Mathieu van der Poel took a historic win in the elite men’s road race at the Glasgow World Championships, surging clear of the strongest riders in the WorldTour and then stretching the gap despite a heavy crash in the final kilometres of the technical central city circuit.
The force of the initial solo attack from his group of four race favourites surprised even Van der Poel. “I have to be honest, I knew I had an attack left but I was also surprised at my first attack that I did in the group was a was a good one,” the Dutch rider said following the race.
The move, which Van der Poel made with 22km of the race remaining, proved to be the decisive moment of the race. “When you look back after an attack like this and you see nobody, it really gives confidence,” he said. “And then you know you’re the strongest in the group and that’s a really good feeling.”
The race had by then whittled down to an increasingly familiar trio of Van der Poel, Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) and Wout van Aert (Belgium), accompanied by Mads Pedersen (Denmark).
Still, even with the power of his attack from that group of four, Van der Poel’s race was nearly derailed when he slid out on one of the technical city centre corners with 17km remaining. Not only was his clothing visibly torn, but he had also badly damaged both his right cycling shoe and cleat.
“All of a sudden I was on the ground and the shoe was broken and it made it hard to give power on the pedals, especially because the cleat was also broken, so I didn’t have a lot of contact anymore. But I think maybe some adrenaline took over as well,” said Van der Poel. “I’m really happy that, and lucky as well, that my bike wasn’t broken and I could just continue.”
Describing his ability to return to the race undisturbed by the significant fall, Van der Poel said, “it’s just instinct.”
“I guess you just want to go as fast as possible on the bike,” he continued. “I was lucky I could find my rhythm. I didn’t really trust any corners anymore.
“My legs were still pretty strong and then when I saw the time gap going off again that gave me again a confidence boost. The first time when they showed the one-minute mark, I knew that if I was just going easy to the finish line through the corners that I would make it and it was an incredible feeling.”