Mathieu van der Poel became the first Dutch world road race champion in nearly 40 years with a masterful ride around the rain-soaked streets of Glasgow, overcoming rivals and a significant crash. On Sunday’s twisty 14.3-km city course, he attacked from a small lead group and left rivals Tadej Pogacar, Wout van Aert, and Mads Pedersen trailing.
With 15km remaining, van der Poel had a heart-stopping moment when he slid off his bike into railings, resulting in a ripped shirt and damaged shoe. Despite this setback, he calmly remounted and managed to extend his lead to more than a minute in front of crowds, many sporting Dutch colours. Weaving his way through 43 tight corners, he raised his arms in triumph at George Square.
Belgium’s Van Aert settled for silver, with Slovenia’s two-time Tour de France winner Pogacar outsprinting Pedersen for bronze. Van der Poel’s victory holds a significant place in his illustrious career, addressing a gap in his career record. “Maybe this completes my career in my opinion, it’s maybe my biggest victory on the road,” Van der Poel stated.
The 271-km race, which began in Edinburgh and ended with an unprecedented 10 laps around Glasgow’s city centre, was also remarkable for being halted for nearly an hour. Environmental protesters from the group “This Is Rigged” blocked the road ahead, leading to police intervention and five arrests.
The event’s dramatic twists continued with nine riders forming a breakaway and intense cornering and accelerations that eventually whittled down the competition. Alberto Bettiol’s audacious attack was thwarted by van der Poel, Pogacar, Van Aert, and Pedersen. Heavy rain added complexity to the race, but van der Poel’s resilience saw him close in on the rainbow jersey, a symbol of the world champion.
His late spill nearly cost him the victory, but he managed to pull it off, reflecting on the slippery conditions and his own anger at the incident. The victory allowed van der Poel to end the Dutch’s long wait for a road world champion, with the potential to further his achievements in the upcoming mountain bike race.
The world championship win was remarkable not just for van der Poel’s skill but also for his determination. Despite crashing, breaking his shoe, and tearing his jersey, he maintained his poise, quickly remounting and pulling away for a victory that will be remembered for its drama and skill. The race also involved former world champions and pre-race favourites, but van der Poel’s performance set him apart.
Pogačar’s bronze was also noteworthy given his impressive performance earlier in the year, despite a wrist injury. The race was temporarily halted when environmental protesters refused to leave the road, adding to the event’s unique challenges.
The route, filled with technical turns and a highly demanding circuit through downtown Glasgow, tested the riders to the fullest. Van der Poel’s bike slid out from under him in one of the race’s crucial moments, leaving him against a metal barrier with torn clothing and a broken shoe. But his quick recovery and persistence allowed him to pull away again, ultimately crossing the finish line more than a minute ahead of his closest competitor.
“When I saw that nobody was following, it gave me wings,” van der Poel said, reflecting the spirit that led him to this landmark victory. The win ended a 38-year wait for a Dutch road world title and confirmed van der Poel as one of the most exceptional talents in cycling. His attention now turns to the Olympic cross-country mountain bike race, where he continues to be a strong contender, with a special moment to celebrate his hard-earned victory.
2023 World Championships Men’s Road Race result
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