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25 Reasons Why Mathieu van der Poel Will Win Worlds Sunday

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... And seven why he may not.

Patrick Verhoest

Previewing the men's elite race of this weekend's Cyclocross World Championships in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, is a bit of a challenge to say more than "I bet you Mathieu van der Poel wins". I mean this somewhat literally, as Conor challenged me to say 117 things about van der Poel in this post. I don't know if I will hit that number (you're welcome), but let's see how close I get.

  1. Mathieu van der Poel (henceforth MvdP) is the reigning World Champion. That means he is the best, or it's supposed to, even though it really only means he was probably the best on the day they gave out the jersey.
  2. This means he's the favorite, but according to MvdP it also means he is under no pressure to win.
  3. MvdP has also been hurt for a chunk of this season, so any good that comes of it is gravy, says he.
  4. Michel Wuyts rates MvdP "70% the favorite." That would leave everyone else added together with a 30% chance.
  5. How does he like the course? In 2011, 16-year-old MvdP won the Juniors race at the event in Zolder. In 2012, MvdP won the Juniors race at the (now) World Cup race in Zolder. In 2013, now 18-year-old MvdP won the U23 event at the World Cup race in Zolder, beating Wout Van Aert. Last month, MvdP won again in Zolder.
  6. Heusden-Zolder is in Belgium. This year, MvdP has raced nine times in Belgium, including an early-comeback race in Koksijde. He has six wins and two seconds in those nine events.
  7. Heusden-Zolder is not in the Netherlands. Dutch riders always fail to live up to overwhelming expectations in the Netherlands. MvdP has lost one World Championship race. To Wout Van Aert. In the Netherlands.
  8. The above rule does not apply to Marianne Vos. Marianne Vos is the exception that proves the rule.
  9. Anyway, MvdP is Dutch. The Dutch often do well in Cyclocross World Championships. In 2013 they won three golds in four races. Last year they won five medals in four races. In 2012 they won three golds in four races. Really, apart from 2014, in the Netherlands, they are great at this.
  10. Before last year, Lars Boom was the most recent Dutch rider to win the Elite Men's CX world championship. Lars Boom will be riding for MvdP Sunday.
  11. Michel Wuyts said something like MvdP is Boom with 30% more talent. Michel Wuyts likes percentages.
  12. Did I mention that the CX worlds are in Belgium? Belgian riders also don't particularly thrive on home soil. In 2012, at Koksijde, they swept the Elite Men's podium, but up til then it was all Netherlands. In 2007 they did OK but the Men's Elite race was a shit show of falls, including the elimination of Sven Nys on a plastic block associated with a TV camera.
  13. MvdP beat Wout Van Aert (and Kevin Pauwels and everyone else) last time he raced three days ago.
  14. Kevin Pauwels, one of MvdP's primary competitors, is suffering from "rugkwaaltjes," which is something to do with his troublesome back.
  15. Pauwels is also Pauwels, which means that for some unknowable reason he will have a mechanical issue at the worst possible time Sunday.
  16. Adrie van der Poel, MvdP's dad, picked Pauwels as the winner, apparently with a straight face. This is some very professional reverse-jinxing on his part.
  17. Adrie van der Poel is MDVP's dad. Raymond Poulidor is his grandfather. The rest of his genetic makeup comes from Eddy Merckx, Sean Kelly, Roger De Vlaeminck, and Jesus of Nazareth.
  18. The time before the last time MvdP raced his bike, he beat Wout Van Aert in France. He also beat Lars van der Haar, who will be working for MvdP this weekend.
  19. MvdP won his race the time before that, and the time before that as well. And the four races immediately preceding that too.
  20. MvdP is an excellent, excellent bike handler.
  21. Excellent!
  22. Wout Van Aert is strong as a goddam ox. Alas, so too is MvdP.
  23. MvdP can sprint pretty good as well.
  24. MvdP hasn't lost to Wout Van Aert since last year.
  25. MvdP is a 2:1 favorite for the win.

Last go-round in Zolder...

OK, a few reasons why MvdP won't win the CX World Championships Sunday.

  1. Wout Van Aert is ranked #1 in the Superprestige series.
  2. Wout Van Aert is ranked #1 in the BPost Bank Trofee
  3. Wout Van Aert is ranked #1 in the World Cup. This season has been the Wout Van Aert Show.
  4. Wout Van Aert is strong as a goddam ox. The forecast calls for rain.
  5. In 2014, in Zolder, MvdP finished third, behind Wout Van Aert and Laurens Sweeck.
  6. As leader of the Belgian contingent, Wout Van Aert will have Sven Nys and a host of others on his side.
  7. In 2002 the World Championships were previously held in Zolder. And the winner of the Juniors race was... Kevin Pauwels.