HOOGERHEIDE, The Netherlands—Gray skies, a crosswind through the uphill start-finsih straight and Sven Nys’ final World Cup were on tap for the Elite Men in the last round of the series before the World Championships.
American Jeremy Powers was on the front row and had a great start off the line. But within a few yards he was put into the crowd barriers when the World Cup leader Wout van Aert leaned into World Champion Mathieu van der Poel who in turn pushed Powers aside. Amazingly, Powers avoided going down, but lost a number of places doing so.
Like last week, Laurens Sweeck was out front initially, but the field was quite compact and the World Champion was quickly moving to the front. By the half way mark of the first lap, van der Poel was in fact on the front, an apparently easy task for him without last week’s traffic troubles, and he seemed determined to put the race away early.
Van der Poel quickly set about keeping the pace high and the race in the family—Hoogerheide is also known as the Grand Prix Adri van der Poel.
Given the dominating riding being put in by the World Champion, like in the women’s race, the battle it seemed would be for second place. The chasers were Sweeck and Wout van Aert along with Tom Meeusen, but the trio was running sections where van der Poel, already far ahead, was riding.
Behind the riders racing for second, a large group lead by Lars van der Haar and containing Nys, in his last World Cup, were trying to make amends.
In head of the race @mathieuvanderpoel #cx #cyclocross #hoogerheide A video posted by Kaptein Amsterdam (@kapteinamsterdam) on
— Gaby (@g_ingen) January 24, 2016
By the time the second lap was done, van der Poel held a growing 16 second lead over van Aert and another 10 seconds over the three main chasers with the van der Haar group another 10 seconds in arrears.
And a lap later, van der Poel’s lead over van Aert had stretched to 33 seconds, more than double what it was a lap prior. Meeusen came through in third a further 20 seconds back with Sweeck and Kevin Pauwels who had made his way towards the front a handful of seconds further behind sitting in fourth and fifth. The next chase group? They were 1:35 behind the leader.
As the race wore on, the riders fighting for third, Sweeck, Meeusen and Pauwels, were on each other looking for any slip up in the others. Behind them, Toon Aerts had seperated himself from the chasers containing Nys and van der Haar and was sitting in sixth, but he was stuck in no man’s land.
As the World Champion clicked off another lap and made it three to go, van Aert had yet to reach the paved finishing straight. When he finally crossed the line, it was 46 seconds behind van der Poel. The three racing for third came through 1:12 down on the leader and were running out of time to get to second place van Aert.
Van der Poel op weg naar de zege? #gpadrievanderpoel #hoogerheide A photo posted by Mark (@markvdlugt) on
Heading towards the penultimate lap, Pauwels got a small gap on Sweeck and Meeusen when Sweeck bobbled an inside line that Pauwels rode cleanly.
And then going into the second to last lap, everything got stretched out. The World Champion lead van Aert by 54 and Pauwels, who seemed to be getting some time back on van Aert, but was behind the leader by 1:06. Sweeck meanwhile had slipped to 1:18 in arrears with Meeusen coming in further behind, 1:29 down.
On the long off camber section leading to the course’s new stairs, Pauwels went for it and tried to reel in van Aert. Over the stairs and through the next stretch of mud van Aert ran and Pauwels rode. But on the uphill finish shortly after van Aert dug in and accelerated and led Pauwels across the line by just 6 seconds. Up ahead, van der Poel had already rung the bell for the final circuit.
At the finish, van der Poel made it four World Cup wins in a row and his second win at Hoogerheide in as many years. Van Aert hung in for a second place finish and secured his World Cup title, just never able answer to the constant acceleration of the World Champion. Pauwels made every move he could to get to second, but had to settle for third in the end. Sweeck finished a fine fourth and Meeusen rounded out the podium in fifth. Toon Aerts put in his best World Cup ride ever and finished just off the podium in sixth.
For the Americans, Powers ended up the day 31st, Stepehn Hyde was 33rd, Travis Livermon was 54th, Allen Krughoff was 56th and Jeremy Durrin was 66th. Ian Field was 27th for Great Britain. Canadian riders Michael van den Ham was 49th, Jeremy Martin was 53rd, Aaron Schooler was 57th, Mark McConnel was 63rd and Cameron Jette was 67th while Chris Jongewaard was 39th and Garry Millburn was 46th for Australia.
There are no foregone conclusions in bike racing and cyclocross in particular. But with the performance he put in today as well as those he’s shown since returning from injury, it seems the World Championships in Zolder may be van der Poel’s to lose.
2016 World Cup Hoogerheide Elite Men's Full Results
|1||Mathieu VAN DER POEL||NED||1:07:31|
|2||Wout VAN AERT||BEL||1:08:19|
|7||Lars VAN DER HAAR||NED||1:09:47|
|17||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||1:11:38|
|18||Corne VAN KESSEL||NED||1:11:48|
|25||Twan VAN DEN BRAND||NED||1:12:32|
|26||David VAN DER POEL||NED||1:12:58|
|30||Javier RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ||ESP||1:13:24|
|49||Michael VAN DEN HAM||CAN|
|52||Inigo GOMEZ ELORRIAGA||ESP|
|62||Paulo GONZALEZ FONTAN||ESP|
|68||Mauro GONZALEZ FONTAN||ESP|
|70||Vincent DIAS DOS SANTOS||LUX|