Mathieu van der Poel beat Wout van Aert in a thrilling finish to win his fifth Cyclo-cross World Championships title.
Van der Poel and Van Aert battled at the front throughout the 10-lap race in Hoogerheide, setting up a sprint showdown on the tarmac stretch to the line.
And Van der Poel, roared on by his home crowd, powered past Van Aert to claim the win.
Belgium’s Eli Iserbyt came in 12 seconds back to grab the bronze medal ahead of the Netherlands’ Lars van der Haar.
“It’s really difficult to describe,” said Van der Poel. afterwards
“I think this is how everybody would say how the race should be – a sprint with me against Wout. For sure it’s incredible. I think this was for sure in my top three nicest wins of all time. For sure I’ll remember this for a long time.
“I felt super relaxed. I think that was maybe the key to win today. I could stay really calm. I think everybody expected me to make a move at the barriers, but I knew I wanted to go to the sprint. I know the sprint really well here.
Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert
Image credit: Getty Images
“I think everybody knows the story; we pushed each other already for 10 years already. Also, the crowds – if it was just me and him it would’ve been different. We pushed each other to a higher level but also the sport – I’ve never seen anything like this in cyclo-cross.
“It’s a super cool story we are writing. But it’s not the end – we still have the road season and for sure I’ll see him again.”
Van der Poel and Van Aert have been two of the leading lights in cyclo-cross for most of the last decade.
When Van der Poel won his first World Championships title in 2015 it was Van Aert he beat into second – and eight years later it was a repeat result.
The pair showed their strength early in the race as Van der Poel attacked on the first lap and only Van Aert could go with him.
Neither could break clear of the other so the race went down to the wire.
With packed crowds lining the streets, Van der Poel attacked almost as soon as they turned onto the tarmac and burst to the line, pumping his fist in celebration at another memorable triumph.
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