He's back 👋🥇
— UCI Cyclocross (@UCI_CX) November 27, 2022
This Mathieu van der Poel fella’s a decent bike rider, isn’t he? I reckon he could go places…
After a rather inauspicious end to a tumultuous road racing season, it didn’t take long for the big Dutchman to get back to doing what he does best: destroying the field at cyclocross races.
At yesterday’s World Cup event in Hulst, Van der Poel – starting his first ‘cross race in over eleven months and despite an inconvenient fourth row start and two early crashes – looked like he’d never been away from a muddy field, storming through the pack on the diabolically difficult Dutch course.
Former World Champion van der Poel 🌈 didn't miss his start in 🇳🇱 Hulst. After a fast start he is one of the seven riders in front of the race after the first lap. #CXWorldCup pic.twitter.com/4zFbVQZEVb
— UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup (@UCIcyclocrossWC) November 27, 2022
Capitalising on a mid-race mistake by Tom Pidcock (more on the world champion later) on one of the course’s desperately steep, wall-like ramps, Van der Poel powered away to secure his first win on the cyclocross bike since he took the rainbow bands in Oostende, way back in January 2021.
— UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup (@UCIcyclocrossWC) November 27, 2022
So, how did the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider kick back and relax after his sprightly return to the ‘cross field, on a brutal course that involved as much running up massive mud walls as it did bike riding?
By running a further seven kilometres, that’s how.
The 27-year-old took to Strava last night to share his ‘tempo celebration run’, which saw him cover his 7km ‘warm down’ in just under 27 minutes.
Not quite as quick as Pidcock’s infamous 13:25 5km run from February 2021 – the result of a GPS error and not Olympic track athlete legs, it turned out – but I’m sure he’s happy with his nice ‘race and run’ day out…
Mathieu van der Poel’s staggeringly quick sub-27-minute 7km run – he had just finished rampaging around a cyclocross course for an hour, after all – got us thinking about other pro cyclists fond of donning their running shoes during the off-season.
Back in February 2021, MVDP’s ‘cross rival, and current world champion, Tom Pidcock famously wound up the entire running community by uploading a post claiming to have run a 13:26 5km, just five seconds slower than the British record.
The greatest running achievement by a pro cyclist of all time, or a just a simple case of a dodgy GPS? I’ll let you decide…
But while cyclocrossers tend to incorporate running into their training – those bikes aren’t going to shoulder themselves – even some of the peloton’s road-only contingent have displayed some serious running chops during the colder months.
10 kilometer in 32 minuten en 38 seconden! Het leverde Tom Dumoulin een tweede plaats op in zijn Maastricht.https://t.co/8VypQG0fCI
— WielerFlits.nl (@WielerFlits) November 14, 2021
This time last year, Adam Yates clocked a sub-three-hour effort at the Barcelona Marathon straight “off the beach”, while a week later the now-retired Tom Dumoulin finished second at the Groene Loper Run in his hometown of Maastricht, covering the 10km in a blistering time of 32:38, just 17 seconds behind the winner.
Meanwhile, any running-cycling crossover can’t be complete without the inclusion of L39ION of Los Angeles pro Freddy Ovett, the son of Olympic-winning middle distance runner Steve, and friend of marathon icon Eliud Kipchoge (who also, it turns out, likes to go for a spin on his bike).
Last year, Ovett proved he inherited some of his father’s running legs too, clocking an impressive 2:48.55 at the Los Angeles Marathon (sorry, Adam…).
Of course, it would be remiss of us if we neglected to mention the single greatest cyclist running moment of all time.
Cue the Benny Hill theme…
Avid readers of the live blog will remember Mehdi Balamissa and Gabriel Martin, two French football supporters who decided to show their undying love for Les Bleus (and sustainable transport) by cycling almost 7,000km from Paris to Doha for this month’s World Cup.
Balamissa, a documentary filmmaker, and TV producer Martin came up with the idea of riding their bikes to Qatar after cycling the still-considerable journey to northern Italy for the 2021 UEFA Nations League Finals.
And, after setting off from the Stade de France on 20 August, they’ve finally made it to world football’s greatest “spectacle” (alright, today’s matches have been decent I suppose).
“It was a crazy idea, but we’re the kind of people that have big ideas and don’t want to have any regrets,” Balamissa told CNN after triumphantly arriving in Doha.
“So, since we are both self-employed, we decided to block off three months of our time and come to Qatar.”
The pair hope their mammoth trip, which took them through 13 countries, will help promote the benefits of sustainable transport (as you long as you forget all the oil-based sportswashing going on at the World Cup itself of course) and said that they plan to offer cycling workshops to children from disadvantaged backgrounds when they get home.
As well as riding their bikes for the greater good, the lads’ epic journey also earned them a few, more tangible, benefits: the French Football Federation (FFF) has invited the pair to meet the team and has given them tickets for all three of France’s group games, while manager Didier Deschamps also presented each of them with a national jersey signed by the players.
“Everything here is revolving around the World Cup. We’re very excited to keep discovering the country,” Balamissa said.
“Many French people are super nice with us here and are proposing to take us places: to restaurants to visit different things.”
While Balamissa and Martin are enjoying the Doha life, the trip to get there was far from straightforward. At one point, the two cyclists were forced to travel 15 hours to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to find a bike repair shop… before taking another 15 hours just to get back to the spot where one of their bikes had broken.
“We had many troubles, but we fixed them as we went,” Martin told CNN.
“In this kind of trip, you have to be really flexible. In fact, the main part of the trip is to be flexible and to just adapt to every situation the best you can. I think we did well, actually.”
Balamissa added: “There were so many best moments. For instance, when we finished crossing Europe. It was absolutely fabulous. We crossed from the European part of Istanbul to the Asian side across the bridge.”
“Usually, that’s forbidden [by bike],” Martin said, “but we negotiated with the local police for hours and hours and they just followed us to protect us on the bridge. People along the way were so generous and kind.”
“It was very special when we got to Qatar because it meant it was the end of this crazy trip and this lifestyle that we actually enjoyed a lot,” Balamissa said.
“We’re staying until the final because France is going to win, of course,” Martin joked to CNN. “We wouldn’t have come on our bikes otherwise.”
It’s been a bit cyclocross crazy on the live blog today, so I thought I’d mix things up a bit by sharing the results of yesterday’s… err, beach race in Belgium.
A sort of cross between road racing and the sandier aspects of cyclocross, with a bit of mountain biking thrown in, the De Panne Beach Endurance race is one of the most prestigious events in Belgium and the Netherland’s (where else?) winter beach racing season.
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) November 27, 2022
Attracting over 1,000 participants every year, the De Panne Beach Endurance features 54km – yes, 54km – of windy, beachy brutality, and mixes up the tactical nuances of road racing (unsurprisingly, there are plenty of echelons) with ‘head down, ride hard’ off-road sensibilities.
It even attracts some of the best pros too: the mercurial Frank Vandenbroucke won the second edition in 1997, future Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Vansummeren took the junior title in 1999, and Canyon-Sram’s Pauliena Rooijakkers (who had a very strong 2022) has won the women’s race twice.
Even the Lion of Flanders Johan Museeuw has raced it, for goodness’ sake.
The eccentric nature of it all was underlined by yesterday’s sprint in the men’s race, which saw Quick-Step’s Bert Van Lerberghe (on a road bike) hold off Bingoal Pauwels Sauces’ veteran Timothy Dupont (on a mountain bike) for the win.
— Sporza 🚴 (@sporza_koers) November 28, 2022
Tim Declercq also proved that ‘El Tractor’ can power over the sand on his way to fourth, while Tour de France stage winner Tim Merlier took fifth, and perennial classics contender Sep Vanmarcke ninth.
In the women’s race, 2010 Tour of Flanders winner Grace Verbeke took her sixth win on the sands of De Panne.
Impressive stuff. Can’t say I want to rush to the seaside to try it, mind you…
Some extra training for Tom Pidcock and his brother Joe pic.twitter.com/2PVh6ddpTb
— José Been (@JoseBeenTV) November 27, 2022
As Mathieu van der Poel prepared for his ‘warm down’ run following a triumphant return to cyclocross at the Hulst round of the UCI World Cup, world champion Tom Pidcock attempted to put the disappointment of a last lap crash and bendy back wheel behind him with a relaxing 40 mile spin home.
“It was planned to ride home with my brother,” Pidcock said before heading off with 20-year-old brother Joe, who raced this year for Groupama-FDJ’s development squad and is rumoured to be joining Tom’s alma mater Trinity for 2023.
“Today the ‘cross was done early, so we had that chance. I think it’s about 60km home.”
Hopefully the back wheel of his winter Dogma proved a touch sturdier than the one he raced on earlier in the day…
If you’ve spent any time on Cycling Twitter™ over the past two weeks, you’re bound to have come across bike racing fans cheerfully displaying their ignorance of the great sportswashing kickaround in Qatar by asking their fellow two-wheeled enthusiasts to explain what was happening on the pitch ‘in cycling terms’.
You’ll perhaps be surprised to learn that one of the breakout stars of this most controversial of World Cups, Saudi Arabia manager Hervé Renard, has happily obliged.
Frenchman Renard, who had a spell managing Cambridge United back in 2004, oddly enough, masterminded Saudi Arabia’s sensational comeback win over pre-tournament favourites Argentina (of Lionel Messi fame) with a superb Mike Bassett-inspired halftime team bollocking.
And now it turns out that one of the World Cup’s greatest ever upsets was inspired by the dream of a smash-and-grab breakaway win in one of professional cycling’s monument classics.
Magnifique interview d'Hervé Renard, sélectionneur français de l'Arabie Saoudite 🇸🇦 qui compare sa victoire face à l'Argentine 🇦🇷 à une classique de cyclisme 🤩
Merci @Bat pour l'information.
— Vélofuté (@VeloFute) November 27, 2022
In an interview with beIN Sports, the dapper 54-year-old revealed that he and his staff are big cycling fans, before comparing his side’s shock win to a Johan Vansummeren or Mat Hayman-style triumph on the road.
“It was a classic, we were with Van Aert, Van der Poel and Pogačar too. And then they looked at each other, and we managed to get away and we crossed the line as winners,” Renard laughed.
More of this please.
Perhaps he’s angling to replace Neil Warnock and Roberto Mancini as the manager of road.cc’s Footballers who Cycle XI?
Not sure who would be responsible for this. @MyNottingham or @NottsCC. A driver has driven into the safety barrier on Woodhouse way and it’s sticking out into the Cycle path. Hard to see in the dark!! pic.twitter.com/MXZmKbNUGb
— CycleNotts² (@CycleNott) November 27, 2022
What do you see when you look at the above photo?
The aftermath of some dangerous driving? A safety hazard for cyclists using the bike path?
Nope, not on Twitter you won’t… Over on Elon Musk Island, it’s all the fault of cyclists using flashing lights, apparently.
At least that’s the view of the anti-cycling brigade, who have taken advantage of yesterday’s warning about Nottingham’s new pedestrian barrier of death to indulge in a rare spot of future victim blaming:
Bikes should have lights, if the front one wasn't flashing you'd see what's in front of you! Look where your going and take responsibility for your own life!
— supersonic (@eweK97946472) November 28, 2022
Try putting some lights on your bike then.
— Lord Wally of Welly. (@MagnaWatch) November 28, 2022
Try having a light on your bicycle!
— Chris Weldon (@we75376474) November 28, 2022
"Hard to see in the dark" - especially if you've not got any lights on your cycle (lots are like this).
— Michael Roots (@MichaelJRoots) November 28, 2022
Must've been "hard to see" for the car driver who smashed into it too. Maybe they didn't have their lights on or more likely not looking where they were going as usual.
As yet no cyclist has hit it.
— CuriousDuck (@Wil_bike) November 28, 2022
What is going on with the Ineos Grenadiers’ cyclocross bikes this month?
First, the British team’s marquee signing Pauline Ferrand-Prévot – and her new Pinarello Crossista F – endured a turbulent debut at the Koppenbergcross at the start of the month.
The 13-time multi-discipline world champion’s opening lap in Ineos colours was derailed by a jammed chain and a botched bike change, while yet more gearing issues forced the French rider to shoulder her malfunctioning bike and run up the steep final ascent of the Koppenberg.
Jammed gears were the order of the day almost three weeks later too, as Tom Pidcock’s return to World Cup racing in the rainbow bands at Overijse last weekend was almost scuppered as soon as it got underway by his bike’s refusal to co-operate.
However, an impressive and dramatic effort saw the world champion regain, and then blast clear of the front of the pack – before disaster struck again. On the penultimate lap, Pidcock crashed, breaking his shoe in the process, and letting eventual winner Michael Vanthourenhout slip away for a narrow victory.
— UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup (@UCIcyclocrossWC) November 27, 2022
Well, the Ineos Grenadiers will be hoping that bad luck only comes in threes, as the 23-year-old Yorkshireman suffered yet another bout of bike-related bad luck in Hulst yesterday.
Pidcock – who stormed to victory at the X20 Trofee Kortrijk on Saturday, securing his first win in the rainbow bands – continued his flying form in an epic head-to-head duel with four-time world champion Mathieu van der Poel during the seventh round of this winter’s cyclocross World Cup.
After a mammoth tussle on the brutal, muddy circuit in Hulst, an unfortunate mid-race slip on one of the course’s many steep ramps allowed the Dutchman to finally power clear of his British rival for a winning return to the ‘cross field.
Nevertheless, Pidcock looked set for a strong second place until the Ineos curse struck once again on the last lap. A crash on a tricky descent into a fencepost saw the Ineos rider’s Shimano back wheel buckle and bend like an non-EU-regulated banana.
Man, what is it about the Ineos CX bike that means it doesn't work in cyclocross races? 😅 https://t.co/5OkEbviJno
— Mathew Mitchell (@MatMitchell30) November 27, 2022
This season’s latest untimely mechanical mishap forced the world champion to initially press on by foot, with his bike draped over his shoulder and the broken wheel waving forlornly in the cold Dutch air, before he finally, and unceremoniously, exited the race by hopping over the barriers and into the crowd.
“I don’t know exactly what happened either,” Pidcock told Het Nieuwsblad after the race. “I think I hit something, maybe that post or maybe something else.
“I’m not quite sure. My wheel broke after that. I walked for a while, but it was still far, and it was of little use.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time this season that Shimano’s wheels have buckled under the pressure. At Paris-Roubaix, two of Jumbo-Visma’s Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 carbon rear wheels folded under their riders on the harsh, cobbled roads of northern France.
Shimano dead set on promoting this whole non-circular wheel thing but I'm not sure it'll catch on pic.twitter.com/W8YKPMmoXB
— Ryan Duff (@RyanDuffCycling) November 27, 2022
Commercial tie-in with Pringles?
— Lynne Aldridge (@littleblueshed) November 27, 2022
Never mind the curse of the rainbow jersey, Pidcock will surely be hoping that the ‘curse of the Ineos mechanical’ can be exorcised before his next meeting with Van Aert and Van der Poel…
From takeaway triathletes to the demise of the Shakedry jacket, here’s what you may have missed on road.cc over the weekend:
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.