After a knee injury hindered the early goings of his cyclocross campaign this fall, reigning world champion Mathieu van der Poel finally took his first win of the season at Vlaamse Druivencross Overijse.
Van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) made the start on the heels of a heartbreaking Saturday in Essen, where a late mechanical derailed his chances of taking a Bpost Bank Trofee series win while he was leading that race, and the 20-year-old left nothing out on the course in pursuit of that elusive victory Sunday — though he nearly came down with a devastating case of déjà vu.
The Dutchman again suffered a mechanical while leading in Overijse, and for the second straight day, he was forced to watch his rivals zoom past after it seemed that he’d buried them. This time, however, van der Poel would not be denied his win, making a mechanical adjustment on the course, remounting, and regaining his advantage in a matter of minutes. He ultimately claimed victory ahead of Kevin Pauwels, with Tom Meeusen taking third.
Michael Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) jumped out to an early lead Sunday, joined before long by Tom Meeusen (Telene-Fidea). The pair open up a 10-second advantage over the rest of the field by the second lap, but a determined van der Poel stayed calm and closed the gap by the end of the fourth lap.
As Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games team) made his own effort to work his way up to the leaders, Van der Poel put in a powerful uphill dig on a stretch of muddy course and left everyone in the rearview mirror.
He opened up several seconds of advantage, but then a mechanical forced him to stop and dismount. While van der Poel spent time making a frantic drivetrain adjustment, the head of the field caught up with him again and sailed past.
But van der Poel got back on the bike and powered back into the mix before again leaving the field behind on lap six. Pauwels tried to give chase, but from there on out it was all van der Poel.
Van der Poel took a 16-second lead over Pauwels into the last lap and only padded his advantage during the final trip around the circuit, ultimately winning the race by 21 seconds ahead of Pauwels. Van der Poel celebrated the much sought-after win by pointing to his surgically repaired left knee as he crossed the line, in a nod to classics legend Johan Museeuw, who celebrated a 2000 Paris-Roubaix victory in similar fashion after a knee injury nearly ended his career.