Mathieu Van Der Poel’s Bravery Can Help Him Dominate at the Cyclocross World Championships

It’s been a year to remember for Mathieu Van Der Poel, who has enjoyed a tremendously successful 2017. He will go into February’s Cyclocross World Championship hoping for further success in his home country off the back of a remarkable 12 months and, as always, he is likely to be full of confidence. It hasn’t been all plain sailing for the Dutchman, with the rider crashing in the SuperPrestige Gavere, a collision that cost him victory and resulted in several stitches required in his knee. He hasn’t been successful in the Cyclocross World Championships during the previous two stagings but, after running Belgian Wout Van Aert close recently, he will be determined to turn the tables in front of a partisan crowd.

The Rivalry

Van Der Poel was beaten once again by Van Aert on December 16th but the 22-year-old was suffering from a cold and could only manage third in Namur. The winner was victorious by over a mile in miserable conditions but still managed to clock up a time of 1:07:4. The difficulty of the course coupled with the inclement conditions made things difficult for the riders and Van Aert had to dig deep throughout. As of December 19th, Van Der Poel priced up as the 1/2 favourite for the Cyclocross World Championship with his Belgian nemesis second in the betting at 15/8. The duo are considered two of the rising stars of the sport and fans love to witness them do battle. They regularly go head to head and have routinely beaten one another across a number of trails and UCI events, thus creating a fascinating tussle each time they clash. They’ve both previously won major road races and their reputations continue to grow with each passing event but will Van Der Poel be able to wrestle back supremacy in Valkenburg?

Van Der Poel’s Record

Of the rivals, Van Der Poel is the better known and his reputation for the audacious and ambitious has helped him gain a cult following amongst cyclocross fans. Unfortunately, he’s suffered from a frustrating run of injuries but it’s his penchant for taking calculated risks that has endeared him to the public. Racing for Beobank-Corendon he made a name for himself winning the CycloCross World Championships in 2014 before proceeding to pick up three SuperPrestige events throughout the course of the calendar year. He’d previously dominated the Under 23 events winning each of the 30 races that he entered during the 2012-13 season. During the 2016-17 campaign, he wrapped up the seven SuperPrestige titles including CycloCross Gavere and Diegem, the latter being a race in which he’s enjoyed plenty of prosperity over the years. He’s previously enjoyed success in Valkenburg, triumphing during the 2017 World Cup event where he capitalised on a mistake by his rival Van Aert with just two laps to go. He’s also recently branched out with an appearance in the World Cup Cross Country race where he was only beaten by Olympic and World Champion Nino Schurter.

Legacy and the Future

Whilst both Van Aert and Van Der Poel are likely to eventually move into differing spheres, their rivalry has helped re-established interest in cross events outside of their native countries. His fearlessness is a terrific example to upcoming riders who are hoping to emulate his success. “Pressure is not something I fear,” he told reporters, and his opportunistic style has been thoroughly rewarded over the past three or four years. Whilst many novice cyclists are not advised to follow his gung-ho approach to tricky terrain, they can learn plenty from his can-do attitude and never-say-die approach even when the chips are down. His unbelievable save in October 2017 during the final stages in the SuperPrestige Zonhoven showed why he is leading the world rankings and displayed both incredible control and bravery. The Dutchman still has plenty of decisions to make about his future and he has hinted that he may concentrate on mountain biking at the expense of road events. He’s also spoken of his desire to compete at the 2020 Olympics and believes his best chance of success would be on a mountain bike. He looks set to switch his attention to the road in the future, however.

Despite his success, Van Der Poel is still only young and is likely to have an incredibly bright future whichever path he chooses. He is hoping to wrestle back the CycloCross World Championship title from Wout Van Aert and it looks set to be another fascinating battle between the pair. With the home crowd willing him on, he will start as the favourite in Valkenburg and will be aiming to get his 2018 o

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