Mathieu van der Poel was beaten in a cyclocross race for the first time in 408 days as Belgian Toon Aerts took the victory at the Hotondcross in the city of Ronse, Belgium.
The last defeat Van der Poel suffered in a cyclocross race was back in 2018, at the Koppenbergcross, and in between these two defeats the young Dutchman has announced himself on the road with a series of impressive victories.
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<
Conditions were wet at the Hotondcross and with slow mud passages and hilly sections the course was heavier than riders have grown accustomed to. This suited Aerts, who attacked numerous times on the course to try and distance Van der Poel, who had just returned from a two-week training camp in Spain, but the world champion managed to hang on for now.
Aerts persisted however and eventually started pulling away. The 25-second gap he had taken out momentarily was brought back in to 15 seconds as Van der Poel appeared to have found a second wind, but the Belgian champion eventually rode across the line a minute and a half ahead of his compatriot Eli Iserbyt.
Van der Poel finished a minute later in third and in his post-race interview admitted he “was not good enough”.
“I always go for the win, but you can’t win them all. Toon Aerts was very strong today. He always shows up very well on this kind of course,” Van der Poel told Wielerflits.
He blames his training camp, a necessary requirement as he looks towards a road season where he is expected to build on his 2019 Amstel Gold Race victory, as the reason he was unable to take the win in Ronse.
“Normally I always have to compete with him when we are both in good shape but after a training camp I always have to wait to have the legs for cyclocross. It wasn’t bad either. I have come back worse from a training camp, but sometimes better,” Van der Poel said.
Hotondcross 2019, Ronse
1. Toon Aerts (Bel), Telenet-Baloise
2. Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal, at 1-29
3. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus), at 2-31
4. Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal, at 2-17
5. Tim Merlier (Bel) Creafin-Fristads, at 2-27