Wout van Aert solos away from Mathieu van der Poel’s challenge in World Cup Dendermonde

Van Aert makes it four-in-four as van der Poel places second in season debut.

Photo: Getty Images

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Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) went solo through the back-half of a muddy Dendermonde World Cup on Sunday to score his fourth win of the season and maintain his season clean-sheet.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) punched into second-place in his winter debut, starting strong before stiffening slightly in his first race after his recent struggles with injuries.

Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) filled out the podium in third place.

“This is a beautiful victory, it’s the World Cup on the highest level,” van Aert said. “The week of Christmas is the most beautiful week to ride cyclocross races. I’m happy to start my season like this and hope to continue like this.”

Van der Poel had played down his chances ahead of the race Sunday after struggling with a knee injury in recent weeks. The world champ seemed content with how it went on a heavy, hilly race.

“It was OK, it went to my expectations,” he said after placing second. “The first half was quite good and the second half the shape let me down a bit. But I hope that will come soon in all the races I’m doing.”

It was all eyes on van der Poel, van Aert, and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) in their first three-way clash of the season, but the Brit was never to be seen at the pointy end of the race, finishing eighth.

World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) finished ninth but retains his comfortable series lead, now with an 85-point margin over teammate Michael Vanthourenhout.

Van der Poel sure didn’t look rusty after his long layoff and recent injuries.

The world champ blasted from the middle of the grid to move up to fourth in the opening minutes before progressing to second through the first circuit.

Aerts pulled away from the packed field in the opening laps before van der Poel reeled him in, with van Aert joining shortly afterward to form a trio at the front of the race.

Aerts, van Aert, and van der Poel pulled out a strong lead through lap two, leading the race by around 15 seconds.

Van Aert’s fast feet saw him pull away from Aerts and van Der Poel in lap three, taking a handful of seconds. Van der Poel had looked to be slowing after his fast start, but refound his legs in the middle of the race and gradually winched his way back to van Aert’s wheel, with Aerts joining soon afterward.

The three leaders weren’t together long after they came back to each other on lap four. Van Aert squeezed clear in the fifth lap, accelerating away over a steep bridge and gaining a few more seconds in a bumpy running section.

Van der Poel again began to look ragged through laps five and six as van Aert motored away to a 20-plus second lead. The world champ could be seen sitting up to stretch his back through the final circuits but remained strong enough to distance Aerts and move into a comfortable second place in his first ‘cross since winning his rainbow jersey this January.

Van Aert rode unchallenged to his second-straight win on the Dendermonde course before van der Poel crossed the line 49 seconds later.

Van Aert, van der Poel, Aerts, Pidcock and all the other top ‘crossers will be back in action at Superprestige Heusden-Zolder on Monday.

UCI Cyclocross World Cup Dendermonde elite men

  1. Wout van Aert: 1:03:48
  2. Mathieu van der Poel: +00:49
  3. Toon Aerts: +1:18

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