During his now several-year run of dominance, many cyclocross fans have wondered what would happen if Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon – Circus) had to start somewhere off the front row. On Saturday at World Cup Tabor in the Czech Republic, those fans got to see that scenario play out.
With the first starting spots going to the top 24 riders in the World Cup overall standings, Van der Poel snuck onto the 3rd row of Saturday’s race and faced a chase back to Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) and the other riders looking to deny him yet another World Cup win.
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The result was a thrilling 2019 edition of World Cup Tabor.
Forgetting Mathieu van der Poel?
Iserbyt got Saturday’s race started by taking the holeshot and leading the Elite Men’s field out onto the course. Corne van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions) soon took the lead spot and represented the Telenet Baloise team at the front for what seems like the first time in a while.
Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) eventually took the lead and did his turn pushing the pace as he has done many times this year. One lap in, it was Vanthourenhout, Iserbyt, Van Kessel and Quinten Hermans (Telenet Baloise Lions) at the front with Van der Poel chasing 9 seconds behind.
In the second of eight laps, that group of four would only grow. Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) and Lars van der Haar (Telenet Baloise Lions) soon made contact to make it a group of six. Van der Poel led the chase and at the end of the lap joined to make it seven. It appeared that two laps was all it took for Van der Poel to get to the front.
Van der Poel, however, would not go roaring to the front. Vanthourenhout stayed on the front and pushed the pace through the series of ups and downs at the start of the lap. Van der Poel faded off the back a bit while Iserbyt’s associate continued to set a high tempo at the front.
Three laps into the race, it appeared that the Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal team had found the secret sauce for toppling the vaunted Van der Poel juggernaut. Vanthourenhout still led, Iserbyt and Van der Haar chased close behind, and Van der Poel was a full 17 seconds off the leader’s pace.
After the next trip through the circuit, Van der Poel still found himself chasing 16 seconds behind Iserbyt, Van der Haar and Vanthourenhout.
MvdP Makes His Moves
Halfway into the race, everything had seemingly gone to plan for the Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal duo of Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout. Iserbyt’s lieutenant set a high pace early on and made Van der Poel expend energy to catch them, and when the Dutch dominator did catch up, Vanthourenhout attacked again to put the Euro, Dutch and World Champ on the ropes.
The weather was sunny on Saturday in Tabor, leaving most of the course relatively dry and fast. The one section that was a bit slick was a series of rollers and off-cambers at the start of the lap.
Van der Poel had that section dialed, and at the start of Lap 5, he passed Van Kessel to move up into 4th with some vintage Van der Poel bike handling. However, at the stairs, with Van der Haar now leading, Van der Poel had only picked up 5 seconds on the leaders with his deft maneuvering.
Van der Poel kept the pressure on, and by the end of the lap, he had again made contact with the leading trio of Iserbyt, Vanthourenhout and Van der Haar. Rumors of his demise on this Saturday were greatly exaggerated, it appears.
Lap 6 was Iserbyt’s turn to put the pressure on. After Vanthourenhout led the first half of the lap, Iserbyt took over the lead spot right before the descent to the lowest part of the course following the uphill barriers. Sensing a move was occurring, Van der Poel moved up from third wheel and took over second on one of the steep kickers after the descent. Iserbyt’s move was neutralized, and with 2 to go, the two newly minted rivals had a 5-second gap on Vanthourenhout and Van der Haar.
It took six full laps, but at the start of the penultimate lap, Van der Poel finally took the lead. He passed Iserbyt in that slick set of rollers at the start of the lap and led into the series of ups and downs near the Restaurace Na Kamoré. Midway through the lap, not wanting to be left out, Van der Haar made his play for the front and denied Iserbyt the first look at the descent he had used to open up gaps earlier in the race.
Van der Haar’s efforts helped drop Vanthourenhout, and at the bell, it was Van der Haar, Iserbyt and Van der Poel vying for the Tabor win.
After a race of owning the slick opening section, Van der Poel dabbed on the off-camber, but no harm, no foul, he stuck with the other two riders.
With Van der Poel sitting third wheel heading into the series of ups and downs, Iserbyt seized the opportunity to attack. his efforts earned him a 3-second gap exiting the section of steep ups, but by the time the trio reached the stairs, Iserbyt’s lead was down to maybe just 3 stairs.
Action in the last lap really started to reach a fever pitch at the barriers. The planks were set on an uphill, which placed a decided premium on being able to hop them. With some touching motivation, Van der Poel hopped the barriers each lap and with some more earthbound motivation—knocking off the vaunted Van der Poel juggernaut—Iserbyt did as well. Van der Haar, however, dismounted and ran.
With the three riders together, Van der Poel and Iserbyt earned a gap for their efforts.
After seeing Iserbyt lead into the descent and get a gap, Van der Poel, like Van der Haar the lap before, clearly indicated, not so fast my friend. Van der Poel put in a big dig and pulled around Iserbyt to take the lead into the drop.
Then on the kicker up, he called on the insane power he showed at XCO World Cup Short Track race after Short Track race and exploded out from the low part of the course. His explosive move gave him maybe a 2-second advantage on Iserbyt. It would prove to be all he needed.
Van der Poel stayed on the gas just enough to carry a decisive gap onto the pavement and pedal it out for the win.
Iserbyt followed close behind in second, and Van der Haar wrapped up an impressive day in second.
Americans Max Judelson (Voler / Easton / HRS / Rock Lobster) and Tyler Cloutier (TCCX) finished 44th and 45th, respectively.
Full results are below.
Elite Men Results: 2019 World Cup Tabor
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Age||Result|
|1||1||VAN DER POEL||Mathieu||NED||24||1:01:56|
|3||2||VAN DER HAAR||Lars||NED||28||1:02:08|
|33||8||VAN DER HEIJDEN||Maik||NED||22||1:08:11|
|35||5||VAN DER POEL||David||NED||27||1:08:30|