The Dutchman and Wout van Aert were inseparable for the entire race until Mathieu van der Poel made his move. He outsprinted his nemesis and took another rainbow jersey. It was his fifth championships win after already triumphing in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland, and Belgium. Eli Iserbyt claimed the bronze ahead of Lars van der Haar.
“It’s really difficult to describe,” Van der Poel said after the finish. “I think this is how everybody would say in advance how the race should be – a sprint with me against Wout. It’s incredible. I think this was for sure in my top three of my nicest victories of all time. I’m going to remember this for a long time.”
“I felt super relaxed,” Van der Poel said of the final lap to the reporters. “I think that was maybe the key to winning today. I could stay really calm. I think everybody expected me to make a move at the barriers, but I already knew I wanted to go to the sprint. I know the sprint here. It’s super strange and difficult to put into words.
“I worked super hard for this one. I had a few preparations with my back again. I reset with my team at the training camp and worked towards this goal, which I already marked at the beginning of the season. I’m just really, really happy.”
Van Aert expected van der Poel to use his bunny-hopping skills to force a gap in the final section of the barriers but he bided his time and charged to the line late with no time for the Belgian to react.
What a day to conclude the 2023 @UCI_CX World Championships! 🙌
Men Junior 🥇 Léo Bisiaux 🇫🇷
Women U23 🥇 Shirin van Anrooij 🇳🇱
Men Elite 🥇 Mathieu van der Poel 🇳🇱#Hoogerheide2023
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) February 5, 2023
“In my mind I was always expecting to be in second position on the sprint because of the placement of the barriers,” said a disappointed Van Aert. “I was focused on that and I was a bit confused so I forgot to ride my own sprint. If I sprinted straight from the corner maybe Mathieu passes me but I would probably have a better feeling if I had done it.
“I feel like I could have won the race as we were in the final minute of the race together and I still had my chance. He came from behind getting two bike lengths, I got into his slipstream but couldn’t close it in time. I had a 48-inch front ring on the back, I started changing gears as soon as Mathieu passed me but I didn’t have enough gears.”
“I think everybody knows the story,” van der Poel added. “We pushed each other already for 10 years already. Also, the crowds – if it was just me and him it would’ve been different. We pushed each other to a higher level but also the sport – I’ve never seen anything like this in cyclocross. It’s a super cool story we are writing. But it’s not the end – we still have the road season and for sure I’ll see him again.”
Who do you think will end up ahead then? Let us know!
2023 CX – World Championship results
1. Mathieu van der Poel (NED) – 01:07:20
2. Wout van Aert (BEL) + 00
3. Eli Iserbyt (BEL) + 12
4. Lars van der Haar (NED) + 13
5. Michael Vanthourenhout (BEL) + 46
6. Gerben Kuypers (BEL) + 54
7. Niels Vandeputte (BEL) + 57
8. Laurens Sweeck (BEL) + 59
9. Cameron Mason (GBR) + 01:08
10. Clément Venturini (FRA) + 01:30