In an unprecedented occurrence, male Belgian cyclocross riders were notably absent from the podium in both the Herentals X2O Badkamers Trofee and the Namur World Cup races this weekend. This marked a rare deviation from Belgium’s dominance in the sport. At Herentals, World Champion Mathieu van der Poel demonstrated his prowess by clinching the win, followed by Tom Pidcock and Dutch Champion Lars van der Haar. The highest-placed Belgian, Eli Iserbyt, finished in fourth. This was the first time in the X2O Trofee’s entire history that a race finished without a Belgian on the podium.
Similarly, in the Namur World Cup, Tom Pidcock emerged victorious after an intense battle with Dutch rider Pim Ronhaar, who came in second, with Joris Nieuwenhuis securing third place. Iserbyt, again the first Belgian, once again finished fourth. This event marked the first time in ten years that a World Cup podium had been devoid of any Belgian riders. The last such occurrence was at the 2013 Heusden-Zolder World Cup, where the podium was occupied by Lars van der Haar and Czech riders Martin Bina and Zdenek Stybar.
Potentially a sign that Belgian riders are struggling to meet expectations after a strong start to the season by Eli Iserbyt, Michael Vanthourenhout and Lars Sweeck (amongst others), it’s also a sign that cyclocross is expanding its borders. The Dutch seem to be on the rise once again with Pim Ronhaar and Joris Nieuwenhuis doing much better this season and joining compatriot Lars van der Haar at the front of races more often. Plus obviously, there’s the threat of Mathieu van der Poel when his calendar allows it. Brits have Tom Pidcock and the impressive Cameron Mason jostling for podium positions too. It’s not a huge drought though, Wout van Aert won in Essen last weekend after all.