Mathieu van der Poel brimming with confidence in Benidorm
Sunday 22 January 2023
In a lightning-fast and incredibly exciting cross under the Spanish sun, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin – Deceuninck) sprinted to victory. He made it by a few metres ahead of Wout van Aert (Jumbo – Visma). Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) was allowed to join the podium. Laurens Sweeck (Crelan – Fristads) finished fourth and can call himself overall winner of the 2022-2023 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup.
Benidorm: the clash between Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock. A battle a lot of cyclo-cross fans were seriously looking forward to. More than 13,000 fans descended on the sunny Spanish coastal city to enjoy cyclo-cross at the very highest level. Indeed, the high level and power were on display from the first lap by Mathieu van der Poel, who was the first to be able to cycle completely through the sandpit. Competitor Wout van Aert did not let up and stuck to his wheel. Tom Pidcock had to close a small gap. Kuhn, Iserbyt and Sweeck followed respectively in fourth, fifth and sixth place.
In lap two, Tom Pidcock’s spirit was evident. With his attacking style, he immediately made the course tough for his companions. However, Van Aert and Sweeck were unimpressed and raced through the sand for the first time, like Van der Poel on lap one. The leading group of six joined up again.
Mathieu van der Poel was technically superior in the sand and was eager to press ahead. After a flawless passage, he tactically broke away on the ascending section. Only one opponent was able to close the gap again: Wout van Aert. Laurens Sweeck and Eli Iserbyt struggled slightly more with the fast pace, Pidcock fell back.
In the fifth of nine laps, we got a repeat of the previous one. This time we only saw Eli Iserbyt following on Wout van Aert’s wheel. After a solid effort, there were three leaders: Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Eli Iserbyt. Tom Pidcock and Laurens Sweeck followed a few seconds behind.
The positions changed lap after lap. Only two riders managed to cling on to their position at the front in this captivating race in Benidorm: Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert. Sweeck and Iserbyt, meanwhile, continued to do their utmost to catch up. A goal in which they succeeded going into the final lap.
Fighting for every metre, the quartet gradually raced towards the final, and potentially decisive, climb of the day. Wout van Aert let loose, with only Van der Poel keeping up. “Gap maker” Van der Poel passed Van Aert on the descent, taking quite a risk. Constant pressure and the winding circuit ensured that the titans of this race entered the short finishing stretch together. At the sharpest point of the bend, both riders shot into the final corner, with Mathieu van der Poel claiming victory.