Dominant display by Mathieu van der Poel in Hulst
Mathieu van der Poel has won the 11th round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup. The Dutchman started another solo early in the race and successfully completed it. Joris Nieuwenhuis and Lars van der Haar joined him on the podium.
As the starting gun echoed through the air, the cyclo-cross elite catapulted into action. Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) seized the early advantage, storming into the lead with a decisive holeshot. However, the first turn proved treacherous for Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers), whose ambitions were shattered as he tumbled. Undeterred, Pidcock sprinted to the equipment post for a rapid bike change, while Iserbyt maintained his lead. Meanwhile, the ever-daring Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) navigated the course with skill, narrowly escaping mishaps as he surged uphill.
As the race progressed into the second round, the cyclo-cross theater unfolded with twists and turns. Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) faced his own share of challenges, grappling with chain problems that momentarily halted his charge. Yet, with resilience characteristic of a champion, Van Aert fought back into contention. The front trio of Sweeck (Crelan-Corendon), Del Grosso (Alpecin-Deceuninck), and Van der Poel set the pace, showcasing a blend of skill and determination. Pidcock and Van Aert, both recovering from earlier setbacks, began their ascent through the ranks.
The third round witnessed Tibor del Grosso emerging as the frontrunner, leading a select group of six riders. The field behind them fragmented, with Van der Poel applying relentless pressure. He created a gap over compatriot Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions), growing it to nearly 10 seconds. Van der Poel's solo pursuit seemed unstoppable, while concerns loomed over Eli Iserbyt, who struggled to maintain his initial momentum.
As the cyclo-cross spectacle entered the fourth round, Van Aert found himself in a challenging 26th position. Pim Ronhaar (Baloise Trek Lions) and Lars van der Haar assumed the roles of pursuers, setting their sights on Van der Poel. Iserbyt, the World Cup leader, faced a tough day, slipping to 22nd place. Van der Poel's lead breached the 20-second mark, solidifying his dominance.
In the latter stages of the race, as the riders entered the final lap, the conclusion of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Hulst was in sight. Mathieu van der Poel, well aware of his impending triumph, embarked on a celebratory lap, relishing the adulation of the crowd. Behind him, Nieuwenhuis (Baloise Trek Lions) and Ronhaar maintained a slender lead over Van der Haar, setting the stage for a thrilling battle for the remaining podium spots.
In the closing moments, Wout van Aert unleashed a determined surge, aiming for a top-five finish and reclaiming lost ground. Nieuwenhuis led the chase, while a slight mistake from Van der Haar allowed Van Aert to narrow the gap. Van der Poel, demonstrating his cyclo-cross mastery, crossed the finish line with authority, securing yet another solo victory. Nieuwenhuis and Van der Haar claimed 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, marking the culmination of a gripping chapter in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup, where the elements of skill, resilience, and unpredictable twists painted a vivid portrait of elite cyclo-cross competition.