Van Aert ahead of Van der Poel in a race in Belgium last December. Luc Claessen (Getty Images)
Cyclocross has already arrived where the road wants to be one day, a cartoon race, limited time (one hour), well-defined protagonists, two eternal rivals and above all combative from the first meter when both flee from the others who just remember to persevere to 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, at the end you accelerate.
One, the Unconscious, Mathieu van der Poel; the other, the pensive ma non troppo, Wout van Aert.
The two, the Dutchman and the Fleming, both 28 years old, live on another planet and their battles are endless, as will be seen on Sunday (15/05, Eurosport) at the Cyclocross World Championships, a competition that one of the two has won in seven of the last eight years. None of them won the one of 2022, in which they did not participate and allowed the British Tom Pidcock, the only one gravitating near their orbit, to feel like a superman. This year he is not participating. There will be no starting number one. Van Aert turns 9; Van der Poel, on the 27th. There will be two Spaniards, Felipe Orts and Kevin Suárez.
Van der Poel has won four World Cups (2015, 2019, 2020 and 2021), running at home on the Hoogerheide circuit in Dutch Brabant – on the border, forest, sand, mud and a ridge that slopes down to the sea. Polders and canals and wind from the north – where every year the GP of Adrie van der Poel is held in honor of his father, a renowned winner who also designed the course. Third, Van Aert (2016 to 2018), Dominator of the Season: He has won nine of the ten competitions he has competed in. 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 win) in an unusual rivalry that was born in the mud when they were children and was already gifted, and has endured with such vigor on the street It changed the way the classics are already contested and even the Tour de France, where the two also know how to be protagonists. All the cyclists have been infected and the fans have turned into moody children, tireless eaters of fast and repeated emotions, of unpredictable, crazy, epic attacks, and in a month when the mud will be cobblestones and the hills will be sand and the stairs, Walls in the Flemish classics or on the streets of Siena, both Van Aert, long-lasting explosive, Van der Poel, uncontrollable dynamite, are urged not to stop, never to reach their last breath and give life to the Tour of Flanders, the Van which Poel has already won twice, and to Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North, where, oddly enough, neither of them has triumphed yet. And may Tadej Pogacar, a mud allergy sufferer, continue to accompany them. And that their father, Peter Sagan, is with them on his final campaign.
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