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Daniel Ostanek

X2O Trofee Herentals: Mathieu van der Poel dominates on season debut

World champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won in Herentals after attacking the field on the opening lap (Image credit: Getty Images)
Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin-Deceuninck) tackling the descent at X2O Trofee Herentals (Image credit: Getty Images)
Cameron Mason (Cyclocross Reds) finished fifth at X2O Trofee Herentals (Image credit: Getty Images)
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) dominated X2O Trofee Herentals (Image credit: Getty Images)
Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) finished solo in second place (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is back on the cyclocross bike and already back to dominant best as he easily won his first race of the 2023-24 season, the X2O Trofee round in Herentals.

The world champion hit the front of the field from the gun, pushing the pace from the start in a clear statement of intent. He'd soon be out in the lead on his own, too, leaving his rivals behind on the steep mid-lap climb to power away over the top and down the tricky descent.

He'd remain out front alone until the end of the race, extending his advantage lap after lap in a devastating display of strength. After one lap, he was 13 seconds up, after three the lead was 44 seconds, and with two laps of the eight remaining almost a minute separated Van der Poel and the rest.

By the time he crossed the line for the final time to secure an inevitable victory, Van der Poel had enjoyed the time to ease up and enjoy his win, shedding a chunk of time in the process.

28 seconds later, Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) finished solo in second place, a second ahead of Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) after a multi-rider battle for second that made for far more interesting viewing compared to the world champion's peerless display.

"It actually went quite well from the start," Van der Poel said after the race, according to WielerFlits. "I quickly found myself alone. I immediately had a nice lead. After that it was quite a long hour on my own."

"I felt quite strong and knew that the hill was the most difficult point of the circuit. And I felt good, so I immediately got into the right rhythm. I quickly chose my own pace."

"Was it boring to ride alone for an hour? Certainly not, I enjoyed it. There was only one moment of inattention when I hit the ground. But other than that it was nice to be back."

"I like to do that: ride at my own pace, choose my own lines. So it was fun. I have trained for a long time to get back there and it is nice to get confirmation right away."

The race heralded the start of the cyclocross season for two of the 'big three' stars of the sport, with world champion Van der Poel kicking off his campaign from the front row as former world champion Pidcock started further back.

Van der Poel was soon out in the lead, with Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal pairing, European champion Michael Vanthourenhout and Eli Iserbyt next in line as Pidcock sought to battle his way through the field. After one lap of course, the race already seemed as good as won for Van der Poel, while Pidcock had more work to do, lying in 19th place at 36 seconds down.

The Briton would gradually work his way towards the front, eventually finding himself just 10 seconds off the chase group of Iserbyt, Van der Haar, and Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

His compatriot Cameron Mason (Cyclocross Reds) would make it across first, however, with Pidcock eventually making it five men in the chase on lap five. The to-and-fro in the group continued as Van der Poel rode off in the distance, even if a brief spill on lap four held him up for a handful of seconds.

Vandeputt would be first to drop from the fight for second place, joining Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Corendon) in the third group on the road. Van der Haar was also forced to waste some valuable energy after chasing back on after a crash.

Come the end of the race, with Van der Poel now coasting towards a 150th career cyclocross win (excluding major championships), it was Pidcock who grasped the mantle, making a solo move for second. His acceleration wasn't matched by Van der Haar, Iserbyt, or Mason, leaving the trio to roll home in third, fourth, and fifth places.


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