Mathieu van der Poel showcased his cyclocross supremacy at the Exact Cross Zilvermeercross in Mol, Belgium, where he notably outperformed his Belgian rival, Wout Van Aert. This event marked their first cyclocross encounter this season, following their intense battle at the World Championships in Hoogerheide last February.
Van der Poel, the current world champion, separated from Van Aert just three laps into the ten-lap race. Demonstrating superior technical skills and physical strength, especially on sandy sections, Van der Poel completed a solo ride for seven laps, finishing more than a minute ahead of Van Aert, who came in second. Niels Vandeputte of Belgium completed the podium, two minutes behind the reigning world champion.
Reflecting on his victory, Van der Poel said, “I felt very good. The sand worked in my favour, and I planned my race well, allowing me to recover and ride error-free. I really enjoyed today’s race.”
The race was so dominated by Van der Poel that only ten of the sixty-one starters finished, a testament to his blistering pace. Van der Poel remained unfazed by this, noting the short and fast nature of the course and the application of the 80% rule, which disqualifies riders lagging too far behind.
Van der Poel also spoke highly of his rival, Van Aert, stating that the rivalry is more significant for the fans than for them as competitors. He acknowledged Van Aert’s strategy of not being in top form this winter and anticipated tough competition from him in future races.
Van der Poel’s win in Mol continues his exceptional form, having completed only around ten specific cyclocross training sessions. He overwhelmed the competition, causing 51 of the participants to be disqualified under the 80% rule. The race’s short lap times meant that a time gap of approximately four minutes and fifty seconds was enough for disqualification.
Wout Van Aert, who finished second, commented on the limited field, noting the challenging nature of the course.
The next showdown between Van der Poel and Van Aert, along with British cyclist Tom Pidcock, is eagerly anticipated at the upcoming CX World Cup in Antwerp. This will be the season’s first face-off among the sport’s ‘big three’.
Exact Cross Mol Men result
Results powered by FirstCycling.com
Main photo credit: Cor Vos