Van der Poel returns to his mud

On a complex, highly technical and treacherous circuit due to its constant ups and downs, Mathieu van der Poel pedaled this Sunday as if it weren’t a problem for him. It was his first cyclocross World Cup of the season, but he didn’t care. Dutch party in Hulst, as Puck Pieterse also won the women’s category, with a triumphant return for the Alpecin runner, who longed for his mud. Last year, his back injury, which kept him off the road for five months, only allowed him to compete in Dendermonde; Today, he was dancing again on a ground where the rest usually conspire. He flew ahead of Belgium’s Laurens Sweeck, 15 seconds behind, and Eli Iserbyt, 22 seconds behind, and a rainbow-clad Tom Pidcock who failed to complete the test after breaking a tire. Also ahead of a rising Felipe Orts, with a seventh place that is his second best place ever in the World Cup.

“You have to be realistic, there are still five riders ahead of me usually in the World Cup. I don’t think I’m at their level, especially in the Christmas period, but that’s the next step, to be in the top-5.”Orts himself explained to this newspaper before the race. The Spaniard is aware of his abilities, very high, and of the moment of the season in which he finds himself. After the sixth places in the European Championship and in the World Cup in Beekse Bergen, he continues sniffing that podium which, at this time, becomes expensive. In January 2021, Hulst appeared on the cyclocross calendar for the first time. His speaker could not rumble louder. Pidcock, at the time, was finishing third; Wout van Aert, who will debut on December 4 in Antwerp, second; Van der Poel, like this Sunday, at the top.

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