Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) emerged victorious for the seventh straight race, winning on home soil in the UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Hulst. One might think the hometown fans would be elated, but instead, the winner endured abuse along the course.
The Dutch rider was in impressive form on his home turf in Hulst attacking on the third lap and pulling out a winning margin before relaxing on the last lap.
However, while taking his last lap applause the Alpecin–Deceuninck rider was pictured spitting at a group of spectators, who he claims had been booing him all afternoon.
“Even during the warm-up,” Van der Poel said. “I’ve had enough of those boos.”
When quizzed what the spectators were shouting at him? The 28-year-old replied: “It’s better to ask them yourself. I’m not going to repeat that.
“They weren’t things that belong in the sport, boos don’t belong to anyone.”
The Dutchman was then asked if he would later regret his actions? He replied: “After a while, it’s enough, even for me.”
Van der Poel isn’t the first rider to strike back at abusive fans. In 2005, the jury disqualified cyclocross racer Bart Wellens several days after the Kerstperiode race in Overijse for kicking at a spectator who had been throwing beer on him.
In 2012, Sven Nys lunged into the crowd to go after a spectator who had been hurling beer at him lap after lap at the Christmas period race in Loenhout and admonished the drunk fan.
The incidents aren’t restricted to cyclocross, either. Chris Froome was doused with urine and spat at by spectators during the 2015 Tour de France after questions surrounding his power data descended into accusations of doping.
Fans continued to boo Team Sky during Geraint Thomas’ Tour victory in 2018, while Froome’s woes continued through 2020 when he shouted back at booing fans during the Route d’Occitanie.
Mark Cavendish was doused in urine at the Tour de France two years earlier after sparked a crash the previous day and fans were displeased with his action.
For Van der Poel, the irritation apparently had been building as he seemed to receive boos from the crowd at the previous World Cup round in Gavere and in Diegem – winning both Belgian races emphatically.
Before the race in Hulst, the Dutchman had been looking forward to racing in front of his home fans for the first time this cyclocross season.
He said: “There aren’t many Dutch crosses left, so it’s nice to come here and you can see that it attracts a lot of people.”
The expected showdown…