by Ted Burns
Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) took his third World Cup win of the season at Koksijde on Sunday, showing few effects of a hard crash on Saturday at the Superprestige Niels Albert in Boom.
Van der Poel showed up at the start with his right upper body covered in tape and proceeded to ride an aggressive and unforgiving race.
“It was something I was looking forward to,” Van der Poel said. “The previous year the race was canceled, and I really like sand courses, so it was so much fun to ride out here and take the win today.”
The Windy Dunes of Koksijde
Overnight rain toughened up the sand, and at race time blustery southern winds made riding tough going, with headwinds blowing straight down the opening stretch of the start.
Andrew Juiliano (GRIT World Racing), one of two American’s in Sunday’s race, described the challenges of riding the famed dunes of Koksijde.
“It’s not just the power, it’s laying down the power while balancing in the ruts and awkward climbs through the sand,” Juiliano said. “Line choice and fitness is just as crucial pedaling hard. It’s relentless with the dunes there. Just one hard slogging sandpit or climb or squirrely descent after the other. The only rest was the start straight, into a headwind.”
No Messing Around for Van der Poel
Van der Poel took the holeshot, and it was apparent that only Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Charles) would be able to challenge the Dutch prodigy. Van der Poel continuously opened up small gaps on Van Aert in the sand sections, forcing the Belgian to keep hitting the gas to maintain contact.
Van der Poel’s skill on the bike was on full display as he exhibited a magical ability to find lines through the sand.
“I started ahead of the bunch, and I knew it was the best way to be at the front because you can do your own thing and ride your own lines,” Van der Poel said. “But it’s a little bit difficult because you are always getting in the sand first and all the traces are gone then.”
Van der Poel eased up in the last lap and easily won by 39 seconds.
Opportunities Given and Opportunities Taken
Halfway through the race, Van Aert fell back to the chase group which included Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus), and the trio began the battle for second place, as Van der Poel increased his lead with faster and faster lap times.
Van Aert appeared to be content to ride with Van der Haar and Sweeck for several laps until two laps to go when the World Champion pulled away from his companions.
Then Van Aert’s luck started to go south.
Van Aert bobbled at the top of one dune, which allowed Sweeck an opportunity to get by him. Van Aert closed the gap and caught Sweeck, but then as he rode by the pit area, Van Aert looked down at his bike, turned around, and entered the pit for another bike losing valuable time to both Van der Haar and Sweeck.
Sensing an opportunity in the bell lap, Van der Haar attacked Sweeck, who could not hold the Telenet Fidea Lion’s pace.
Van der Haar held on for second place while Van Aert chased down Sweeck to finish third.
Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles – Ridley RT) of Great Britain finished 31st, Jeremy Durrin (Neon Velo Racing) 45th and Juiliano 46th.
Men's Results - 2017 Koksijde World Cup
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Time|
|1||20||VAN DER POEL||Mathieu||NED||1:02:41|
|2||22||VAN DER HAAR||Lars||NED||1:03:20|
|5||23||VAN DER POEL||David||NED||1:04:10|
|27||26||VAN DEN BRAND||Twan||NED||1:08:25|
|34||27||VAN DER MEER||Gosse||NED||1:09:22|
|36||44||RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBA?EZ||Javier||ESP||1:09:28|