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Flying Dutchman Van der Poel wins cycling world road title

Mathieu van der Poel became the first Dutch world road race champion for nearly 40 years with a masterful ride around the rain-drenched streets of Glasgow on Sunday.

The 28-year-old attacked from a small lead group on the penultimate circuit of the 14.3-km twisty city course, leaving rivals Tadej Pogacar, Wout van Aert and Mads Pedersen trailing.

Van der Poel then stepped up the power but had a heart-in-the-mouth moment when he crashed on a greasy corner that left him with a ripped shirt and a damaged shoe.

He calmly remounted and extended his lead to more than a minute in front of huge crowds, many in Dutch colours, and avoided any more late scares as he safely negotiated the 43 tight corners, raising his arms aloft and looking to the skies as he crossed the line in George Square.

The former cyclocross world champion is the first Dutchman to win the rainbow jersey on the road since Joop Zoetemelk in 1985. Belgium’s Van Aert was second with Slovenia’s two-time Tour de France winner Pogacar pipping Pedersen for bronze.

The 271-km race, which started in Edinburgh, was halted for nearly an hour after 80km of riding when protesters from environmental group This Is Rigged blocked the road ahead.

At that stage a lead group of nine riders had formed although none of the big favourites were in it.

With the Belgians and Danes leading the chase towards Glasgow and the scheduled 10 laps of the circuit, the gap was eroded and they were eventually consumed by the big guns.

Italian Alberto Bettiol caught everyone napping at a feed zone when he launched an attack with around four circuits remaining and built up a dangerous lead.

But once Van der Poel, Pogacar, Van Aert and Pedersen organised the chase it was curtains for the Italian and the stage was left for the three biggest names in the sport, along with 2019 world champion Pedersen, to fight for gold.

Heavy rain provided another twist to the plot and on another day Van der Poel might have paid for his spill.

But there was no stopping him as he powered up the steep Montrose Road climb for the final time, finally adding his name to the list of road world champions.

Van der Poel could go for the double in next week’s mountain bike race.

https://nltimes.nl/2023/08/06/flying-dutchman-van-der-poel-wins-cycling-world-road-title Flying Dutchman Van der Poel wins cycling world road title

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