Mathieu van der Poel once again stormed to victory in the latest round of the cyclocross World Cup, this time in Tabor, Czech Republic, but said it had been a “very tough week” after his grandfather, Tour de France legend Raymond Poulidor, passed away.
The 24-year-old edged out Belgian Eli Iserbyt, with his compatriot Lars van der Haar coming third. Brit Tom Pidcock finished in 14th, 2-04 down on Van der Poel.
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“I’m glad I won, but it’s mentally been a lot harder than expected,” Van der Poel said, becoming emotional in his post-race interview with Sporza.
“I had to look for a good feeling for a long time and it was hard for me both mentally and physically. Still I am happy that I continued to fight for an hour. I really wanted to win, especially because Tabor is very special to me.”
When Van der Poel became CX world champion in 2015 and European champion in 2017, he did so in Tabor. This time around, he had to fight hard for the victory.
Not only did the young Dutchman have a third-row start position, he got himself stuck in the pack while his rivals surged ahead up front. After bridging across to riders up ahead, Van der Poel then faded again, at one point being 30 seconds behind the leaders.
However, he soon made his way to the front and attacked on the final climb to take the win.
“I didn’t get the victory as a gift,” Van der Poel said. “It took a lot of effort to get to the front and [my rivals] put a lot of pressure on me. When I joined the front, I already felt it had to be played on the final lap. Yes, this is one to be framed.”
After finishing runner-up to Van der Poel, Iserbyt said: “What a race today! Happy with silver but big respect for Mathieu, performing after a hard week shows what kind of a winner he is!”
The Frenchman had been hospitalised in October with fatigue and suffering from heart issues, reportedly having been unwell since his summer VIP job at the Tour de France.