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 has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.