Mathieu van der Poel opened his 2018-2019 Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup account on Sunday afternoon with a solo victory on a fast course in Bern, Switzerland. The European champion distanced his rivals during the third of 11 laps, held off a comeback from world champion Wout van Aert and completed his long solo effort to capture the win at the Weyermannshaus open-air pool in Bern.
Van Aert kept the pressure high and finished as runner-up at eight seconds from Van der Poel. World Cup leader Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) won the battle for third place at a minute from the winner and holds on to the leader’s jersey after his back-to-back wins in the USA.
On the fast course in sunny Bern, it was hard to make the difference for the top riders. Van Aert had a great start and was joined up front by Daan Soete (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) and Van der Poel. The rest of the field lost ground as riders struggled on the few technical obstacles and held up the rest of the pack.
During the third lap of the race, Van der Poel took command with an acceleration along the barriers. Moments later, Van Aert dropped his chain after coming through a 180-degree corner. Van der Poel never allowed the Belgian rider to close the small gap back down.
For eight laps, the cyclo-cross giants rode what seemed like a time trial. Van der Poel rode flawlessly and never seemed to let the race slip out of his control. Shortly after Van Aert’s mechanical problem, he rode the fastest lap of the race in five minutes 45. Van Aert was good during that fourth lap, but just not good enough to come much closer than the six seconds he lost when he dropped his chain. Halfway through the race, the gap suddenly increased to 11 seconds.
Much further back, Toon Aerts salvaged his World Cup leader when he escaped a large chase group on the penultimate lap and stormed towards third place. After the race, his hands were bleeding.
Aerts leads the World Cup classification with 225 points, 15 more than Van Aert. Van der Poel skipped the two first World Cup rounds in the USA.