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"I think he did not want me to chase behind his compatriot Van der Haar but I should really thank him, I only got into my rhythm because only after that point. So basically I would have to say: Merci, Mathieu.”

Photo: UCI Channel














31.01.2016 @ 18:41 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Wout Van Aert made it a perfect season when he won the hugely anticipated battle with Mathieu van der Poel at the World Championships on his home soil in Heusden-Zolder. After a dramatic race in which both pre-race favourites lost ground in a crash, he made his way back to lone leader Lars van der Haar whom he distanced on the final climb to claim a solo win. Van der Haar was five seconds behind in second while Kevin Pauwels beat Sven Nys and a disappointed van der Poel in the battle for third.

We have gathered several reactions.


Wout Van Aert: I have to thank van der Poel

Wout Van Aert was thrilled with his world title. After a grueling battle, he dropped Dutchman Lars van der Haar. However, it did not look good for the young Belgian earlier in the race. After a mistake of Mathieu van der Poel he lost precious seconds halfway through the race. "But due to his mistake, I just got into my rhythm," confessed the newly crowned world champion.


The two top favorites nearly took each other out of contention at the World Championships in Zolder. Mathieu van der Poel slipped in the mud and his foot got entangled in the wheel of closest pursuer Wout Van Aert. This made it possible for Lars van der Haar to escape. "I was surprised that Mathieu closed the door at that time," Van Aert told Het Nieuwsblad afterwards. "I think he did not want me to chase behind his compatriot Van der Haar but I should really thank him, I only got into my rhythm because only after that point. So basically I would have to say: Merci, Mathieu.”


But Van Aert also had praise for his Belgian teammates Laurens Sweeck. "After the delay, I wanted to find some rhythm. Laurens pulled for me and when I was back I started to believe in my chances. I rode straight back to Van der Haar and in the last lap I knew I could do it.” 


It was a real titanic battle, which was only decided in the last half lap. "With Van der Haar you're never done. I knew it was going to be difficult but I felt strong on that last strip. In that section, I really trained the last few weeks."


Last year Van Aert had lots mechanical in Tabor, but he is no longer looking back. “To be world champion in front of your home crowd ... That feeling is unbeatable.”


Van der Haar: I never expected to win this race but the gold medal will come one day

"I never expected to win this Worlds race," Lars van der Haar admitted honestly. "But because of the circumstances, I suddenly had a nice gap and it remained the same for a long time. But then I noticed that someone behind me was stronger so I chose my own pace which was lower. I am proud that I was able to do the race I wanted to do.


“I was close to the title today, but I was just not better than Wout. I wanted to attack there, I created a gap and gave my all.


“Wout was very strong. I hoped he would suffer under the pressure in his home race, but he closed the gap unfortunately. I did everything right, except for one thing. My chain was still on the outer chainring on the climb and Wout ran away from me.


“Of course I am disappointed, but I can live with the fact that Wout was stronger today. I felt good and colored the race. The gold medal will come one day.”


Pauwels: I could never have won this race

"The worlds title was never a possibility for me. In the beginning I did not feel good. It was difficult against these young men,” Pauwels told Sporza.




Nys: I could not have imagined a better finish

Sven Nys is proud of his performance in his last Worlds race. "I am incredibly happy with my performance," an emotional Nys (4th) told Sporza.


Sven Nys (39) could not hide his tears in the Sporza studio. "I am very emotional and I never thought that would happen," said Nys who was 4th in his last World Championships.


"I did what I could and I was where I deserved to be. On a steep climb I just had to succumb to the best rider of the moment. But I am extremely happy with my performance.


"I'm 4th, a few seconds from the podium, and I fight for the title. I never dared to dream that I could do that at my age."


"I could not imagine a nicer end. I don’t care whether I am 2nd, 3rd or 4th but the way I finish means something. I've given the maximum. Last week I finished in three minutes behind. I have no words."


"I saw Van Aert leave and knew he was going for gold. The future lies at the feet of Wout and Mathieu, they will give cross color.”


Previously a lot was written about a Belgian block. Was there a unit in the race? "I think so," Nys explained. "I am pleased that we were able to finish it off as a country. We can be proud


"When I returned to the front, I felt for a few laps that Wout was not alone. And when Kevin Pauwels asked me to take over, I did that once. I took my responsibility and did what I could."


Van der Poel: Wout is the deserved world champion

Mathieu van der Poel was the top favorite in Zolder, but the Dutchman could not defend his title. "I felt at my first attack that I did not have the form of recent weeks," the Dutchman said honestly.


Mathieu van der Poel finished 5th after an eventful race. "Yet I am really disappointed if I'm honest. I came here to win and in the final lap it difficult to fight for third place," Van der Poel told Sporza.


"I felt at my first attack that I did not have the form of recent weeks. Then it is difficult to win this race. When I was in front with Van Aert and Van der Haar, I did not ride through. That would show that I was not super. It was very difficult to ride alone.


"I do not know hy I had a bad day. I cannot blame myself. I had recovered well frommy training week and I felt like I was ready for it, but that's sport: On to the next."


Van der Poel was dropped when his foot got caught up in Van Aert’s front wheel. "It happened in a difficult stretch and I got stuck. I wanted to get off the bike but my foot was caught in his wheel. My foot was hard to get free.


"It was certainly not my intention to put my foot in the wheel of Wout because I lost the race myself. It's impressive how Wout managed to put it right. After this season, he is a deserved world champion. I think everyone thinks he deserves this jersey."


Laurens Sweeck (7th): I was too fast for me

"When the race broke open, it went too fast for me. After the incident, I tried to keep Wout out of the wind. For the Belgian fans and team it could not end in a better way,” Sweeck told Spoza.


Tom Meeusen (8th): I am disappointed

"I have to be disappointed with my eighth place. But Van Aert's obviously a good winner,” Meeusen told Sporza.


Tim Merlier (26th): I accomplished my mission

"I finished the race for the fans and out of respect for my selection. Eventually I accomplished my mission, but I would have preferred to have done some more work for Wout,” Merlier told Sporza.



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