Mathieu van der Poel’s World Cup dominance continued on Boxing Day with his fifth consecutive win of the 2018-2019 season. In Zolder, Belgium’s seventh round world champion Wout Van Aert was second and Joris Niewenhius made his first elite men’s World Cup podium. Belgian Toon Aerts clung tenaciously to the series lead.
— Team Sunweb (@TeamSunweb) December 26, 2018
Mathieu van der Poel may have won the last four rounds of the World Cup but Belgian Toon Aerts led compatriot Wout Van Aert by 17-points and van der Poel by 95-points in the standings going into the Heusden-Zolder race, the Dutchman having skipped the first two rounds in North America.
The riders faced cold 3.21-km laps on Wednesday. Canadians Michael van den Ham and Cameron Jette were ready to roll.
Quinten Hermans took the hole shot on Lap 1 with Van Aert right on his wheel. Van Aert had to pit early. Michael Vanthourenhout grabbed the reins of the lead serpent. Toon Aerts led van der Poel, Hermans and Vanthourenhout over the line. Van Aert was 14-seconds behind. Van den Ham was 38th and Jette 56th.
Van Aert chased through Lap 2 and Lap 3 but Vanthourenhout’s pace-making kept a trio including van der Poel and Aerts up front. Aerts’ error let van der Poel go solo.
European champ van der Poel added to his lead on Lap 4 of nine, with a 12-second gap back to Vanthourenhout. Van den Ham was 40th and Jette 55th.
On Lap 5 poor luck afflicted Vanthourenhout as his chain jammed. He was out of the podium race. Van Aert, Aerts, Hermans and Sunweb’s Joris Niewenhius were van der Poel’s closest pursuers 31-seconds behind.
— UCI Cyclocross (@UCI_CX) December 26, 2018
Van der Poel’s gap increased on Laps 6 and 7. Van Aert powered away from his chasemates. Jette was one of the lapped riders pulled.
When he heard the bell, the rampant Dutchman led Van Aert by 21-seconds. Niewenhius was 37-seconds back, Aerts and Laurens Sweeck 47-seconds in arrears.
Niewenhius hung on to his first elite men’s World Cup podium. Aerts’ fourth place was enough to keep him in the lead over Van Aert by 7-points. Van der Poel is 75-points back in third place.
Only two World Cup rounds remain: January 20 in Pont-Château, France, and January 27 at Hoogerheide, the Netherlands. The World Championships are February 2 and 3 in Bogense, Denmark.
2018-2019 UCI Cyclocross World Cup, Round Seven, Zolder, Belgium, Elite Men
1) Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands) 1:02:49
2) Wout Van Aert (Belgium) +0:16
3) Joris Niewenhius (Sunweb/The Netherlands) +0:29
39) Michael van den Ham (Canada) +4:36