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Cyclocross

Wout van Aert plays down crushing cyclocross hat trick: ‘Van der Poel has yet to join’

Mathieu van der Poel returns to 'cross next weekend, setting stage for highly anticipated showdown with van Aert on December 26.

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It takes more than a 1,100-kilometer journey to slow down Wout van Aert.

Van Aert came out the other side of a huge overnight transfer from the boggy meadows of Belgium to score his third solo win in eight days in Vermiglio, Italy, on Sunday.

The Belgian baller’s season clean-sweep has seen him amass an accumulated winning margin of nearly five and a half minutes. At times, he’s made it look easy.

But the ‘cross season ain’t over yet … coz “you-know-who” is coming to join the party.

“That 100 percent score won’t last long,” van Aert told Wielerflits after completing his hat-trick in Val di Sole.

“It’s going better than I could have imagined, and I hope there’s more, but Mathieu [van der Poel] has yet to join, to name him first. And someone like Pidcock only gets better. I think it will get interesting.”

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Van Aert has dominated the cyclocross season so far, but it’s all-change from here on in.

Mathieu van der Poel makes his ‘cross debut in Rucphen next weekend while van Aert hits the road for a team camp with Jumbo-Visma.

Van Aert will return from a spell on the smooth tarmac of Spain to a newly bolstered start-grid in the grassy mud of the Dendermonde on December 26. It’s there that van Aert, van der Poel, and Pidcock – the “three kings of ‘cross” – will come together for the first time in a post-Christmas World Cup that promises the perfect present for all expectant cyclocross fans.

Van der Poel will have got his motor running at his curtain-raising double-header next weekend, and Pidcock is on the upward curve.

Pidcock gained momentum with every lap Sunday to land a spot on the podium and build on his low-key start to the season in Boom last week. He’ll have van der Poel for company in Rucphen next weekend as the competition starts to gain heat.

“Hopefully next weekend I’m good,” Pidcock said after the race. “I think I’m getting my legs pretty fast so I think next week I should be at the front. I’m not saying I’ll be in my top shape, but I think it will be a good race.”

Wout had better buckle up – the ‘cross season is only just beginning.

From the mud to the mountains – van Aert’s gamble pays off

There were some raised eyebrows that van Aert dared to take on the late evening flight and early morning drive to transfer from Essen, where he motored through deep mud to win by nearly two minutes Saturday, to Val di Sole for Sunday’s race.

Van Aert was the one top male rider to take on the ambitious 1,100km journey – but like most things, whether they be mammoth road climbs or high-speed Champs-Élysées sprints, the Belgian champ took it all in his stride.

“The trip was a disadvantage,” he said. “I had to wait and see how I would react, but it went well. I’m not going to complain about that now.”

Gallery: Van Aert stomps in the snow at Val di Sole

Van Aert rode another near-faultless race through the sand-like snow Sunday, bringing power and panache to the Alpine resort. He was clear of the pack after the opening laps and slip-slided his way to a “comfortable” 47-second win, his third after conquering the Belgian mud of Boom last weekend and again Saturday in Essen.

Van Aert was all alone in the frame when he crossed the line Sunday, making the headlines in a race for the history books.

The World Cup had never hit the snow before, but voyaged to Val di Sole on Sunday as part of a wider push to take cyclocross to the Winter Olympics. Victorious van Aert approved.

“It was a real sport you saw today. A lot of spectacular things happened and sport on the highest level with amazing scenery,” he said afterward. “I guess this has proved that you can do cyclocross wherever you want. You can do it in a park in the biggest cities in the world or the mountains here.”

Sunday showed you can stage cyclocross in any setting – and that van Aert will more than rise to the challenge. His next hurdle comes in the shape of MvdP.

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