Mathieu van der Poel went into the 2021 Cyclocross World Championships as one of the favourites alongside his arch-rival Wout van Aert. The two had battled in the mud throughout the 2020-2021 cyclocross season, taking it in turns to climb on to the top step during each of their showdowns.
As the defending champion, all eyes were on Mathieu to bring home the rainbows for the fourth time in his elite career, the third on board his Canyon Inflite. Out of the 13 preceding races in the 20/21 season, Mathieu had nine victories to his name. Three of the four gold medals he lost were to Wout van Aert, so it was all to race for.
A 2.9km course in Ostend on Belgium’s north coast consisting of sand, gravel, tarmac and grass meant this race would be one of the most challenging and varied courses of the season. In addition to powering through multiple surfaces, the riders would also have to find their climbing legs to ascend a 21% bridge straight after a sand section.
As the lights turned green, the riders of the front row jostled for position and Mathieu claimed his spot on Wout van Aert’s wheel. The two were neck and neck up until the second lap when van der Poel hit a rut at speed causing him to crash and require a bike change losing precious seconds to his opponent.
Gold for van der Poel
The race was on for Wout van Aert to capitalise on Mathieu van der Poel’s mistake but it was all in vain as the Belgian suffered a front wheel puncture. This was the turning point of the race and it was from there that it was Mathieu’s race to lose.
Lap by wicked lap, Mathieu increased his lead on Wout van Aert peaking at 37 seconds as he punched the air of the finish line bringing home the rainbow bands for a third consecutive year.
“I felt better lap by lap as I got to know the course better,” said Mathieu in his post-race interview. “In the second lap, I was in a deep rut and made a mistake...I got a little lucky that Wout flatted. In the second half of the race, I felt I controlled the race."
Elsewhere over the weekend
Defending world champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado put in an amazing effort but unfortunately placed sixth as Lucinda Brand took victory. A crash on the first corner disrupted her race and the dutch quad of Brand, Worst, Betsema and Kastelijn managed to surge ahead along with the American Clara Honsinger.
As one of the youngest riders in the field at just 18 years old, Puck Pieterse rode to fifth place in the U23 Women’s event just two months after taking the European Championship jersey in the same category. We’re looking forward to seeing how she progresses throughout the year.
Are you a roadie looking for a new riding fix this winter? There’s no better way to round out your drop-bar riding routine than adding gravel into the mix. We’re here to help you find the bike you need.
Nov 6, 2019
A name change for 2020 but still a collaboration with Canyon Bicycles. Alpecin-Fenix is the new name of the multidisciplinary team led by brothers Philip and Christoph Roodhooft, featuring Mathieu Van Der Poel and competing with a UCI Pro Continental license.
Dec 31, 2019