Mathieu van der Poel solos to spectacular World Championships victory despite late crash

The race was delayed early on by environmental protesters before the circuit took its toll, with Van der Poel winning ahead of very few finishers

Mathieu van der Poel wins road world championships
(Image credit: Getty)

Mathieu van der Poel is the new World Champion after crossing the line first in Glasgow. The Dutch rider went solo with 22.4km to go and soon had a gap over the chasing trio of Wout van Aert (Belgium), Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia) and Mads Pedersen (Denmark), who he'd previously been riding with.

Van der Poel won despite sliding out on a corner late on. By then his time gap was enough that he was able to remount and stay ahead. Despite a broken shoe he increased his advantage all the way to the end.

Van Aert attacked late to ride clear to second place, while Pogacar did the sprint of his life to round Pedersen and take third.

UCI World Championships Elite Men's Road Race: How it happened

The early news from the race was not related to the riders but instead saw them halted for around 50 minutes due to a protest.

As we reported at the time, the breakaway had reached a small climb near the Carron Valley Reservoir when the race encountered the blockage. Initial reports suggested that a group of protesters had allegedly glued themselves to the road.

Once the race was up and running again, the nine-man breakaway continued on its way and stayed clear for quite some time.

After the tour of the stunning countryside outside of Glasgow, it was on to the circuit for nearly 11 laps. Each time through the finish line there were fewer and fewer riders still in contention for either the title or to help a teammate towards the podium.

Most riders from the original breakaway were caught with 74.4km to go but Kevin Vanmaerke (USA) and Matthew Dinham (Australia) held on to the elite group that came across to them.

After plenty of attacks and counter-attacks, not to mention a lot of riders being counted out of contention by mechanicals or crashes, an elite group formed at the front of the race.

Mads Pedersen (Denmark), Wout van Aert (Belgium), Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), Alberto Bettiol (Italy) and Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia) rode on with original breakaway riders Vanmaercke and Dinham.

It wasn't a done deal, however, as a group behind still believed they could close it down – thanks hugely to the efforts of France's Benoit Cosnefroy. The impetus went out of the front group as the chasers came across.

The reduced pace saw a lot of riders getting back on and the group swelled to around 30 riders, before Belgium strung it out again.

With most riders slowing to take a bottle, Bettiol took his chance and charged ahead, pushing his advantage out over 30 seconds at its peak.

While he rode on solo, there was a bit of back and forth with the chase before finally the quartet of Pogacar, Van Aert, Van der Poel and Pedersen dropped the rest – including defending champion Remco Evenepoel – and pushed on into Bettiol's advantage.

Van der Poel launched on a short rise to catch and pass Bettiol with 22.4km to go. The other three looked at each other a bit and Van der Poel pushed on. Pogacar took it up on a winding climb to try and close the gap but couldn't get clear.

As Van der Poel's advantage increased, he had a scare when he went down on a wet corner. He was soon back on his bike, which looked to be functioning alright, but a broken right shoe may have hindered him slightly.

With one lap to go, the lone leader wrenched the remainder of his broken upper Boa dial off of his right shoe and rode on. Van der Poel took it more cautiously on the corners after the crashed but continued to gain time thanks to his determination on the ascents.

There were moves behind from the chasing trio but Van der Poel only ever increased his gap once he was back up from the crash. Away he rode to a well deserved rainbow jersey.

Bettiol just clung on to a top 10 finish.

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Jack Elton-Walters hails from the Isle of Wight, and would be quick to tell anyone that it's his favourite place to ride. He has covered a varied range of topics for Cycling Weekly, producing articles focusing on tech, professional racing and cycling culture. He moved on to work for Cyclist Magazine in 2017 where he stayed for four years until going freelance. He now returns to Cycling Weekly from time-to-time to cover racing, review cycling gear and write longer features for print and online.