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Why Sven Nys sees advantage for van der Poel in Hoogerheide barriers

Why Sven Nys sees advantage for van der Poel in Hoogerheide barriers

Cyclocross legend Sven Nys highlighted the tall barriers as a key feature for Sunday’s showdown between Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel at cyclocross world championships.

The Belgian director of the Baloise Trek Lions team, speaking with Het Nieuswsblad, praised the height and placement of the barriers as a return to tradition.

“Here, they are as they used to be. Think plan, high and uphill,” Nys said, “Quite different from the barriers we’re used to on the Superprestige or the X2O trophy these days.” The retired Belgian superstar added that if he were still racing he would have given an enthusiastic “Hallelujah!” at seeing  the course design.

Nys added that the barrier’s placement on the Hoogerheide course, combined with their height, makes them a crucial course feature.

“If you can take them with a little more guts, you are ten meters ahead for the finish via the stairs,” said Nys, adding that the uphill finish is also significant.

Asked if that gave an advantage to Mathieu van der Poel or Wout van Aert, Nys said the differences are small, but could be critical.

“Mathieu has the talent to jump over this kind of barrier, Wout has learned it,” said Nys. “That can really make the difference in the speed of execution: Mathieu can be maybe two km/h faster over the barriers than Wout, and that can be enough.”

The difference is small, though, so Nys doesn’t expect the barriers to cause significant separation between the two unless they are still together in thefinal laps. If they are, says the Belgian, “it will be fantastic for the spectators.”

It would also be special for van der Poel. While he has several cyclocross world titles, he has not yet won one at home in The Netherlands. Further, Hoogerheide is where the van der Poel family is from and where his father, Adrie was raised.

Adrie van der Poel is also the course designer for Sunday’s world championships in Hoogerheide. Some are speculating the family connection, and barrier placement specifically, could be an advantage to the younger van der Poel. The Hoogerheide course is one that has been designed by the elder van der Poel for years, though. Adrie also designed the 2017 world championships course in Valkenburg, The Netherlands, in which van Aert was victorious and in which van der Poel could only manage third.

While all eyes will be on van der Poel and van Aert when the men’s race starts on Sunday, 2023 cyclocross world championships are an…

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