Mathieu van der Poel ended the World Cup series in style with another victory in Hoogerheide. He won seven of the nine rounds in the series.

As has been the case for most of the 2017-18 season, Mathieu van der Poel rode to another solo win on Sunday at the final round of the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands. The victory was a special one, as the race is named after his father Adri and the course is all designed by his father. Adri van der Poel won the cyclocross world championships in 1996.

Van der Poel finished the World Cup series with seven victories to his name out of the nine rounds and he also never finished off of the podium. Wout van Aert (Crelan-Charles) finished second on Sunday and also second in the series.

Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal) and Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus) battled for the entirety of the race for the final podium spot. Vanthourenhout was able to drop Sweeck on the final lap to capture third. The result is a great confidence booster for the young rider with the world championships a mere week away.

Van Aert is the two-time defending champion at the world championships, but at the moment van der Poel seems unstoppable. Van der Poel won the elite men’s world title in 2015 ahead of van Aert. Furthermore, the world championships take place in Valkenburg, the Netherlands, so van der Poel will have a home crowd behind him.

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The start in Hoogerheide is interesting with a flyover serving as the holeshot. It’s important to be at the front because a rider failing to ride up the flyover is inevitable and thus a traffic jam will ensue behind whoever is the first not ride all the way up.

Sweeck took the holeshot with van der Poel and van Aert right behind him. Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea) also had a good start. Van der Haar will be motivated for the world championships, as he has won on the Valkenburg course before, when it was part of the World Cup series.

Sweeck’s time at the front would be short-lived, as van der Poel punched it and left everyone behind. The course in Hoogerheide was damp but extremely quick. However, there were many off-camber descents spread throughout and the circuit finished with a difficult run up a staircase.

The opening lap ended with van der Poel already 10 seconds ahead of Sweeck and Tim Merlier (Crelan-Charles). Van Aert led a large group behind the chasing duo.

The race split to pieces on the second lap with van Aert charging ahead alone in pursuit of van der Poel. Behind him, David van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), Merlier, Vanthourenhout, and Sweeck formed the main chase group.

Telenet Fidea had a plethron of riders competing in Hoogerheide, but none were in the top five early in the race. They were all in the second main chase group. Daan Soete, Toon Aerts, Corne van Kessel, Quinten Hermans and van der Haar were all together. Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Bingoal) looked out of place, as the only non-Telenet Fidea rider in the group.

Pauwels certainly didn’t lack any motivation to have a good ride in Hoogerheide, as the Belgian Federation announced the elite men’s world championship team earlier in the week and he was left off of it. The group finished the second lap more than 30 seconds behind van der Poel and more than 10 seconds behind the chase group of Merlier, Sweeck, Vanthourenhout and David van der Poel.

Sweeck and Vanthourenhout left Merlier and David van der Poel behind on the fourth lap and bettered their odds of a podium finish. The elite men were lapping the circuit incredibly quickly and would end up doing 10 laps in all when the race was finished.

The second half of the elite men’s race in Hoogerheide saw van Aert locked-in at 20 seconds behind Mathieu van der Poel. Sweeck and Vanthourenhout repeatedly attacked each other with Vanthourenhout appearing to be the stronger of the two. On multiple occasions, it looked as if Vanthourenhout had dropped Sweeck for good, but the ERA-Circus rider never gave up and clawed his way back every time.

Meanwhile, the Telenet Fidea chase group had caught David van der Poel and Merlier to create a big battle for fifth place.

Entering the final lap, van Aert was 15 seconds behind Mathieu van der Poel, but the leading Dutchman was on cruise control. He had noticeably stepped a little off the accelerator, making the race seem closer than it was.

Vanthourenhout was dispatch Sweeck for good on the final lap to take third and get the confidence boost he needed heading into the world championships on Sunday.

The battle for fifth place had shrunk to four when the final lap began. Aerts, David van der Poel, Merlier, and Pauwels were all together. It was rather interesting to see Aerts as the only Telenet Fidea rider to survive, as the yellow and black jersey colored team had a great numerical advantage in the group earlier in the race.

Pauwels would win the sprint for fifth place and send a message that he had deserved to be on the Belgian elite men’s world championship team. He was the fourth Belgian to cross the finish line in Hoogerheide.

The UCI World Cyclocross Championships take place next weekend in Valkenburg, the Netherlands. The elite men’s race will be contested on Sunday, February 4.

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