Wout van Aert called it nerve-racking, Mathieu van der Poel spoke of exciting. Not only vocally, but also physically, the Big Two kept each other in balance. However, the royal sprint in Zolder was ruined by an opposing pedal. Van Aert won, but there is less and less difference in condition and or technique. On a course with many altimeters in Gavere, Tom Pidcock was able to keep up the appearance that there are currently three (road) riders standing out in the cross for three quarters of the race. In Zolder, however, we got to see one long duet. After the opening lap, Van Aert and Van der Poel already had an 18-second lead. Each lap they drove eight seconds faster than the rest. The term Big Two is more often accurate than Big Three.
Van Aert quickly realized that it would result in a sprint-à-deux. “In the first round, Mathieu raged fiercely. After three rounds I had convinced myself not to waste energy with attack attempts that stood little chance.” The Belgian champion was already sitting before the cross with a sprint in his head. During the warm-up, he rode a bicycle, which could pedal the gear 50 x 11. With a normal cross bike that is 46 x 11. In the last straight line the wind blew at the back. With a 50 x 11 (9.53 meters per pedal revolution) you have an advantage compared to the 46 x 11 (8.77 meters per staircase revolution). “First time with a 50 x 11 cross.” Unfortunately for Van Aert, the competition had noticed his ‘road resistance’. Van der Poel also got a bicycle with a maximum gear combination of 50 x 11 from the stable. Matched weapons in a flight meeting at 27.1 km/h.
Battle of Zolder
Nevertheless, the battle in Zolder was settled by the material. In the last sand strip, Van der Poel’s right pedal faltered, so that Van Aert started the sprint against his will. When the sprint was started, the Dutchman again shot out of his pedal. Van der Poel: “I’ve had it before in training. When I sprint, I wriggle my feet a lot, so there is always a little chance of going off the pedal.”