Mathieu van der Poel will not win a historic third rainbow jersey this year, after he crashed out of the elite men’s cross-country mountain bike race at the UCI World Championships on Saturday.
The Dutchman, who won the road world title last weekend, fell on a downhill stretch of loose gravel on the course in Glentress Forest, and abandoned the race. The incident came inside three minutes of the roll-out, as the riders approached the start-finish line to begin the first lap.
After crashing, Van der Poel stayed on the floor, clutching his right knee. He then rolled onto his left side, and lay in the dirt in pain.
"My front wheel slipped. It's my own fault," he told Het Nieuwsblad afterwards. "I am quite annoyed at myself. A stupid mistake on one of the easiest parts of the course. It was on the same side [as my crash in the road race] and the blow really hurt, but it's not too bad. The physical damage is manageable, continuing was not an option.
"I do have last week as a consolation, but it does take away from the euphoria a bit. I think that's the biggest shame."
If the 28-year-old had won the event, he would have become the first man in history to hold the road, cyclo-cross and mountain bike world titles all at the same time.
The Dutchman’s innocuous crash in Glentress came less than a week after he fell in the road race in Glasgow last Sunday, en route to winning from a solo attack.
“With the crash, I still don’t know how it happened,” he said after his victory last Sunday. “I was really not pushing or taking any risks because my legs were feeling really good. I knew I could make a difference on the climbs and the parts where you could push, and then all of a sudden, I was on the ground and my shoe was broken.”
Ahead of Saturday’s cross-country mountain bike event, the road world champion was at the centre of controversy. A late UCI rule amendment meant that he, Great Britain’s Tom Pidcock and Slovakia's Peter Sagan were allowed higher starting grid spots than their world rankings justified, which angered their competitors.
A letter, signed by some of the sport’s key figures including 17-time world champion Nino Schurter, read: “It’s great to have big names from different disciplines in our sport and we can’t wait to race against them
“But we are really not happy how the UCI is treating our discipline by changing rules regarding start position one day before the race.”
Pidcock went on to win Saturday's race, adding to his status as Olympic champion.
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