Belgian cycling federation apologises for fans’ ‘unsportsmanlike and offensive behaviour’ at cyclocross World Championships

Fans were photographed making offensive gestures aimed at winner Mathieu van der Poel

Mathieu van der Poel was subjected to abuse at the cyclocross World Championships (Photo: Yuzuru SUNADA / BELGA)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The Belgian cycling federation has been forced to apologise for the ‘offensive behaviour’ of fans towards Mathieu van der Poel at the cyclocross World Championships.

Van der Poel was dominant in the elite men’s race in Bogense, Denmark on Sunday (February 3), besting Belgian rivals Wout Van Aert and Toon Aerts.

Belgian Cycling, the sport’s national governing body, has apologised after a number of fans made offensive gestures aimed at the winner during the race.

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In a statement released on Monday (February 4), the organisation said: “It is unfortunate that a number of spectators –fortunately a minority – find it difficult.

“Nobody, including the Belgian delegation, benefits from unsportmanlike and offensive behaviour.

“We congratulate Mathieu van der Poel sincerely, not only for the way he won his second world title, but also for all the good things he has done in cyclocross in recent months.”

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Belgian Cycling said that fans put their thumbs down when he won his second rainbow jersey, while pictures emerged after the race of a fan raising his middle finger to van der Poel.

The sport has been dominated by Belgium in recent seasons, with Van Aert winning three World Championships consecutively.

But van der Poel has found the winning formula in 2018/19, taking 25 victories in the 27 races he entered before topping the season off with the rainbow bands.

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Belgian Cycling added: “The vast majority of Belgian fans who went to Denmark made the World Championships in Bogense a popular party.

“It should not happen that a few people spoil that unique atmosphere and Belgian Cycling wishes to apologise for this.”

Van der Poel posted a picture on his Instagram from the race, with a fan racing a middle finger in his face during the event.

His dad, cyclocross legend Adrie, called the fan disrespectful.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.