For the first half of Sunday’s World Cup Hoogerheide, it appeared Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon – Circus) might be mortal after all.
Early in Lap 3, the Dutch wunderkind—who had won 24 of 26 international races heading into Hoogerheide—faded back into third behind Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Wout van Aert (Cibel – Cebon Offroad Team). As Aerts asserted himself at the front going for the World Cup overall, Van der Poel was seemingly struggling in a way only seen this season at Koppenbergcross in November.
After dropping to third, it was clear that any reports of Van der Poel’s demise were quite premature.
Trailing Aerts by 13 seconds at the end of Lap 3, Van der Poel pulled even with the Belgian champ by the end of the next lap. Then inside two to go, Van der Poel found the extra gear that only he has and made his move on the thick, muddy Hoogerheide course.
Van der Poel powered through the thick mud in the saddle while Aerts flagged while trying to keep his pace. At the bell of the seven-lap race, Van der Poel’s lead was up to 10 seconds.
The last lap was all Van der Poel in front of his home-country fans at the GP Adri Van der Poel race named after his father. The win was his 25th of the season, and he stayed perfect in his six World Cup starts this season.
Assertive Aerts Early
One of the biggest storylines for Sunday’s Elite Men’s World Cup Hoogerheide was the battle for the World Cup overall. Aerts had led the series from Waterloo all the way through Heusden-Zolder, but Van Aert took over the lead by three points with his win at World Cup Pont-Château last weekend. Whoever finished on top would get the overall win, and if Aerts beat Van Aert, Tim Merlier (Roompot – Charles) would get a ticket to Bogense for Worlds.
Early on, it was Aerts’ teammates who were feeling it on the thick course in Hoogerheide. Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) took the holeshot, and Corne van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions) slotted in behind him.
Two minutes into the race, Hermans, Van Kessel, Aerts, Van der Poel and Tom Meeusen (Corendon – Circus) were the leaders, and Van Aert sat in eighth.
A few minutes later, Van der Poel improved his lot by moving the front. Aerts followed him, and after one lap, the duo had a five-second lead on Van Aert. Four more riders chased 12 seconds back.
In the second of seven laps, Aerts and Van der Poel stayed together until Aerts got a gap by riding a steep incline while Van der Poel dismounted near the top. Aerts rode the small advantage to an eight-second lead two laps into the race.
Last year at Worlds, Van der Poel got off to a fast start before losing his lead and then not being able to recover it. Early in the third lap, Van der Poel seemed to have that look that he had in Valkenburg. Van Aert took over second after Pit 1 and opened up a small lead on the Dutch star.
Any sense of Van der Poel fading was over by the time he reached the stairs for the third time. He was back in second, although coming up on midway through the race, he was still chasing 13 seconds behind Aerts.
The Van der Poel We Know
With four of the long, muddy laps left, Van der Poel still had his work cut out for him.
As he is wont to do, Van der Poel made quick work of erasing Aerts’ lead. Van der Poel rode away from Van Aert, and by the end of Lap 4, he pulled even with Aerts. Whatever threat Aerts felt from the hard-charging Van der Poel may have been slightly mitigating by knowing he had 21 seconds on Van Aert for the World Cup overall.
In the fifth lap, Van der Poel and Aerts traded leads several times. Van der Poel took over the lead spot right off the pavement, but Aerts kept his wheel. Not content to let Van der Poel easily ride away, Aerts again took over the lead spot at the end of the lap. As the two jockeyed for position, Van Aert kept his head down and only trailed by 14 seconds with two to go.
Aerts assertiveness could only get him so far on Sunday. In the penultimate lap, Van der Poel took over the lead spot and then powered forward, forcing Aerts to chase. When Van der Poel cleared the thick slog past the VIP tent, his lead was a few seconds. He kept the pressure on, and at the bell, his advantage was up to 10 seconds. Small by Van der Poelian standards, but seemingly sizable based on how the race had played out to that point.
Van Aert’s effort to catch the leaders faded during Lap 6, and at the bell, he trailed by 31 seconds. His shot at the World Cup was fading fast.
The last lap was chalk in the top three. Van der Poel picked up his 25th win of the season to head into Worlds having not lost a race since November 1.
Aerts held onto second to take the World Cup overall and give Merlier a ticket to Denmark.
Van Aert rounded out the podium in third. Van Kessel, who finished fourth, finished two and a half minutes behind the winner.
Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) led North American riders in 24th. Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) finished 26th, Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) 47th, Anthony Clark (Squid Squad) 54th, Cody Kaiser (LangeTwins / Specialized) 57th, Max Judelson (Voler/Clif/HRS/Rock Lobster) 59th, Cameron Jette 62nd, Andrew Juiliano (GritWorld Racing p/b Voler) 63rd and Tyler Cloutier (TCCX) 65th.
Full results are below from Hoogerheide, as well as the 2018/2019 Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup final overall standings.
Elite Men Results: 2019 World Cup Hoogerheide
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|1||19||VAN DER POEL||Mathieu||NED||1:01:30|
|8||20||VAN DER HAAR||Lars||NED||1:04:37|
|23||22||VAN DER POEL||David||NED||1:07:14|
|36||47||RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBAÑEZ||Javier||ESP||1:08:59|
|50||26||VAN DER MEER||Gosse||NED||LAP|
|DNF||63||DIAS DOS SANTOS||Vincent||LUX|