Cyclocross has already arrived where the road aspires one day to be, a cartoon race, limited time (one hour), well-defined protagonists, two eternal rivals and, more than anything, combative from the first meter, when both flee from the others, who only think about how to endure until the end; they isolate themselves, one against one, in a waste of energy that forces them to rewrite the laws of physiological logic. A time trial in company: you sprint away, you end up accelerating.
One, the unconscious, Mathieu van der Poel; the other, the reflective ma no troppo, Wout van Aert.
The two, the Dutch and the Flemish, both 28 years old, live on another planet, and their battles are endless, as will be seen on Sunday (05.15, Eurosport) in the Cyclocross World Championship, a competition that one of the two has won in seven of the last eight years. He did not win either of the two in 2022, in which he did not participate and allowed the British Tom Pidcock, the only one who gravitates close to his orbit, to feel like a superman. This year he does not participate. There will be no number one bib. Van Aert will be 9; Van der Poel, on 27. There will be two Spaniards, Felipe Orts and Kevin Suárez.
Four World Cups (2015, 2019, 2020 and 2021) have won Van der Poel, who runs at home, on the Hoogerheide circuit, in Dutch Brabant – on the border, forest, sand, mud and a ridge that descends towards the sea , polders and canals, and wind from the north–, where the Adrie van der Poel GP is held every year, in honor of his father, a renowned champion who also designed the route. Three, Van Aert (2016 to 2018), dominator of the season: he has won nine of the 10 competitions he has played. The only defeat, two Sundays ago, in Benidorm, where Van der Poel could.
It will be the 180th confrontation between the two (119 to 60, Adrie’s son and Poulidor’s grandson is winning) in an unusual rivalry that was born in the mud when they were children, and already gifted, and lasted on the road with such vigor that it transformed the the way in which the classics are already disputed and even the Tour de France, where the two also know how to be protagonists. They have infected all the cyclists and the fans have become capricious children, tireless gluttons of rapid and repeated emotions, of unpredictable, crazy, epic attacks, and within a month, when the mud will be cobblestones, and the hills of sand and the stairs, walls in the classics of Flanders or on the roads of Siena, both Van Aert, long-lasting explosive, Van der Poel, uncontrollable dynamite, will be asked not to stop, to never reach their last breath and give life to the Tour of Flanders, which Van der Poel has already won twice, and to Paris-Roubaix, the hell of the north in which, strangely, neither of them has yet triumphed. And may Tadej Pogacar, someone allergic to mud, continue to accompany them. And that the father of all, Peter Sagan, be with them in his last campaign.
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