Seven months after his rainbow jersey for cyclo-cross, Mathieu Van der Poel claimed the road race UCI World title in Glasgow.
Mathieu Van der Poel can do it all. Cycling fans have been familiar with the Dutchman’s extraordinary versatility for years, but the Dutch star achieved a new feat on Sunday as he powered to victory in the Men Elite road race of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships.
MVDP took glory in Glasgow with a solo victory, finishing more than a minute and a half ahead of Wout van Aert (BEL) and Tadej Pogačar (SLO), who joined him on the podium.
“It was one of the biggest goals I had left and to win today is amazing”, Van der Poel said of his first UCI World title on the road. “It completes my career in my opinion. It may be my biggest victory on the road yet. I can’t imagine riding with the rainbow for a year.”
Crowned for the fifth time in the UCI Men Elite Cyclo-cross World Championships earlier this year, Van der Poel emulates his Dutch compatriot Marianne Vos, who also took both rainbow jerseys in 2006 and 2012. MVDP’s extraordinary year also includes Monument victories in Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix. And he’s also set to participate in the mountain bike cross-country Olympic (XCO) race next week to chase another gold medal in these UCI Worlds that are bringing 13 UCI World Championships together in Glasgow and across Scotland.
An intense battle from Edinburgh
After many breakaway attempts from the start in Edinburgh, nine riders managed to escape the bunch and lead the way towards Glasgow: Owain Doull (GBR), Ryan Christensen (NZL), Harold Tejada (COL), Kevin Vermaerke (USA), Patrick Gamper (AUT), Matthew Dinham (AUS), Rory Townsend (IRL), Krists Neilands (LAT) and Petr Kelemen (CZE).
They maintained a hard pace, above 45km/h in the first hour and a half, until the race was interrupted due to a protest on the road. The action resumed with a gap of 6’30’’ between the early attackers and the bunch but Slovenia, Australia and Denmark showed their ambitions and drove the chase.
The riders arrived in Glasgow in the early afternoon, with 10 laps to cover on a technical 14.3km closing circuit. The pace was hard, causing splits to appear early and, with 135km to go, Julian Alaphilippe set off. The French two-time UCI World Champion was closely watched and his move was quickly cancelled out… but the battle was on.
A flurry of attacks in Glasgow
The likes of Neilson Powless (USA), Mads Pedersen (DEN), Tadej Pogačar and defending UCI Word Champion Remco Evenepoel (BEL) were amongst the riders who participated in the following moves. Danes, Belgians and Italians kept the pressure on, until fewer than 40 riders remained in contention as they entered the last 100km, with a gap of 1’ from the early attackers to the chasers.
As Van der Poel put the hammer down, only five riders got back to Vermaerke and Dinham, the last survivors of the early breakaway, with 75km remaining. The Flying Dutchman was joined by his spring rivals Van Aert and Pogačar, as well as Pedersen and Alberto Bettiol (ITA).
Benoît Cosnefroy (FRA) brought back some 20 riders… only to see Pedersen attack again into the last 70km. Pogačar also accelerated, and Evenepoel tried to get away, again and again, but it was Bettiol who eventually opened a gap with 56km to go, as the rain started to pour.
MVDP takes off to the rainbow
Pogačar, Van der Poel, Van Aert and Pedersen reacted with 42km remaining. Bettiol took the gap up to 30 seconds and it was still 24 seconds going into the last two laps (28.6km to go).
The Italian leader was eventually caught at 23km out… and Van der Poel immediately attacked. This time, nobody could match the Dutchman’s power. Bettiol was dropped while Pogačar, Van Aert and Pedersen tried to collaborate behind Van der Poel.
Nothing could contain the Dutchman’s flight to victory, not even a crash with 16km to go. Van der Poel immediately got back up and went on to show his power on the slopes of Montrose Street (up to 14%). His lead was up to 31’’ as he entered the final lap.
The chase trio battled for the remaining medals. And Van Aert eventually managed to open a small gap to take second position 1’37’’ behind Van der Poel and 8’’ ahead of Pogačar, who rounds out the podium after an incredible race.