFRA1847:43:00
24Jan BREZNACZE1847:43:00
25Pjotr VAN BEEKNED1848:07:00
26Michal PALUTAPOL1748:19:00
27Jan VASTLCZE1748:20:00
28Karel POKORNYCZE1748:21:00
29Emil LINDESWE1848:33:00
30Dominic GRABSUI1748:42:00
31Koen WEIJERSNED1849:10:00
32Jose Manuel RIBERAESP1849:13:00
34Curtis WHITEUSA1749:21:00
35Piotr KONWAPOL1749:35:00
36Nadir COLLEDANIITA1749:35:00
37Dennis WAHLQVISTSWE1849:35:00
38Steffen M†LLERGER1850:04:00
39Joseph MOSESGBR1850:11:00
40Yohan PATRYCAN1850:26:00
41Kota YOKOYAMAJPN1750:28:00
42Michimasa NAKAIJPN1850:44:00
43Luca DE NICOLAITA1850:46:00
44Johannes SIEMERMANNGER1850:51:00
45Patryk STOSZPOL18
46Simon VOZARSVK17
47Riccardo REDAELLIITA18
51Ondrej GLAJZASVK18
53Mateusz GRABISPOL18
54Francesco PEDANTEITA18
55Richard Cypress GORRYUSA18
56Tobiasz LISPOL17
57Zygimantas BAIKSTYSLTU17

View our complete coverage of the 2012 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Koksijde, Belgium on our Full Coverage page.