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Mathieu van der Poel overcomes late crash to win world road race title

Mathieu van der Poel

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 06: Mathieu Van der Poel of the Netherland with his gold medal after winning the UCI Cycling Championship men’s elite road race, on August 06, 2023, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

SNS Group via Getty Images

Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel overcame a crash with 10 miles left to win the 168-mile road race at the world cycling championships.

Van der Poel, 28, won his first senior road cycling world medal, a decade after taking the junior road race title.

He had about a 35-second lead when he fell on a right turn and slid all the way across a wet, two-lane road in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sunday. For a moment, he thought the rainbow jersey was lost.

“If this cost me the world title, I would have not slept for a couple of days,” he said. “I was pretty pissed at myself. It’s not that I was taking risks in my opinion. I just had to stay on the bike. I didn’t manage of course.”

The trio chasing him — two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia, Olympic road race silver medalist and Tour de France sprint champion Wout van Aert of Belgium and 2019 World road race champion Mads Pedersen of Denmark — gained about 10 seconds.

Van der Poel, his jersey torn around his right armpit and thigh, his right elbow scraped red and something hanging from a damaged right shoe, then pulled away.

He ended up winning by 97 seconds over his rival van Aert after more than six hours in the saddle. Pogacar edged Pedersen for bronze.

Neilson Powless was the top American in 11th.

Van der Poel may be the world’s most versatile cyclist. He’s a five-time world champion in cyclo-cross, a world bronze medalist in mountain bike and owns a Tour de France stage victory and one-day race wins at Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

"[This world title] was one of the biggest goals I had left,” he said. “It almost completes my career.”

Van der Poel chose to race strictly mountain bike in his Olympic debut in Tokyo, crashed in the first lap and ultimately withdrew. Men’s mountain bike was two days after the road race in Tokyo.

The men’s road race, traditionally on the first day of medal competition at the Olympics, is a week later at the 2024 Paris Games, five days after the men’s mountain bike.

Van der Poel’s maternal grandfather, Frenchman Raymond Poulidor, won the 1964 Vuelta a Espana and four world road race medals -- all silver or bronze.

Road cycling worlds finish over the next week, featuring the women’s time trial on Thursday, the men’s time trial on Friday and the women’s road race next Sunday.