Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) won the seventh round of the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Zolder, Belgium on Tuesday.

Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) seems to be back full health after putting in another near-perfect performance at the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Zolder, Belgium on Tuesday. The Dutchman was suffering the effects of a cold last weekend and was only able to muster a third-place finish at the World Cup stop in Namur. However, he looks a powerful force again, as he won by over 30 seconds and that was after he had slowed his speed on the final lap.

Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus) had a fantastic ride in Zolder to finish second. After a somewhat slower start than Wout van Aert (Crelan-Charles) and van der Poel, he was able to catch the world champion and then attack him on the final lap to finish behind van der Poel on the day. Van Aert settled for third after battling with Sweeck in the final moments. He offered a high-five to his countryman after he finished, which Sweeck accepted.

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Heading into the Zolder World Cup, van der Poel’s strength was a bit of an unknown. The European champion was off his game the week prior due to a cold and had spent considerable time off the bike trying to recover and get healthy. It remained to be seen how he would fare due to the missed training time, even if he was healthy.

Van der Poel quieted the skeptics right away by capturing the holeshot to lead the elite men on course. Van Aert was right behind the World Cup leader, not giving him an inch.

Kevin Pauwels’ (Marlux-Napolean Games) race did not start off the way he had hoped, as he pitted early and was forced to deal with the scrum of riders at the back of the pack. He would pick his way through the field throughout the race, but only mustered a 12th-place finish.

Quickly on the opening lap, Van der Poel forced an early selection with his brutal pace. Only van Aert, and Telenet Fidea teammates Lars van der Haar and Daan Soete were able to follow the Dutchman. However, by the end of the lap, only van Aert was still with van der Poel. The high pace was too much for van der Haar and Soete.

Van Aert came to the front for the first time on the second lap and injected a bit of pace to try to put van der Poel on the limit. Nobody has been able to stay with van der Poel late in races, but van Aert wasn’t content to just ride his wheel and see if he could hang on. With van der Poel’s recovery from illness unknown, van Aert looked to try to capitalize with a hard pace early in the race.

Sweeck was moving through the ranks after a slow start and soon joined the chasing Telenet Fidea duo of van der Haar and Soete behind the two leaders. He would leave the riders in black and yellow behind on the third lap. Although, he had a deficit of 18 seconds to van Aert and van der Poel at the end of the third lap.

The fourth lap was where van der Poel made his mark. He applied pressure to van Aert early and soon the elastic snapped. Van Aert was unable to keep pace with van der Poel and lost 14 seconds to him in a single lap. Luckily, his advantage over Sweeck hadn’t changed with his fellow Belgian still 16 seconds behind. At this point, Soet and van der Haar were 45 seconds behind van der Poel. The podium looked to be set.

While the podium looked to be set midway through the race, the order was not. Van Aert was clearly suffering while in second and Sweeck dug deep and made the junction to the world champion on the finishing straight entering two laps to go. Meanwhile, van der Haar had left Soete behind to move into sole possession of fourth place.

The final round was an intense battle for second between van Aert and Sweeck. In the rainbow bands, van Aert was determined not to go down without a fight. He was clearly suffering but managed to put in multiple attacks on Sweeck. Sweeck clawed him back each time, before finally putting in an attack of his own late in lap. He would only need that one attack, as he got enough of a gap to power to the finish. Van Aert sprinted desperately on the finishing straight trying to catch Sweeck but simply ran out of room.

Van der Haar rolled across the line in fourth with Soete in fifth. Corner van Kessel (Telenet Fidea) outsprinted Tim Merlier (Crelan-Charles) for sixth.

The Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup series continues on January 21 in Nommay, France. Van der Poel has been victorious at five of the seven rounds of the World Cup series that have been completed and has been on the podium at all of them.

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