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After a very bad start, van der Poel slowly made his way back to the leaders before easily riding to a dominant solo win in the World Cup race in France; Van Aert extended his overall lead by taking second with van der Haar in third










17.01.2016 @ 16:23 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Mathieu van der Poel confirmed that he is in excellent condition for the World Championships as he crushed the opposition in the penultimate round of the World Cup. After a very bad start, the world champion slowly moved up and as soon as he hit the front, he dropped everybody else, riding to a comfortable solo win. Wout Van Aert was a distant second, followed by Lars van der Haar in third, but it was enough to extend his overall lead.


When he was forced to miss the first part of the season due to a knee injury, Mathieu van der Poel made it clear that he only had one real goal for the 2015-16 season: to defend his rainbow jersey in Heusden-Zolder later this month. It took some time for him to find his racing legs but after he got his first win in December, he has slowly become better and better.


Van der Poel had a very successful time around Christmas but claimed that there was still more to come. He spent the first week of 2016 in Spain to prepare for his big goal and yesterday he claimed that he was feeling very good when he dominated the Kasteelcross in Zonnebeke, a very tough mud race.


Today van der Poel firmly underlined his status as favourite for the World Championships when he came out on top in the only French race of the World Cup. After yesterday’s mud race, he found himself on a much faster and easier course which is very similar to the one he faces in Heusden-Zolder in two weeks time. By dominating his rivals, he proved that he will be very hard to beat in Belgium.


However, things didn’t look good for van der Poel in the first part of the race as he found himself far back after a very bad start. While a front group with the likes of Lars van der Haar, Wout Van Aert, Laurens Sweeck, Kevin Pauwels, Sven Nys and Tom Meeusen was created, he had to pass lots of riders to get back in contention.


The fast course meant that the front group stayed together and as no one was able to make a difference, van der Poel slowly made his way back. He made the junction in the fourth lap and took a brief moment to recover before he hit the front as they crossed the finish line at the midpoint.


From there, the outcome was never in doubt. Not even Wout Van Aert could keep up with van der Poel who immediately distanced everybody else. Van der Haar was the final rider to surrender but he also had to give up. Van der Poel increased his lead lap after lap and even had time to make a show for the public in the final two laps.


Further back, Van Aert joined van der Haar and those two riders quickly realized that they were riding for second. Van Aert allowed van der Haar to set the pace in the penultimate lap and then made his move in the final lap, easily riding away to claim second, with van der Haar completing the podium. Nys had had a strong rider but stumbled twice and this cost him dearly in the finale, meaning that Pauwels and Meeusen were the best of the rest to complete the top 5.


Van Aert was unable to win but he had done enough to extend his overall lead in the World Cup. He now has a 21-second advantage over van der Haar with just one race remaining. It takes place next Sunday in the Dutch city of Hoogerheide and is the next major cyclo-cross event.


How it unfolded:

Lars van der Haar took the hole shot and immediaely put his rivals under pressure. Only Wout van Aert and Tim Merlier could keep up with him as the peloton splintered to pieces immediately. Laurens Sweeck and Sven Nys were leading the chase while world champion Mathieu van der Poel got the race off to a disastrous start, finding himself far back in the group.


Sweeck, Nys and Toon Aerts slowly managed to rejoin the leaders to make it a front sextet as things slowly started to come back together. Van der Poel was also moving up but still had a lot of ground to make up as they approached the end of the first lap.


Van der Haar did not slow down and continued to set the pace, with the Dutchman and van Aert gradually getting a gap. Meanwhile, Clement Venturini, Tom Meeusen and Kevin Pauwels joined the chase group.


At the end of the first lap, the front dup had a four-second lead over Meeusen, Pauwels, Venturini, Merlier, Nys, Sweeck and Aerts while van der Poel was at 14 seconds with Corne van Kessel, Gianni Vermeersch and Francis Mourey.


In the second lap, van Aert briefly took over the pace-setting until Sweeck hit the front and started to apply some pressure. His fast pace was not enough to split the group though and instead van der Poel slowly got closer. However, Sweeck had a small 2-second advantage at the end of the second lap where van der Poel had reduced his deficit to 10 seconds, with van Kessel and Vermeersch being four second further adrift.


Sweeck was soon back in the fold but continued to ride on the front. The fast pace had not been enough to split the group but apparently it had put Nys on the limit. The veteran stumbled on a small climb and brought a few riders down in the process. Asa a consequence, Sweeck, van der Haar, van Aert, Venturini and Meeusen escaped while van der Poel, van Kessel and Vermeersch managed to rejoin the big chase group.


Sweeck again managed to distance his companions for a short while but van Aert quickly brought him back. Meanwhile, Nys tried to make up for his mistake and was now in lone pursuit of the five leaders. He made the junction and it didn’t take long for van der Poel and Pauwels to get back to the front too. Hence, it was an 8-rider group that had gathered at the end of the third lap where Aerts, Vermeersch and Michael Vanthourenhout were the nearest chasers at 17 seconds.


Sweeck was still riding on the front for the first part of the fourth lap until he finally made room for van der Haar to come through. For a brief moment, the Dutchman, Sweeck, van der Poel and Meeusen got a small gap but van Aert made sure that it came back together in time for the start of the fifth lap. At this point, the chase trio had reduced their deficit to 14 seconds.


Van der Poel hit the front as the octet crossed the line and he immediately put his rivals under pressure. At first, only van der Haar could match his speed but he also had to surrender. Further back, the group split to pieces, witg van Aert bridging the gap to van der Haar and Meeusen riding alone in fourth. At the end of the fifth lap, he had already put 11 seconds into van der Haar and van Aert. Meeusen was at 22 seconds, followed by Nys and Sweeck at 24 seconds.


Van Aert passed van der Haar and set the pace for the chase duo but it was not enough to keep up with the world champion. At the end of the sixth lap, the gap had gone out to 16 seconds. Further back, Sweeck and Nys caught Meeusen while Pauwels rejoined from behind. However, the quartet was already 40 seconds behind, with Venturini riding in 8th, 7 seconds further adrift.


Van Aert and van der Haar knew that they were riding for second place and started to focus more on their internal battle, with the Dutchman hitting the front. Up the road, van der Poel knew that he had the win in his pocket and had time to show off his excellent technical skills. Further back, Nys bac luck continued as he again stumbled and so fell back to Venturini.


At the start of the final lap, van der Poel led his two chasers by 25 seconds while Meeusen, Pauwels and Sweeck were at 51 seconds. Nys and Venturini were 11 seconds further adrift.


It had been evident for a while that van Aert was stronger than van der Haar and as soon as they started the final lap, the World Cup leader distanced his companion. From there, the outcome was never in doubt and while van der Poel made a wheelie as he crossed the line, Van Aert crossed the line safely in second, followed by van der Haar, Pauwels and Meeusen



1. Mathieu van der Poel 1.00.50

2. Wout Van Aert +0.13

3. Lars van der Haar +0.17

4. Kevin Pauwels +0.45

5. Tom Meeusen +0.56

6. Laurens Sweeck +1.01

7. Sven Nys +1.03

8. Gianni Vermeersch +1.10

9. Clement Venturini

10. Michael Vanthourenhout 1.26


Overall standings

1. Wout van Aert 406

2. Lars van der Haar 385

3. Kevin Pauwels 356

4. Sven Nys 351

5. Mathieu van der Poel 305

6. Laurens Sweeck 271

7. Tom Meeusen 266

8. Toon Aerts 234

9. Julien Taramarcaz 227

10. Klaas Vantornout 226



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