After three years of near-misses, Mathieu van der Poel finally won his first World Cup XCO in Nové Mesto, Czech Republic on Sunday.
The Dutch cycling star seems to find success with ease wherever he races, be it in cyclocross or on the road. Mountain biking has taken him a little longer to figure out, though. Van der Poel has won multiple Short Track XCC events this year and in 2018, but has never been able to defeat Nino Schurter for the elusive win.
“For me, winning a world cup in mountain bike is maybe the toughest things I can do,” van der Poel said in his interview after the race. “I’ve been trying for three years now, that’s quite a long time. I’ve had some nice victories in short track, but I’ve been dreaming of this.”
Disera on the front
Before van der Poel could showdown with Schurter, it was a Canadian on the front of the race. After finishing seventh in Friday’s XCC, Peter Disera (Norco Factory Team) had a front row start for Sunday’s XCO. The Canadian XCO national champion took off on the start, getting the holeshot corner and leading the race through the opening sections of the start loop.
It wasn’t long before Schurter (Scott-SRAM) and van der Poel (Corendon Circus) took up their grudge match at the front of the race. The pair quickly opened up a gap to the rest of the field, and proceeded to ride wheel to wheel for the nearly the entire seven lap race.
Behind, it was Czech rider Ondrej Cink (Kross Racing) riding a wave of crowd support to sit third. Last weekend’s winner in Albstadt, Germany, Mathias Flueckiger (Thomus RN Racing) and Brazilian national champion Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) chased close behind.
Van der Poel pounces
On the final lap, Schurter and van der Poel were still locked together. Schurter made one effort up the courses most technical climb, but the Dutch rider was still closer than his shadow when they crested the climb.
The final climb on the course was less technical and seemingly less strategically important. Van der Poel thought otherwise and after coasting down a narrow descent where Schurter had no chance to pass, put down a massive effort up the wide-open climb. Schurter could only struggle to follow for a handful of seconds before the powerful Dutch rider disappeared. By the time van der Poel was a the top of the climb, Schurter was no longer even in camera sight.
Van der Poel cruised down to the finish line in Nové Mesto alone, with plenty of room to celebrate his first World Cup win. Schurter came home second, 19 seconds later.
Mathias Flueckiger backed up his Albstadt win with a third place in Nové Mesto, with Avancini following in fourth. Cink took the final extended podium spot, earning a massive roar of support from the Czech crowd.
Canadians in Nove Mesto
While Peter Disera led the race early on, it was Léandre Bouchard (Pivot Cycles – OTE) who crossed the finish line first for Canada. The tall racer finished in a dead heat for 39th with Czech rider Jan Vastil (Superior XC Team). Andrew L’Esperance (Norco Factory Team) earned a career best World Cup finish in 42nd. Paying for his early effort, Disera held on for 49th at the finish line.