Cyclo-cross: Mathieu van der Poel world champion for the sixth time

Without Wout van Aert and Thomas Pidcock, the outcome of the race was in little doubt

Cyclo-cross: Mathieu van der Poel world champion for the sixth time

Without Wout van Aert and Thomas Pidcock, the outcome of the race was in little doubt. Huge favorite for the cyclo-cross world championships, Mathieu van der Poel easily won on Sunday February 4 in Tábor (Czech Republic), and validated his sixth title in the discipline. Without his two main competitors, who decided to skip this year to devote themselves to their preparation for the road season, the Dutchman flew through the race.

Van der Poel acquired his second consecutive world champion title with much less suspense than in 2023, when he beat Van Aert in the sprint in Hoogerheide (Netherlands). This time, the Dutchman, from the first of the six laps of the race, very quickly relegated the competition to several tens of seconds. Only Joris Nieuwenhuis, who finished in 2nd place 37 seconds behind his compatriot, was able to stay at a reasonable distance.

On a muddy and sticky course, far from being frozen as could be expected, Van der Poel also dominated the Belgian Michael Vanthourenhout, who finished 3rd, while the Frenchman Clément Venturini finished in a disappointing 16th place, he who could aim for a podium after his 5th place in 2022.

Thanks to this sixth world champion title, Van der Poel approaches the legend of cyclo-cross, Eric De Vlaeminck, crowned seven times between 1966 and 1973. Will the Dutchman try to equal the Belgian from the 'next year ? There is room for doubt because, in recent weeks, Raymond Poulidor's grandson has publicly questioned his presence on the cyclo-cross circuit.

The French crowned in mixed relay

“I don’t think it adds value to me for the spring. It’s better to ride five or six hours of endurance than one hour flat out,” said Van der Poel. While some cyclists prepare for the road season with training in the mountains and in Spain, the Dutchman has favored cyclo-cross races for several years to get in shape.

“There will come a day when I won’t do it anymore. It has to make sense,” said the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider. In Tábor, where he won the cyclo-cross title for the first time in 2015, at just 20 years old, Van der Poel may have competed in his last world championships for a while. The Dutchman will make his decision at the end of the year and will now devote himself to the 2024 road season, with the Olympic Games in his sights but perhaps not the Tour de France.

On the French side, these cyclo-cross world championships were a success with the success of the French in the mixed race on Friday. Member of this victorious relay, Célia Gery (18) also won gold in the junior race on Saturday and confirms her potential after her title of European champion acquired in November. In the elite women's race, it was the Dutchwoman Fem van Empel, already winner last year, who was crowned world champion.