Dutch fans had plenty of reason to celebrate on Sunday with their athletes winning both races on the second and final day of the 2019 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Bogense, Denmark.
Large crowds gathered on a sunny but cold day in the small coastal town on Funen island. The win for Mathieu Van der Poel in the Men Elite category was the icing on the cake after his season-long domination. Inge van der Heijden surprised by topping an all-Dutch podium in the Women Under-23 category.
Men Elite: Van der Poel claims back the rainbow jersey
After winning nearly every race he took part in this season, Mathieu Van der Poel was the favourite to win the race in the Men Elite category. Then again, in his last three UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships Van der Poel was unable to hold back Wout van Aert (Belgium) from winning and wearing the rainbow striped jersey for three long years. The opening lap of the race showed that the Belgian riders were ready to battle for the jersey on the 2.6km course along the Bogense seafront. Defending UCI World Champion van Aert and Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup winner Toon Aerts took the initiative among the starting field of 58 riders at the beginning of the 12-lap race. Eight riders featured in the lead group after two laps, including Van der Poel, van Aert and Aerts but also Dutch riders Lars van der Haar and Corné van Kessel, Belgians Quinten Hermans and Michael Vanthourenhout, and a surprisingly strong Felipe Orts Lloret (Spain).
The race blew further apart during the third lap when Van der Poel accelerated away on the technically difficult off-camber climb at the back end of the course. Toon Aerts was on the Dutch rider’s tail but struggled to find grip. Van der Poel quickly collected a lead of six seconds as he hit the fourth lap. Behind him, van Aert took over the command from Aerts in the pursuit of Van der Poel. After a captivating lap-long pursuit at 28.18 km/h, van Aert set the fastest lap time of the weekend with 5:32 which was just enough to bring him back to Van der Poel’s wheel. By then, the rest of the field was trailing the duo by 25 seconds. Aerts hit the red zone while trying to close the gap and as it turned out, van Aert was also reaching his limit. The defending UCI World Champion slipped away on the off-camber climb and this time Van der Poel was gone for good. Van der Poel flawlessly tackled the technical course and on every lap was able to put five more seconds into his lead. The 24-year-old Dutch ace captured his second World title in the Men Elite category, four years after his first win in Tábor (Czech Republic). Halfway through the race, Aerts escaped the large chase group and slowly worked his way back up to van Aert. The Belgian duo hit the final lap together in a battle for the silver medal. Aerts appeared to have the edge, but as he slipped away in the final muddy corner of the Bogense course, van Aert powered forward and captured second place ahead of Belgian Champion Aerts.
Women Under-23: van der Heijden heads all-Dutch podium
Earlier on Sunday, the Dutch team dominated the Women Under-23 race. Rather unexpectedly it wasn’t top favourite Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (the Netherlands) who grabbed the gold medal. Instead, her compatriot Inge van der Heijden had the most left in her legs to put in a blistering fast final lap. Van der Heijden won the race well ahead of Fleur Nagengast and Alvarado, for an all-Dutch podium.
It was not all plain sailing for the Dutch trio as they battled strong headwinds on the long finishing straight along the harbour. For six laps, the leaders dropped the pace each time they reached the harbour roads, allowing multiple riders to bridge back up to the front. No less than ten riders featured in the lead group that hit the final lap. Silvia Persico (Italy) led out the group towards the first technical section where the three Dutch women charged forward. After tackling the off-camber climb Alvarado played her cards on the final technical sections of the course. She opened up a gap on van der Heijden and Nagengast and seemed on her way to victory. However, on the roads of Bogense’s old harbour, van der Heijden was able to develop more speed and blasted by Alvarado towards the World title. A disappointed Alvarado was also passed by Nagengast, who then started celebrating along with Van der Heijden as the Dutch trio crossed the finish line.
After two days of splendid cyclo-cross action, Great Britain and the Netherlands top the medal table with two victories each, with the Netherlands getting the edge over the British team by adding two silver and two bronze medals to their tally.