Mathieu van der Poel blazes to victory on season debut at World Cup Hulst

Four-time world champion rampages to win first 'cross race in 11 months, Tom Pidcock suffers heavy crash, buckles wheel, does not finish.

Photo: Getty Images

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Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was back to his usual barnstorming self with an aggressive victory at World Cup Hulst.

The four-time world champion distanced Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) in the middle of the mucky, technical race and rampaged away to dominate his season debut and win his first ‘cross in 11 months.

Pidcock suffered a dramatic crash in the final lap and did not finish.

The Brit crashed and slid into a fencepost, leaving him with a buckled wheel, far out of the running, and opting to retire.

Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) finished second after he and Pidcock had been leading the chase behind the charging Van der Poel. Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) rounded out the podium.

Victory on Sunday was Van der Poel’s first since he powered into the rainbow jersey in the Oostende world championships last January. It was also his fifth win on the Hulst circuit.

“It feels pretty good, it’s been a long while since I won a cyclocross race,” he said afterward. “Last year wasn’t a good season. I wouldn’t even call it a season because it was one and a half races due to the back issues.”

Van der Poel said he will iron out the kinks in his ‘cross technique in the coming races as he heads toward a showdown with Wout van Aert, and possibly Pidcock, at the ‘cross worlds in February.

“I had a good preparation coming toward Hulst. I’m really happy with the shape,” he said. “Technically I made a lot of mistakes, but I think that’s normal.”


It only took Van der Poel one lap to brush off the cobwebs of a long time away from cyclocross following the injury that ended his 2021-22 winter.

The Dutchman suffered a crash and series of slips in the first circuit of what is his home World Cup but soon found his groove. He went on to bridge a 17-second gap to race-leaders Pidcock and Sweeck, before taking the advantage when Pidcock made an error.

Once Van der Poel got the gap over Pidcock and the chasing Sweeck, he was relentless in building out a 10-second lead over the hard-pursuing pair.

Pidcock was leading the chase when his race was dramatically derailed in the final circuit.

The Ineos Grenadiers rider’s wheel buckled when he slid out at the bottom of a tricky downhill. Pidcock’s bike slid sideways into a fencepost and the world champion hit the pole hard. Pidcock looked winded and struggled to remount his chain as Sweeck and the chasers came past him. He retired soon afterward.

Second place for Sweeck sees him top compatriot Iserbyt in the series standings by just four points.

The World Cup resumes in Antwerp next Sunday.

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