Mathieu van der Poel claimed his fifth world cyclo-cross title in Brabant after outsprinting his Belgian rival Wout van Aert at the end of an enthralling tactical battle.
The two favourites reduced the race to a duel on the opening lap of the 10-lap mixed-terrain race in Hoogerheide.
Van der Poel drew Van Aert’s strength with a series of punishing attacks, with the Belgian attempting sporadic counterattacks, but neither man was able to force a breakthrough.
Van Aert nudged ahead as the pair reached the tarmac of the Scheldeweg for the last time, but Van der Poel timed his sprint perfectly to cross the line a bike length in front.
‘Going into the final lap I felt no stress at all,’ the 28-year-old said. ‘I felt like I had everything under control. I just felt great.
‘He [Van Aert] has made this cyclocross season very difficult for me. I knew I needed to have my best day of the season and that’s what I had.’
The bronze medal was claimed by Belgian Eli Iserbyt, edging out Dutchman Lars van der Haar, with Belgian cyclists filling the next four places.
Van Aert acknowledged he had been outfought and out-thought by his rival, who surprised him by holding back just before the finish despite being the weaker sprinter on paper.
‘He hurt me so much on the early laps that I couldn’t think of trying anything,’ Van Aert said. ‘I would have liked to make a better contest of it, but in the end the strongest man won.’
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