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Tom Pidcock obliterates the field to win his first world cyclocross title

Lars van der Haar of the Netherlands and Eli Iserbyt of Belgium round out the podium, well behind the Olympic mountain bike champion Pidcock.

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Tom Pidcock made it look easy.

At the men’s elite world cyclocross championship in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Belgium sent a flood of riders to the front. France made a couple of plays with Clement Venturini and Joshua Dubua. And Lars van der Haar represented the Netherlands well.

But Tom Pidcock of Great Britain was head and shoulders above everyone else, going clear on the fourth of nine laps and then seemingly putting it on cruise control as he soloed around the course, his closest chasers well out of sight.

As other riders gasped and desperately wrestled their bikes, Pidcock took sips of water and looked around the course. At one point, he adjusted the sleeve on his jersey.

“After the first half lap, I knew I had really good legs,” Pidcock said.

On the last lap, he launched a stylish jump to the screams of the crowd, and then did a one-armed superman across the finish line, his body horizontal with his legs behind him.

It was pure dominance.

Van der Haar and Belgium’s Eli Iserbyt were the closest chasers, with van der Haar taking the two-up sprint handily.

The world championship course in Fayetteville saw 7,000 fans come out on Sunday.

How the race started

Van der Haar in his Dutch orange led a Belgian armada in blue into the woods off the line, with Pidcock in eighth.

Belgian Toon Aerts launched himself off the front just three minutes into the race, with Pidcock giving chase.

Into the massive staircase, Aerts led Pidcock and Belgians Toon Vandebosch and Iserbyt.

Once caught, Aerts eased slightly and the front group of 10 compacted for a few seconds.

Into the second lap, France’s Dubau motored the group and then opened a gap on the twisty downhill into the trees. Pidcock sat on Aerts, who mended the split onto the climb.

Over the top, the riders quickly glanced around to assess the group’s composition.

Into the trickiest spot of the group — a 180 just over a sharp peak — Pidcock snuck around Aerts and led the group.

Pidcock’s subsequent acceleration out of each tight bend stretched — but didn’t snap — the short line of riders behind him. The body language told another story, though; while many lead riders gasped and had their heads down, Pidcock casually took a sip of water and glanced around.

Belgium runs the numbers

Belgians Eli Iserbyt, Laurens Sweeck and Michael Vanthourenhout were in the initial move of 10, but none could match Pidcock.

In the lead group of now 10, there were six Belgians. Pidcock was alone, as was van der Haar. France had two riders in Dubau and Venturini.

Venturini took a hard pull before the stairs that only Belgium’s Laurens Sweeck and Pidcock could immediately follow. The front group reformed into the finishing straight for the fourth of nine laps, where again heads were on swivels, each analyzing who was where.

And now yet another Belgian came to the fore, this time Michael Vanthourenout, with Pidcock seemingly ever-present in second wheel.

Vanthourenout drove hard, but Pidcock was unfazed, countering the Belgian’s hard effort over the top of the climb.

“I was really aware of the tactics that Belgium were trying to play,” Pidcock said. “When Michael went, he went really hard up the climb. I thought if I jump over the top of him now, everyone is suffering. Everyone knows that climb will be hard, but right after can be a good time to go.”

Then, Pidcock glided through the tricky 180 to surge ahead, while Iserbyt had his front wheel taken out by a teammate behind in the rapid deceleration on the very short but very steep hill.

Pidcock opens the jets

While other riders mouths’ were often agape, Pidcock looked like this all day.

With his competitors on the back foot, Pidcock kept accelerating and was two seconds clear coming into the massive staircase, with Vanthourenout and a swarm of Belgians in pursuit.

As he pried open his advantage, Pidcock still looked calm, his upper body relaxed as his legs churned away.

With five laps to go, the Olympic mountain bike champion had six seconds on a solo Iserbyt, with Sweek, Vanthourenout, Venturini, Van den Haar, and Aerts desperately strung out behind.

Slaloming down the hill and then motoring up the climb, Pidcock looked untouchable. Iserbyt was the closest — and he wasn’t close. Soon, Iserbyt too effectively gave up the chase and fell in with Sweeck, Vanthourenout, Venturini, and van der Haar.

With four laps to go, it was a race for second place.

How’s that for a finishline salute? (Photo: David Stockman/Getty Images)

2022 UCI World Cyclocross Championship Elite Men’s Results

  1. Tom Pidcock (GBR)
  2. Lars van der Haar (NED), at :30
  3. Eli Iserbyt (BEL), at :32
  4. Michael Vanthourenhout (BEL), at :52
  5. Clement Venturini (FRA), at :57
  6. Toon Aerts (BEL), at 1:02
  7. Jens Adams (BEL), at 1:06
  8. Laurens Sweeck (BEL), at 1:16
  9. Kevin Kuhn (SWI), at 1:36
  10. Daan Soete (BEL), at 1:44

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