I know, it’s been a dull men’s cyclocross season as far as rooting interests go. It’s cycling so there is always something to see, but the dominance of Mathieu van der Poel has been suffocating. To date, the Dutchman has lost two races to World Champion Wout Van Aert, one to a crash and another to a series of mechanical failures. And the rest of the time, a full 15 times this season, he has won.
This past weekend, the two-up battle took a hiatus, leaving the Hasselt and Zilvermeer races to the rest of the gang — only to see van der Poel’s brother David take the honors in the latter after Corne Van Kessel took Hasselt from Toon Aerts. I believe the Big Two were off training somewhere else, maybe Spain.
Why? Because it’s all about to get very busy. The Kerstperiode (literally just Christmastime) is the real peak of the cyclocross season, as well as a springboard to World Championships success. By the time the holiday rush of great races is over, we will be counting down the final month to Worlds (with nats halfway in between), and getting ready to write the final chapter for the season.
That’s a long-winded way of saying that as great as van der Poel has been this season, he hasn’t really accomplished all that much. Sure, he has commanding leads in the World Cup and DVV series (but trails in Superprestige). But it’s all about championships at his level, and Van Aert’s. As much as this has been a one-sided season, if van der Poel can’t extend his winning ways, it will go down as a failure.
Not that I think it will. There was some scuttlebutt going around last week to the effect that maybe Wout is super pissed at his team and director Nick Nuyens, saying that all the little things he needs from team support are going awry. That sort of poisonous atmosphere (as well as those details going un-tended) add up to a losing environment in a race where anything less than godly performance will see victory slip away. If Van Aert can take comfort upon retreating to National Team duty in Valkenberg (ha! it’s Valkenburg), then still all is not lost. A third rainbow would salve lots of wounds. But I don’t see that happening as long as van der Poel stops popping tires.
So stay tuned. And by tuned, I mean wake up early you Americans and watch the following:
December 16: Antwerp DVV (Scheldecross)
December 17: Namur World Cup (Citadelcross)
December 26: Zolder WC
December 28: Loenhoet (Azencross)
December 30: Diegem Superprestige
January 1: Baal DVV (GP Sven Nys)
These are beautiful races, particularly when a bit of snow falls on them. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, here’s a Patrick Verhoest mini-gallery from Hamme-Zogge. Cheers!