Sunday’s day of racing at Trek Bicycle headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin, used an unorthodox approach of scheduling a full day of amateur racing around the World Cup Waterloo race. The approach worked because the grounds at Trek were filled with an impressive crowd of racers-turned-spectators and folks just looking to see the world’s best cyclocross racers.
Foremost among the attractions were Dutch wunderkind Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon), who has been on a tear three races into the young season and defending world champion Wout van Aert (Crelan-Charles), who was looking to get back on track after a tough start to his second year in the rainbow stripes. The two are known for their famed “beautiful duels” into the late stages of races, and U.S. fans who headed to Waterloo were no doubt hoping to witness one of the famous battles.
On a hot, dusty afternoon, the Men’s race at World Cup Waterloo would provide Midwest ’cross fans with a memorable afternoon, although the memories might not be quite they were planning for.
Boom Goes the Dynamite
On Friday, Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) stuck with Van der Poel until the midpoint of the C2 race before the Dutch ultratalent pulled away to win. Van Aert, Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games) and others were on the start line for the World Cup and Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus) was back from Vegas, so with the heat and the course, the stage was set for a bigger scrap than Van der Poel is used to seeing this year.
Any potential scrap was barely a scrape less than a half lap into World Cup Waterloo. Van der Poel took the holeshot and then just kept going. He opened up a gap to the rest of the field almost immediately after Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions) crashed in an early turn while sitting second wheel. His mistake caused several riders to dismount and gave the Dutch phenom breathing room early on. Van der Poel’s lead swelled to nine seconds at the Segafredo Run-Up halfway into the circuit, and at the end of the first lap, his lead on the chase was 12 seconds.
Boom, goes the dynamite, as they say.
Van der Poel has made a habit of attacking early on during his young career. Last year, he would often go early, but more often than not, Van Aert would be able to eventually reel him in. Before Sunday, Van der Poel’s attacks have gone unmet in two of the three races he has done.
Sunday, it became three of four. At the end of the second lap, Van der Poel’s lead was 31 seconds. At the end of lap three, 37 seconds, and at the end of lap six, 50 seconds. Van der Poel’s biggest end-of-lap lead reached 54 seconds with two to go as he alternated attacking and easing up to enjoy his Sunday spin on the dusty Trek grounds.
Fans witnessed something special on Sunday: The complete dismantling of an impressive field by one of the best young riders in the sport’s history. Van der Poel got his second win in as many World Cups, and with the other two podium finishers from Jingle Cross, Sweeck and Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions), turning in middling results on Sunday, he now sits in a dominant position atop the World Cup standings.
After the race, Van der Poel said his plan of racing Friday and going out quickly on Sunday paid off. “I think I had a really good start,” said Van der Poel. “The course was really tricky. I think it wasn’t a disadvantage to be at the front to choose my own lines. I think my team made a good decision to race on Friday, it was even hotter then.”
Telenet Teamwork Yet Again
Riders from the Telenet Fidea team have yet to reach the top step of the podium this season, but they have been filling up the other spots. Riders know that with a talented, deep roster, the Lions will consistently be a force to be reckoned with as long as they keep working together effectively.
On Sunday, the talented, deep roster paid off for the team. Lars van der Haar had a strong start, but he went down in one of the loose, dusty corners early in the first lap. Last week’s young star Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) pulled to the front after one lap, but he then wiped out early in the second lap.
At the end of two laps filled with Van der Poel domination and crashes, the afternoon’s main chase of Tim Merlier (Crelan-Charles), Michael Vanthourenhout (Malux-Napoleon Games), Corne van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Daan Soete (Telenet Fidea Lions) had taken shape. However, with some of the biggest names in the World Cup Waterloo field missing from that list, the four riders still had to work doubly hard to form the ultimate chase.
Early in the fourth lap, the chase behind the four riders totaled as many as 11 riders. Riders in breaks during road races talk about first making sure the break sticks first and then worrying about battling for finishing position later. On Sunday, the four riders committed to making their break stick and by the end of the fifth lap, the gap back to Van Aert, Aerts and others was over 30 seconds. It was now time to game out the finish.
It was now time to game out the finish.
The advantage in the break obviously sat with Van Kessel and Soete, provided they were committed to working together. Soete sat on the front early in the break and put in big efforts to help make sure the four stayed away.
“It was great to be with Daan in the first chasing group,” said Van Kessel. “We split up the work.”
Vanthourenhout did some time at the front as the race entered its latter stages, while Merlier was content to mostly sit in. Merlier lost contact with the group several times, especially after the adverse camber section, but each time he was able to recover and reattach to the chase selection. When the riders heard the bell, they were all together, and one last lap would decide the final podium.
Being the first rider to Trek Factory Hill did not guarantee a win, but it was close to the finish line and was technical enough there was a premium on being able to choose one’s line. Van Kessel and Soete got the leg up on the others by leading into Factory Hill. Merlier was sitting fourth and his lot in the matter was complicated by slipping out at the top of the Factory Hill switchbacks. Needless to say, his chance for the podium also slipped away.
Van Kessel and Soete set themselves up perfectly for success by being the first and second riders through the Factory Hill section. Van Kessel took the final 180-degree turn in the first position and outsprinted his teammate to take second. Soete took third for his first ever World Cup podium finish.
“It’s hard to chase a wheel after the Factory wall,” said Van Kessel about his positioning at the end. “When you are in the hurt you can make a mistake and hold the lead. It wasn’t very far to the finish, so I wanted to be there first. I was lucky that what I did worked and I could take second place.”
Another Hot Afternoon for the Americans
Sunday’s race provided U.S. riders with another opportunity to test their skill against Europe’s best without having to deal with jet lag and the Belgian weather. Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) and Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing) found themselves battling inside the top 20 with the likes of Van Aert and Sweeck at times. Ortenblad faded while Hyde kept his pace up to finish 18th. Ortenblad got 27th, and Kerry Werner (Kona) placed 26th.
Americans and Europeans Part Ways
After a two-week trip to the U.S., the Europeans will return home for the start of the Hansgrohe Superprestige series in Gieten on Sunday. The Americans head to Thompson, Connecticut for the KMC Cross Fest.
Stay tuned to Cyclocross Magazine for coverage of both and our continuing coverage of the 2017 U.S. World Cups.
2017 World Cup Waterloo Results - Elite Men
|1||20||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||BEOBANK-CORENDON||NED||1995||-||80|
|2||21||VAN KESSEL Corne||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||NED||1991||+0:33||70|
|3||12||SOETE Daan||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||BEL||1994||+0:33||65|
|4||4||VANTHOURENHOUT Michael||MARLUX - NAPOLEON GAMES||BEL||1993||+0:38||60|
|5||9||MERLIER Tim||CRELAN - CHARLES||BEL||1992||+0:44||55|
|6||2||PAUWELS Kevin||MARLUX - NAPOLEON GAMES||BEL||1984||+0:49||50|
|7||1||VAN AERT Wout||CRELAN - CHARLES||BEL||1994||+0:53||48|
|8||6||AERTS Toon||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||BEL||1993||+1:00||46|
|9||7||HERMANS Quinten||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||BEL||1995||+1:09||44|
|11||15||ISERBYT Eli||MARLUX - NAPOLEON GAMES||BEL||1997||+1:16||40|
|12||25||CHAINEL Steve||TEAM CHAZAL CANYON||FRA||1983||+1:29||39|
|13||24||BOROS Michael||PAUWELS SAUZEN - VASTGOEDSERVICE||CZE||1992||+1:40||38|
|14||13||BAESTAENS Vincent||BECKERS NV||BEL||1989||+1:52||37|
|15||14||VANTHOURENHOUT Dieter||MARLUX - NAPOLEON GAMES||BEL||1985||+1:56||36|
|17||22||VAN DER HAAR Lars||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||NED||1991||+2:04||34|
|18||27||HYDE Stephen||Cannondale p/b Cyclocross World||USA||1987||+2:10||33|
|19||10||AERNOUTS Jim||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||BEL||1989||+2:15||32|
|20||11||ADAMS Jens||PAUWELS SAUZEN - VASTGOEDSERVICE||BEL||1992||+2:20||31|
|22||23||GODRIE Stan||CRELAN - CHARLES||NED||1993||+2:24||29|
|24||53||MEISEN Marcel||STEYLAERTS - BETFIRST||GER||1989||+2:47||27|
|25||19||AERTS Thijs||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||BEL||1996||+3:00||26|
|27||29||ORTENBLAD Tobin||Santa Cruz / Donkey Label||USA||1994||+3:27||24|
|29||45||VAN DEN HAM Michael||GARNEAU-EASTON P/B TRANSITIONS LIFECARE||CAN||1992||+3:57||22|
|30||8||VERMEERSCH Gianni||STEYLAERTS - BETFIRST||BEL||1992||+4:07||21|
|33||37||PETROV Spencer||ASPIRE RACING||USA||1998||+4:36||18|
|35||16||PEETERS Rob||PAUWELS SAUZEN - VASTGOEDSERVICE||BEL||1985||+4:52||16|
|36||41||LINDINE Justin||Apex / NBX||USA||1984||+4:55||15|
|37||30||WHITE Curtis||Cannondale p/b Cyclocross World||USA||1995||+5:02||14|
|41||33||LIVERMON Travis||Maxxis Shimano||USA||1988||+6:04||10|
|42||51||HOLMGREN Gunnar||GARNEAU-EASTON P/B TRANSITIONS LIFECARE||CAN||1999||+6:10||9|
|44||46||MCCONNELL Mark||Hot Sauce Cycling||CAN||1988||+6:40||7|
|47||49||ST JOHN Derrick||CAN||1977||4|
|48||47||RICHEY Craig||GARNEAU-EASTON P/B TRANSITIONS LIFECARE||CAN||1984||3|
|31||POWERS Jeremy||ASPIRE RACING||USA||1983|