Wout van Aert finally ended Mathieu van der Poel’s winter of cyclo-cross dominance, with victory in the Benidorm round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup on Sunday.
The closing moments were uncomfortable for the Belgian, however, with a late crash causing him to lose his saddle - meaning he was unable to sit down.
Van Aert launched what would be the race winning move in the final lap but crashed after a barriered section. His bike saddle was seen flying off and bouncing onto the side of the course but despite losing his seat, he still managed to hold off Michael Vanthourenhout who took second place [see video embed, below].
Speaking post-race, Van Aert explained that he had a feeling he was in for a spot of bad luck after being assigned race number 13 at the start of the event.
"I have a little bit of pain on my wrist. I think it is meant to be; my mother broke her wrist yesterday, they got married on the 13th of July, today I saw I had the number 13, and I thought, 'it's my day'. It was bad luck involved in the race, but I kept going, and that's the way I like it," he said.
Thibau Nys of the Baloise Trek Lions team came in behind Van Aert and Vanthourenhout to take the final podium spot.
Meanwhile Van der Poel was nowhere to be seen in the finale, eventually coming home fifth, after a heavy crash in the penultimate lap. The fall cost the Dutchman and ended his winning hot streak which has been one of the main plot lines of this cyclo-cross season.
"I felt quite strong today. Obviously, Mathieu was strong, too, but had some bad luck, so it's unfortunate that it didn't come down to a battle,” Van Aert commented. “Still, when Mathieu crashed in the final, I had to beat all the others, and it was not easy. I'm happy I was able to do that," Van Aert said.
Heading into the race in Benidorm, Van der Poel had won every CX race he had lined up at this season.
Tom Pidcock returned to the field after a spell away from CX due to illness. The Ineos Grenadiers rider came home in ninth. Recently crowned British national champion Cameron Mason finished 32nd, three minutes and 59 seconds behind Van Aert.
Unsurprisingly, Van Aert explained that the closing stages of the race had been “stressful” after his saddle came off.
The Belgian dismounted his bike before a section of hurdles although caught his leg on his saddle when climbing back on which caused the crash.
He said: "I thought I was smart by not jumping over the barriers, so I was sure I wouldn't make a mistake. I underestimated the surface because my bike bounced, and I jumped up against my saddle. Then my bike hit the ground, and my saddle broke off. That caused a lot of stress.”
Despite his victory on Sunday, Van Aert’s plans have not changed and he will sit out the upcoming cyclo-cross World Championships in Tábor, the Czech Republic.
Van Aert lost his saddle in a crash a few minutes before the finish! 😅#CXWorldCuppic.twitter.com/IOLxIHauoMJanuary 21, 2024
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