Mathieu Van der Poel in Antwerp for his reunion with Van Aert and Pidcock

It was time for the big meeting. On Saturday, December 23, cyclo-cross’s “fantastic trio” Belgian Wout Van Aert, Dutch Mathieu Van der Poel and Englishman Tom Pidcock competed on the Belgian Antwerp circuit for the first time this season. After fighting some epic battles last year, their confrontation was expected by everyone. It quickly turned into a show.

Guilty ? The Mathieu Van der Poel of the great days. Already a winner last year on the sands of Sint-Annastrand in Antwerp, five-time world champion in the discipline disrupted the competition. Rainbow jersey on the back – also Conquered the title of world champion on the road He won alone in Glasgow last summer, 29 seconds ahead of Wout Van Aert, who was never able to follow him. The current World Cup leader, Belgian Eli Iserbyt, completed the podium. As for Tom Pidcock, who fell victim to a first-lap fall, the British cyclist from Ineos finished eighth and was unable to keep up with the best when the pace picked up.

However, the race started badly for the winner of Milan San-Remo 2023. At the start the Dutch driver took off his shoes and found himself far from the race lead. Technically comfortable on the variable terrain of the Antwerp course, Raymond Poulidor’s grandson mounted a quick comeback to take the lead on lap three and never relinquish it. The 26-year-old driver, who released impressive power from the air on the sandy sections, left no chance for his rivals.

February’s Cyclo-cross World Cup in the viewfinder

“I missed my start completely. But I didn’t panic at all because today I felt like my legs were fineVan der Poel spoke into Eurosport’s microphone after his recital. Then I tried to create as big a gap as possible. I’m very happy because I managed to last until the end. »

The Dutch driver thus achieved his third success of the winter in as many outings in Antwerp. After his victories Herentals (Netherlands), 16 Decemberand on Friday at the Exact Cross in Mol (Belgium), the five-time world champion in the discipline proved once again that he is the rider to beat this winter.

Mathieu Van der Poel, who was named Dutch athlete of the year ahead of Max Verstappen this week, takes the Red Bull driver as an example with his insatiable appetite for victories. If journeys into the bush are just for her now“a profession for the winter” – road season is a priority – before moving on to the roads, the focus will be on the World Cup in Tabor (Czech Republic) on February 4, 2024. He plans to claim a sixth rainbow jersey in the absence of Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock, who opted to skip. A new success in February would allow the Dutch cyclist to remain just one length behind the discipline’s legend, Eric De Vlaeminck, who won seven world championships between 1966 and 1973.

The expected meeting between the three greats of “total cycling” did not take place in Antwerp, as Mathieu Van der Poel dominated the meeting. However, the three men will hold another meeting on Tuesday, December 26, in Gavre, once again in the “flat country”. Where the wearer of the rainbow jersey risks lighting up the Belgian sky once again with his flashes.

Leave a Comment