Cycling, Mathieu van der Poel disappoints in the snow

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Mathieu van der Poel eighth in race won by Vanthourenhout

Michael Vanthourenhout, 29, of Belgium, won the second edition of the Cyclocross World Cup in Val di Sole. Disappointment for Van der Poel, only eighth. Dutchwoman Puck Pieterse confirmed all her talent, dominating in the women’s field. Silvia Persico, on the other hand, was fourth, just a whisker away from the podium.

Van der Poel was the most anticipated rider, winner on the same roads in 2019 and billed as the big favorite: this was not the case. Powerful and regal in the eve trials, Van der Poel struggled Saturday to find his rhythm on a course with a completely changed surface, from Friday’s soft snow to the hard, almost icy ground of the showdown.

The Val di Sole men’s title remains in Belgium, and the 2022 podium has the smile of Michael Vanthourenhout, 29, the reigning European champion and second in Vermiglio in 2021: not surprisingly, the one Van der Poel had pointed to as the rival to fear for Saturday’s race. The Belgian emerged from a three-way challenge launched in the early rounds of the race by Switzerland’s Kevin Kuhn and the other Belgian Niels Vandeputte, with Eli Iserbyt and Laurens Sweeck behind them as Van den Poel struggled to emerge.

By lap three, Vanthourenhout’s clean riding, capable of a virtually error-free race, had his early rivals on the ropes, allowing him to gain the margin that would enshrine him at the finish line in Vermiglio.

“There was a great atmosphere in Vermiglio today. The course was really challenging for the bottom, the plan for my race was to try to make as few mistakes as possible and I succeeded. I tried to set a race pace, and I finished it in the best possible way. Clearly snowcross suits me, and in my opinion such a format would deserve the five-ring showcase,” Vanthourenthout said.

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