Mathieu van der Poel took a win to remember at the cyclocross World Cup in Namur, gapping Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock in the final lap to cross the line first.
Pidcock put in another remarkable performance, leading for the majority of the race after gapping the world champion and Van Aert in the early laps, before he was brought back into the fold, caught during a bike change at the end of the penultimate lap.
Van Aert did a lot of work to bring Pidcock back, who at points had put daylight between himself and his chasers, but Van der Poel had the most left in the tank in the decisive final lap, with Van Aert coming across the line second, three seconds down, with Pidcock third, 11 seconds off the pace.
Fourth-place Michael Vanthourenhout then came in nearly a minute after Pidcock.
It was another phenomenal performance from all of the podium trio, Van der Poel asserting his rainbow bands once more over the field, while Van Aert finds his form following a busy road season.
Pidcock, meanwhile, continues to show he has what it takes to be mentioned in the same breath as the Dutch and Belgian pair, following his win at the Telenet Superprestige Gavere.
In the women’s race, Lucinda Brand took yet another win, finishing half a minute ahead of Clara Honsinger and Denise Betsema. Brits Evie Richards and Anna Kay finished sixth and seventh respectively.
“They are all tough, I don’t think there’s an easy race here in Namur. Today was a really hard battle, I was on the limit the whole race and I really had to push myself beyond the limit to take the win today,” Van der Poel said after the finish.
“We needed both forces to close the gap again [to Pidcock],” Van der Poel added o
“I didn’t have the feeling that I had something extra in my legs today…I had to dig really deep to take the victory today.”
“I think I didn’t ride a perfect race but I think at the moment that’s the best way for me to ride, to do my own race. I think today with a bit of luck, a bit more initiative in the last lap I could have been second but today I don’t think I could have won. The elastic never snapped,” was Pidcock’s evaluation.
“It’s difficult to say, I always ride better in front, I think just because I learned in junior and u23 to race like that. I think I raced the correct way today. I was hoping that maybe they would look at each other in that lap when they came together, I kept going as they only needed to look at each other for one straight and I would have had a gap. Van Aert did some work and then Van der Poel attacked. I think the podium is good and I was racing with the two kings of ‘cross today so that’s a nice consolation.”
“It’s a big quality of him [Van der Poel], he can go over his limit in the last lap,” Van Aert explained.
“I’m capable of doing a good final lap as well, but very often he’s a little bit stronger in the end. Especially in the laps before we were a bit distanced from Pidcock and I think I focused too much on coming back into the race than winning the race. A little lack of confidence…after today I have to believe more in myself when we next race.”
UCI Cyclocross World Cup – Namur
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, in
2. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, at three seconds
3. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Trinity Racing, at 11s
4. Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal, at 1-07
5. Quinten Hermans (Bel) Tormans, at 2-09
6. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Telenet Baloise Lions, at 2-17
7. Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Baloise Lions, at 2-53
8. Daan Soete (Bel) Group Hens – Maes Containers, at 2-57
9. Corné Van Kessel (Ned) Tormans, at 3-25
10. Ryan Kamp (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal, at 3-31