The familiar battle played out in the biggest race of the CX season
Newly-crowned cyclocross world champion Mathieu van der Poel said ‘no one can say the title was stolen’ as he dominated the elite men’s field in Denmark.
The Dutchman cut down Wout Van Aert’s three-year winning streak and took his second rainbow jersey on Sunday (February 3).
Van der Poel and Van Aert looked evenly matched in the opening laps of the slippery course, with the eventual winner drawing out a significant lead that was closed down by his Belgian rival.
But an off-camber section plagued Van Aert, with a slip giving van der Poel the opportunity to power away.
Speaking after the race, 24-year-old van der Poel said: “Finally I have the rainbow jersey on my shoulders again.
“No one will say that it has been stolen.
“Of course I was confident at the start, but when Van Aert closed the gap again, I had to show my resilience.
“I did that and there is now a great deal of worry off my shoulders.”
Van Aert took the last three world titles consecutively, but van der Poel has dominated the CX season in 2018/19.
Belgian Toon Aerts also put in a formidable performance to catch Van Aert in the closing stages of the race, but slid out while cornering in the final to concede the silver medal to his compatriot.
Britain’s performance in the men’s elite category didn’t mirror the junior and Under-23 victories – Ian Field finished 37th.
But the women’s elite race was a more promising test for the Brits, with national champion Nikki Brammeier finishing eighth, with Helen Wyman in 15th.
Wyman said: “15th doesn’t sound good, but on a fast course, and I had a terrible start, I don’t know what happened.
“I ended up way back and had to work my way through.
“Every year the sport gets better and better, and it’s amazing to see.
“I remember watching the first women’s world championships in 2000, and thinking that was really exciting at the time.
“But you look at it and 15 different riders could have won that race today.
“It’s fantastic to see and it’s fantastic to be part of the journey.”