Adrie van der Poel, father of Mathieu, caused ripples in the cyclocross world this week when he praised Wout van Aert’s dominating performance in Boom and said that the rest of the elite 'cross field risks being left for dust by the Belgian champion – and of course by Mathieu van der Poel too.
In the process of praising van Aert’s victory – a result van der Poel senior says he predicted having analysed van Aert’s Strava data – he said that those seeking to rival van Aert and van der Poel junior needed better road campaigns in the summer to keep up with the duo come winter.
“Wout and Mathieu ride at the top level all year round, in major races. The other crossers only participate in smaller competitions in the summer to do something. Of course, the difference is big,” the 62-year-old former pro and Amstel Gold Race winner told Het Nieuwsblad.
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“If Iserbyt and co. want to compete more, they will have to ride more top races in the summer. Not against amateurs who also have to work to earn money. Of course, those Continental teams can’t always participate in the big competitions, which is a shame. But certain riders would also turn their noses up at that and are content with what they have,” he added.
The Dutchman’s comments caused a retaliation from current World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt.
“Adrie doesn’t say anything new. I am under contract with a Continental team. In the summer we can ride a few big races. In the future, we are looking at how we can change that,” the Belgian responded in Het Nieuwsblad.
“Maybe Adrie should also take a look at his other son. David van der Poel has been able to ride a nice road program for a few years now, but it doesn’t get any better. Combining the road and the field, like Wout and Mathieu, is not for everyone. I am now 24 years old. I still have time to take that step. Wout is already 27, Mathieu soon too. They are now at the top of their game, but initially also chose the quiet path on the road.”
On the other hand, Baloise Trek Lions’ Toon Aerts, who finished 1’40” down on van Aert in Boom could partly agree with his rival’s father.
“With Baloise Trek Lions I participate in some great competitions in the summer. On the other hand, I also rode the Tour of Namur this year, where amateurs were indeed at the start. That may have been a little below my level. Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking about how I can improve my summer program. How I will do that has not yet been decided.”
Yet one more storyline in an already captivating cyclocross season.

Our view

It’s difficult to have an opinion that challenges the 1996 world and 6-time national cyclocross champion, van der Poel senior. A rider whose impressive road palmares includes two Tour de France stage wins, the Tour of Flanders, the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Anyway, here goes.
What Van Aert and van der Poel are doing is different than that of riders in recent memory who have straddled multiple disciplines. Zdenek Štybar and Lars Boom, never really got back up to their pre-road dominating selves in cyclocross after making the transition – with the exception of the Czech's 2014 world championship victory in Hoogerheide, the last elite men’s rainbow jersey to have been won by neither the Team Jumbo Visma or Alpecin-Fenix rider.
Van Aert and van der Poel are generation-defining talents in both road cycling and cyclocross, and Tom Pidcock should certainly be part of this conversation having taken mountain bike gold at Tokyo 2020. What ‘the big three’ are doing differently to their predecessors though, is performing to incredible heights in multiple disciplines simultaneously. Although this is not a surprise to those of us who have followed the likes of Marianne Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, it is unique to the men’s side of the sport in the 21st century.
Their rivalry and supreme talents could see them becoming the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of cycling – so good that comparisons just become futile.
In short, much of what Adrie van der Poel told Het Nieuwsblad is correct. However, you have to feel it is harsh to call-out the rival cyclocross riders, all of whom can’t reach the same heights on the road as they don’t have the luxury of a WorldTour contract.
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