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Van der Poel dominates penultimate World Cup race in Hulst

Van Aert edges closer to third elite World Cup title

World champion Mathieu van der Poel didn’t enjoy the mucky third round of the World Cup in Dendermonde, finishing nearly three minutes back of winner Wout Van Aert, but the Dutchman took his revenge on Sunday at Round 4 in Hulst, the Netherlands, putting down the hammer on the first of 10 laps to win big.

Hulst was the penultimate round of the World Cup. The first three rounds went to Michael Vanthourenhout, van der Poel and Wout Van Aert, with Van Aert assuming the series lead from Vanthourenhout after the filthy Dendermonde round. Last year’s Hulst winner, Eli Iserbyt, recovered from his elbow injury suffered at Zolder in the Superprestige series to come fourth on Friday in the fifth round of the X2O Trofee. In head-to-head meetings this season, van der Poel had won three races and Van Aert two.

Not only was it Canadian champion Michael van den Ham’s last race in Europe before the World Championships in Ostend, Belgium on January 31, it was also van der Poel’s last race before Worlds.

Winner of the World Cup over the last two seasons, Toon Aerts grabbed an early lead on Lap 1. Van der Poel was first over the line, and then Van Aert missed his bike in the pits.

Van der Poel goes clear early.

Van der Poel pulled out a 20-second lead on Lap 2. Van Aert and Vanthourenhout reached Aerts to become the world champion’s closest pursuers. Tom Pidcock joined them.

Thirty-eight second separated van der Poel from the chasers after Lap 3.

With van der Poel far ahead, the podium competition between Van Aert, Aerts, Vanthourenhout and Pidcock became the real contest.

Van Aert, Aerts and Pidcock laboured to bring Vanthourenhout back on Lap 4. Van den Ham was 35th.

By the midpoint of the race, van der Poel had already lapped a couple of fellows and was 1:03 ahead of Vanthourenhout. Many riders would get the yank on Sunday–only 17 finished.

The world champion was 1:03 clear at the midway point.

Pidcock and Van Aert reeled in Vanthourenhout on Lap 6. The trio continued its podium tussle on Lap 7, with the leader a minute and a half ahead. By Lap 8, Vanthourenhout had been distanced by the others.

Just before the bell lap, with van der Poel still 1:25 in the lead, Van Aert pulled out a gap on the Brit and held it to the finish line. Van Aert leads van der Poel at the top of the standings by 15 points.

Van der Poel has now won four races in a row and eight out of 11 races this season.

The final round is January 24 in Overijse.

2020-2021 UCI World Cup Round 5, Hulst, Elite Men

1) Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherland/Alpecin-Fenix) 1:05:27
2) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Jumbo-Visma) +1:31
3) Tom Pidcock (Great Britain/Trinity Racing) +1:49
33) Michael van den Ham (Canada)