Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands has won the men's elite race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championship for the fourth time in his career, and the third year in a row, after his main rival Wout Van Aert of Belgium, who led the race in the early laps, punctured on a spectacular but brutal course in Ostend.
Great Britain's Tom Pidcock, runner-up to van der Poel last year, was held up on the first lap but made his way back up through the field, although he was unable to catch the Belgian rider Toon Aerts, who took the bronze medal for the third year in succession.
“The flat tyre for Van Aert was a little bit of luck from my side to come back but at that moment I didn’t feel the race was over yet,” van der Poel said afterwards.
“The course changed and became a bit faster at the beach section and I felt (I had) a bit better legs by then and I improved every lap running through the sand, so the good feeling was growing lap by lap and that made the difference for me today.”
The Dutch rider won by 38 seconds, with Aerts a further 36 seconds back in third place and Pidcock 13 seconds back in fourth position, the only non-Dutch or Belgian rider in the top 10.
“I got a good start, but I just didn’t commit so I went back a bit then in the first corner I was on the left and in the deep sand, I had to get off and run a bit, so I was far behind and it took me a while to get going," the Yorkshireman said.
"I got to Toon [Aerts] and then we hit the sand and I didn’t make it to the sea, so I did a really bad sand lap and lost some time.
"On the last lap, I was literally one or two seconds behind him – I’d pulled back 12 seconds – but coming into the finish he was in front of me so I wasn’t going to catch him."
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.