It was a glorious day for Mathieu van der Poel. Although he had won four world championship titles in the past, it seemed as if the stakes were higher than ever as he and Wout van Aert entered a new phase in their rivalry where it seemed like the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider had to fight back. This win in the Hoogerheide World Championships came as the climax of the cyclocross season.
“I kept my cool and that may have gotten me the win today. I felt very good and along the way I also felt that I was the strongest," van der Poel told NOS in a post-race interview. "I am really very happy. This week I trained uphill sprints with David, I could use that today. I was really relaxed.”
Van der Poel entered the race furiously by attacking in the opening minutes, only with van Aert in the wheel. If there were any doubts, the fight for the win looked to be in front. He frequently attacked in a particularly complicated section towards the end of the lap, but van Aert responded to each move promptly and the two could not avoid a sprint in the end.
“Everyone expected me to go on the beams, but I thought that was too predictable. I wanted to turn into the last straight line as second and then I immediately started. Maybe I surprised Van Aert with that," he explains. Van der Poel realized the race was to be decided in a sprint, and wanted to be in second wheel towards the finishing straight.
Video: The sprint between Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert that decided the Cyclocross World Championships
The two are almost equal when it comes to the sprints, but van der Poel had the upper hand today and managed to get a tiny gap which was enough all the way into the finish line. After a mixed winter where van Aert looked to have the best form at times, the Dutchman ends it on a high.
“I am really very happy. I value this victory very highly. I know what it's like to fall through the ice in Hoogerheide, so maybe I learned to keep cool there. I needed my best day of the season and I had that day," he concluded.