by Kyle Moore
For as dominant as Mathieu Van der Poel (Correndon-Circus) has been throughout the 2017/18 season, he has often taken several laps to find his legs before riding his rivals off his wheel. But in front of home crowds in Hoogerheide on Sunday, Van der Poel wasted no time at all.
Barely four turns into the race, Van der Poel found a lead that he would not relinquish. It was Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Charles) who needed two laps to find his legs, and by the time he did, Van der Poel had found a gap that would require a mistake or mechanical for Van Aert to overcome.
The mistake or mechanical did not come, and Van der Poel’s eight-second margin of victory over Van Aert seemed to belie the ease with which he attained it. The Dutch champion rode most of the race with a 20-second gap over Van Aert and looked extremely comfortable on the Hoogerheide course.
Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal) finished third, ahead of Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus).
“I’m satisfied. Maybe the feeling could be a little bit better, but I had a tough week of training,” Van der Poel stated at the finish. “Several riders seem to be doing this, hoping for super form for next week.”
The bad luck that Van der Poel has avoided for most of the season has struck him in World Championships in the past. In spite of his dominance this season, the Dutchman said he was aware that anything could happen next week.
“There is always a story when I’m at a championship. But I don’t feel extra pressure from that. I know I have to be good next week. I’ll rest a little bit this week, then so some interval training. I hope to be at my best next week at the championship.”
Another Fast Start from Van der Poel
In perhaps Van der Poel’s greatest sign of the dominance he displayed, he had no “race-winning move,” as such. Not yet halfway through the first lap, as Sweeck lost his position at the front after the hole shot, and as the top ten was just elongating into a line, Van der Poel was to the front. Two blinks of the eye later, Van der Poel was already gone.
With a lap complete, and with Van Aert still finding his legs, Van der Poel had pulled out nine seconds on the field. Sweeck and Tim Merlier (Crelan-Charles) were next across, and then Van Aert pulled over a large group of chasers, already 16 seconds behind.
Van Aert was soon around Merlier, Vanthourenhout and David Van der Poel (Correndon-Circus). But by the time he had gapped the remainder of the chasers, the race leader was weaving through s-curves and blasting down hills, and opening an insurmountable gap.
With plenty of support on a home course, Van der Poel was obviously enjoying himself. He expertly used the lines dug into the course by previous races as he weaved through the woods. He took the best lines down both of the course’s off-camber downhills, at speeds that were obviously quicker than other riders, even to the naked eye.
Van der Poel Delights the Crowd
With not yet two laps done, word had reached Van Aert that Van der Poel was on a flier. It was no time for inattention by the world champion, and by the time he came to the front of the chasers, at the end of the second lap, Van der Poel had 14 seconds on the field.
As dominant as Van der Poel was, Van Aert was equally as tenacious. It took less than a lap for Van der Poel to prove his mastery of the Hoogerheide course, but even as the European champion expertly squeezed every ounce of speed from it, Van Aert was doing his best behind.
Van der Poel only took two more seconds from Van Aert on his third lap, and one additional second on lap four. On lap five, as Van Aert contemplated the enormity of the challenge ahead of him in a week’s time in Valkenburg, he bled 7 more seconds. With the race at its halfway mark and Van Aert beginning to fade, 24 seconds separated the two stars.
Behind, with World Cup overall standings and a place on the Hoogerheide podium in mind, Vanthourenhout and Sweeck, after some early disagreements on pacework, were leading each other through. On lap six, Vanthourenhout had driven a separation between himself and Sweeck, to the point where Van Aert turned his attention to the race behind him.
But Van Aert hadn’t any reason to. Completing lap six, Van Aert was 22 seconds adrift of Van der Poel. Vanthourenhout was 55 seconds back, with Sweeck at 59 behind.
With seven laps gone, fans at the side of the course could have been forgiven for starting the drive to Valkenburg. The same could be said if riders turned their attention to the World Championships. Van Aert was still just under 30 seconds behind Van der Poel, while Vanthourenhout had deposited a few more seconds into the bank over Sweeck in fourth place.
Although with two laps to go, neither Van Aert nor Sweeck had gotten the message that it was time to hop in the camper vans. Van Aert had pulled Van der Poel back to within 19 seconds, while in the race for the final podium spot, Sweeck was back up to Vanthourenhout. The gap continued to drop as Van der Poel took the bell, as the reigning world champion had hauled back the Dutchman to within 15 seconds.
But Van der Poel was not being denied in Hoogerheide, just as he was not being denied the World Cup overall. He had just eight seconds over Van Aert after he had picked his way through the final lap, and it was straight into the recovery tent for both he and Van Aert, as the Belgian continued contemplating just how he could deny Van der Poel in Valkenburg.
Vanthourenhout pulled away from Sweeck again to finish third.
Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Bingoal), who endured a controversial non-selection this week for the Belgian national team at Worlds, took fifth.
Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) finished 23rd, Kerry Werner (Kona Factory CX Team) 37th, Jack Kisseberth (JAM Fund / NCC) 43rd, Michael van den Ham (Garneau-Easton p/b Transitions LifeCare) 45th, Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) 48th, Eric Thompson (MSpeedwax.com) 49th, Cody Kaiser (Lange Twins) 53rd, Garry Millburn (Speedvagen / MAAP) 56th, Mark McConnell (Hot Sauce Cycling) 63rd and Tyler Cloutier (Transitions LifeCare p/b Garneau-Easton) 66th.
Full results are below.
Mens Results: 2018 Hoogerheide World Cup
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|1||17||VAN DER POEL||Mathieu||NED||1:05:54|
|8||20||VAN DER POEL||David||NED||1:08:44|
|9||19||VAN DER HAAR||Lars||NED||1:08:56|
|40||23||VAN DEN BRAND||Twan||NED||LAP|
|41||52||RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBAÑEZ||Javier||ESP||LAP|
|45||63||VAN DEN HAM||Michael||CAN||LAP|
|47||66||DIAS DOS SANTOS||Vincent||LUX||LAP|
|DNF||25||VAN DER MEER||Gosse||NED|