Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock provided a perfect gift on Boxing Day on Monday. The Big Three of cyclocross delivered a wonderful spectacle in Gavere, with the Dutchman van Alpecin-Deceuninck as the grand winner of a wonderful race.
Mathieu vd Poel running qualities
After a great victory by Shirin van Anrooij with the women, it was time for the men in Gavere at 3.10 pm. With Van Aert and Van der Poel on the second and third row respectively, it was important to start well, as all men knew. Toon Vandebosch immediately pushed through and took the lead when entering the field. Van Aert, in turn, had a lesser start, but was able to make up for some of his lost places with a good running passage. Van der Poel did not wait for that and took the lead halfway through the first lap. The Dutchman was thus able to start the greasy climb first, on which he used his running qualities. Van Aert did the same and passed his opponents one by one, so that he rose from ten to three in one go. Pidcock did stay on his bike, in the wake of leader Van der Poel.
First lap struggles
During the first lap, Van Aert seemed to struggle to close the gap with the Dutchman and Briton, but a puncture from Van der Poel knocked the Alpecin-Deceuninck leader back. Van Aert and also Michael Vanthourenhout joined the blue monster, leaving us with a chasing group of three behind the lone world champion Pidcock. The Brit continued to cycle the tough climb in Gavere as a lightweight, while the somewhat heavier Van der Poel and Van Aert managed to make up time on the man from Yorkshire. All in all, it resulted in a fantastic three-way battle in Gavere, where the audience had also flocked to experience it live.
Pidcock, however, dazzled and defended his lead over the two ruffs tooth and nail, so that his pursuers also took some more risks to close the gap. In the third lap, Van Aert walked up to Pidcock, but he did not give up and placed another gear. Van der Poel followed frantically and so we got a famous duel between the big three. Van der Poel used his technical qualities in the descent. The Dutchman dived down without fear and barely managed to stay upright, immediately taking a nice lead over Van Aert and co. At the start of the fourth round, the Dutchman had a lead of fourteen seconds, but the Pidcock/Van Aert book was certainly not closed yet.
Pidcock clearly had a good day and gave chase to Van der Poel with a dogged Van Aert in his wake. The little Briton brutally took over from Van der Poel in lap five, who still looked strong. A little too brutal even, because Pidcock overplayed his hand and fell back behind Van Aert, who kept driving between them and was constantly delivering the wattages. In the penultimate round, Van der Poel continued elegantly, putting Van Aert under pressure. The Belgian was clearly on the limit and also made some mistakes, while Pidcock gradually disappeared from view after his good opening phase. At the start of the last lap, Van Aert faced a fourteen-second deficit, which also seemed to break the spring for the Jumbo-Visma man. However, breaking is never ever in Van Aert’s dictionary, who kept rumbling on with the mucus from his mouth. It was not enough for the victory in the end.