Dutch cyclist Mathieu van der Poel showcased an incredible display of resilience after a dramatic crash to secure victory in the men’s road race at the Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, solidifying his legendary status in the sport.
The 28-year-old launched a daring attack in the last 25 km and surged ahead on Cathedral Street, leaving behind a group of formidable contenders, including Mads Pedersen, Tadej Pogačar, and Wout van Aert.
Despite hitting the deck hard and breaking his shoe during the crash at 16 km to go, van der Poel managed to slightly increase his lead and cruised to the finish line with the passionate Glasgow fans cheering him on.
Belgium’s Wout van Aert clinched the silver medal, while Tour De France legend Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia narrowly beat Denmark’s Mads Pedersen to take the bronze.
In a post-race interview, a jubilant van der Poel expressed brief worry that he had squandered his chance at winning the title when he slipped and crashed.
“I was just flying around the course until the crash. I was not taking risks, and suddenly I was on the ground. It was super slippery sometimes,” van der Poel stated.
“To then still pull it off, I wouldn’t say it makes it nicer, but if it cost me the world title, I would have not slept for a couple of days.”
The Dutchman became the first rider to win both the cyclocross and road racing world titles in the same year.
On winning the UCI Cycling World Championships, van der Poel remarked, “It was one of the biggest goals I had left, and to win it today was amazing. It almost completes my career. I cannot yet imagine riding in rainbows for a year.”
A grueling day out
This year’s UCI Cycling World Championships followed a 271 km route from Edinburgh, which ended with ten laps of a 14.3 km circuit of Glasgow’s city center.
The race started at a blistering pace, with the riders averaging over 50 km/h for the first hour.
Organizers were forced to suspend racing for 55 minutes at the 80 km mark as four protesters from the group “This is Rigged” cemented themselves to the road near the Carron Valley Reservoir. The group was protesting against the government’s North Sea oil drilling policy.
As the race resumed, the nine-rider breakaway set off, maintaining their advantage of seven minutes. The rain that was forecast for the latter end of the race would now be expected earlier.
The peloton would eventually swallow up the breakaway. Van der Poel attacked with 134 km remaining, setting the stage for the final showdown. The lead group of riders had now been whittled down to a group of 24.
Alberto Bettiol of Italy put up a valiant effort, riding solo at the front of the race for over 30 km. However, he would be engulfed by van der Poel’s attack with 23 km to go.
A star-studded chase group of van Aert, Pogačar, and Pedersen could do nothing to bring him back.
The defending world champion, Remco Evenepoel, had been part of the leading group but eventually missed out on the podium. He would eventually cross the finish line in 25th position.
Overall, van der Poel’s triumph in the face of adversity and the excitement of the race make it a memorable and thrilling Cycling World Championships event in Glasgow.
Men’s Road Race: Top 10
- Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands): 6:07:27
- Wout van Aert (Belgium): +1 minute 37 seconds
- Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia): +1 minute 45 seconds
- Mad Pedersen (Denmark), +1 minute 45 seconds
- Stefan Kung (Switzerland), +3 minutes 48 seconds
- Jasper Stuyven (Belgium), +3 minutes 48 seconds
- Matthew Dinham (Australia) +3 minutes 48 seconds
- Toms Skujins (Latvia) +3 minutes 48 seconds
- Tiesj Benoot (Belgium) +3 minutes 48 seconds
- Alberto Bettiol (Italy) +4 minutes 3 seconds