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After riding away already in the first lap, van der Poel was in a class of his own at the muddy final World Cup race in Hoogerheide; Van Aert was a distant second which was enough to win the World Cup overall












24.01.2016 @ 16:27 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Mathieu van der Poel confirmed his status as the overwhelming favourite for next week’s World Championships when he crushed the opposition in today’s final World Cup race on home soil in Hoogerheide. The world champion rode away already in the first lap and increased his advantage during the rest of the race to take a dominant win. Wout Van Aert beat Kevin Pauwels in the battle for second place and secured himself a comfortable overall World Cup victory.


When he had to skip 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: to defend his World Championships. When he finally returned to racing, it took some time for him to get back up to speed but he seems to have timed his condition for his big goal next weekend perfectly.


Today van der Poel was in a class of his own at the big dress rehearsal at the final World Cup race in Hoogerheide. The world champion spent almost the entire race as the lone leader and constantly put time into his rivals.


Until now, van der Poel has usually been the fastest on the technical courses while Wout van Aert has been the best in muddy conditions. Hence, it must be very reassuring for the Dutchman that he managed to beat his archrival in today’s race whose mud turned it into one of the hardest race of the year.


The conditions meant that it was all about power and the differences were created almost right from the start. Van der Poel made his decisive attack already in the first lap and from there it was a procession as he extended his advantage every lap.


Van Aert had had a slower start and initially found himself in a chase group with Kevin Pauwels, Laurens Sweeck and Tom Meeusen. However, he dropped his rivals with a surge in the mud in the second lap and from there it looked like it was all about third place.


That fight was quickly whittled down to a battle between Meeusen, Sweeck and Pauwels and at first it was Meeusen who rode away. However, Pauwels gauged his efforts perfectly and slowly reeled his compatriot in before distancing his rivals.


Suddenly, the race came into life again when Pauwels got closer to Van Aert and at the start of the final lap, he was suddenly just 6 seconds behind. However, the World Cup leader had an extra gear and comfortably increased his advantage the final time around the circuit. A disappointed Sven Nys had to settle for 13th.


While he was unable to win the final race, Van Aert took a convincing victory in the overall World Cup with a 43-point advantage over Lars van der Haar who suffered in the mud and had to settle for seventh. Pauwels was third ahead of Nys while van der Poel managed to end the series in fifth despite missing the first two races.


With the World Cup over, all the attention turns to next Sunday’s World Championships in Heusden-Zolder before the final two series, the Superprestige and Bpost Bank Trofee, come to a conclusion in February.



How it unfolded:

Laurens Sweeck took the hole-shot and was followed by Tom Meeusen, Wout Van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Gianni Vermeersch as he tackled the first part of the course but was quickly passed by Vermeersch and van der Poel who moved ahead as they hit the mud.


Vermeersch and van der Poel slowly got a small advantage, with Sweeck and van Aert following in a second group, and when van der Poel noticed the gap, he immediately moved ahead. Unsurprisingly, Vermeersch was unable to follow his pace and dropped back to Sweeck and Van Aert who had been joined by Kevin Pauwels.


At the end of the first lap, van der Poel had an 8-second advantage over Sweeck, Van Aert and Pauwels while Vermeersch was now with Meeusen four seconds further back. Tim Melier and Clement Venturini were next while Sven Nys led a bigger group 22 seconds behind.


Van Aert didn’t look like his usual strong self in the mud and had a hard time keeping up with Sweeck. Meanwhile, Meeusen joined the 3-rider chase group which was constantly losing ground to the dominant van der Poel.


Van Aert made a few mistakes at the start of the second lap but he slowly got the engine working and in a muddy section near the end of the second, he rode away from the rest. Meanwhile, Lars van der Haar had moved to the front of the first big group and was making his way back to Toon Aerts who had escaped.


At the end of the second lap, van der Poel had extended his advantage over van Aert to 16 seconds while Pauwels, Meeusen and Sweeck were 25 seconds adrift. Ban der Haar was next at 40 seconds, followed by Aerts, Vermeersch, Merlier and Nys.


In the third lap, van der Poel and Van Aert both extended their leads and it became apparent that it was all about third place. After Pauwels had done most of the chase work, Sweeck took over and surprisingly Pauwels started to suffer.  Meanwhile, Nys was moving up and had passed a fading van der Haar while also approaching Aerts who was now riding in sixth place.


At the end of the third lap, vVan Aert had seen the gap go out to 25 seconds while the three chasers were now at 46 seconds. Aerts was getting close at 55 seconds while Nys and Klaas Vantornout were just a few seconds further adrift.


In the fourth lap, Meeusen took over the pace-setting and while his teammate Aerts approached from behind, he dropped his companions. Van Aert continued to slowly lose time and at the end of the lap, he was 33 seconds behind. Meeusen was at 54 seconds and only had a dour-second advantage over Pauwels and Sweeck, with Aert following nine seconds further adrift. Further back, Nys, Merlier, van der Haar, Vermeersch, Vantornout and Michael Vanthourenhout formed a bigger group.


Pauwels was getting up to speed and slowly reeled Meeusen in, with the Telenet rider latching on to the back of the group. At the end of the fifth lap, they had been distanced by 1.12 while Van Aert was now at 46 seconds. Aerts was 1.27.


Further back, Nys was looking to put his rivals under pressure in a muddy section and looked like he was riding away when he hit the deck. He was back on his bike immediately but the tumble made that he was in chase mode with Vanthourenhout a few seconds behind Vermeersch, Merlier and Vantornout who had seen van der Haar ride away.


Pauwels continued to ride hard in the next lap and after Meeusen had lost contact, Sweeck also had to surrender. In fact he slowly got closer to Van Aert and when the pair crossed the line at the start of the penultimate lap they were 54 and 1.06 adrift respectively. Sweeck was 1.18, Meeusen at 1.29 and Aerts at 1.44. Vermeersch and van der Haar had a 10-second advantage over the group with Nys, Vanthourenhout, Merlier and Vantornout.


The next lap turned out to be an exciting affair as the second place had suddenly come into play. Pauwels was slowly getting closer and when he started the final lap, he was just six seconds behind van Aert who was 59 seconds behind van der Poel. Sweeck was more than 20 seconds behind Pauwels and so out of the battle for the podium. Behind Meeusen and Aerts, van der Haar was now on his own, followed by Vermeersch and a group with Merlier and Vanthourenhout, while Nys seemed to have sat up.


It soon became apparent that Pauwels was not going to make it though and the final lap became a bit of a ceremony. Van der Poel had time to celebrate his win and stepped off the gas a bit. He had plenty of time to celebrate the win and as Van Aert had to ride hard, the Belgian reduced his deficit at the finish to 48 seconds, with Pauwels being 11 seconds off the pace in third. Sweeck and Meeusen completed the top 5 while a disappointed Nys had to settle for 13th.



1. Mathieu van der Poel 1.07.31

2. Wout Van Aert +0.48

3. Kevin Pauwels +0.59

4. Laurens Sweeck +1.30

5. Tom Meeusen +1.49

6. Toon Aerts +2.00

7. Lars van der Haar +2.16

8. Gianni Vermeersch +2.41

9. Marcel Meisen +2.55

10. Tim Merlier +3.02


Overall World Cup result:

1. Wout Van Aert 476

2. Lars van der Haar 433

3. Kevin Pauwels 421

4. Sven Nys 389

5. Mathieu van der Poel 385

6. Laurens Sweeck 331

7. Tom Meeusen 321

8. Toon Aerts 284

9. Klaas Vantornout 265

10. Gianni Vermeersch 259



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