Van der Poel is supremely better than his arch-rival Van Aert in his first game on the pitch

Cyclocross duels between Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert have been a spectacle for almost a decade. But the first meeting between the season’s two best players was no longer exciting after three of the ten rounds. In the Exact Cross race in Mol, Belgium, Van der Poel was clearly better.

Van Aert had to settle for second place. He crossed the finish line more than a minute later than the fresh-looking Dutchman. Victory in the women’s category went to Lucinda Brand.

“More fun with Wout da”

People have been eagerly waiting for the first cyclocross race where the two arch-rivals will start together for weeks.

Van der Poel was also looking forward to this. “It’s always more fun there with Wout. He always pushes me to my limits and today will be no different,” said the new Athlete of the Year ahead of the start against the Belgian Sporza.

As of Friday afternoon, it turned out the situation wasn’t that bad.

In the first two rounds Van Aert managed to follow the Dutch world champion. On the sand strips around Zilvermeer the pair appeared neck-and-neck, but a lap later Van der Poel flew away after accelerating up one of the steep hills. After twenty minutes of racing the difference was clearly evident.

After a while, Van der Poel had to deal with a broken chain, but he managed to overcome it with confidence. “I thought I rode particularly well in the sand. That is of course the most important thing in a Sandcross,” Van der Poel replied after his victory. “I felt good and had a good pace without going over the edge.”

Belgian Niels Vandeputte finished third, more than two minutes behind Van der Poel. Tom Pidcock, Lars van der Haar, Pim Ronhaar and Eli Iserbyt, winners of one or more World Cup races this season, missed the cross country at Mol.

Van der Poel and Van Aert started the crossover season this month as they have been mostly busy preparing for the new road season in recent months.

Van Aert researched the Paris-Roubaix route two days ago. The Belgian will even miss the Cyclocross World Championships in February, as will Tom Pidcock. It says something about drivers’ priorities.

The ‘big three’ will reunite tomorrow

The cross at the Mol marked the beginning of a short but intense competitive phase for Van der Poel and Van Aert. Multiple world champions do a lot of cyclocross racing, especially on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Tomorrow, the “big three” will race against each other for the first time, and former world champion Pidcock will be at the start of the World Cup race in Antwerp.

In the women’s race, Lucinda Brand took victory convincingly ahead of Shirin van Anrooij and Belgian Laura Verdonschot.

In the not very strong cross country race (leaders Fem van Empel, Ceylin Alvarado and Puck Pieterse missed it) it looked like a big fight in the first lap between compatriots and teammates Brand and Van Anrooij. However, halfway through the game Brand gained momentum and eventually broke away from him, allowing him to celebrate early.

After a strong start, Van Anrooij fell back a bit and was even briefly overtaken by Verdonschot and Sanne Cant in the final laps. However, he rode much better on the long stretches of sand in the final stage and thus secured second place.

Source: NOS