Van der Poel and Van Aert: New Kids on the Block
JV Araneta (The Freeman) - April 29, 2019 - 12:00am

With Peter Sagan a no-show in the classics this year, two names have crop up to claim the crown that Sagan may have (temporarily) vacated.

Wout van Aert and Mathiue van der Poel. Both became famous because of cyclocross, and they were so talented that it seemed that any cyclocross race that feature both would mean that everybody else was racing for third place!

Of the couple, it was van Aert who raised eyebrows last year. He is a 3x world champion in cyclocross and early in 2018, he crossed over to the road racing classics and placed 3rd, 9th and 10th in the Strade Bianchi, Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem. For most pros, this would have been the highlights of a good career but for a 23yo Belgian rider who was still wet behind the ears and be able to perform at the highest, well…

The sweepstakes was won by Lotto-Jumbo, who signed van Aert after a controversial departure from his cyclocross team. Starting with a clean slate, van Aert started where he left off last year, placing 3rd again in Strade Bianchi, 6th in Milan-San Remo, 14th in Flanders. He would finished in 22nd place at Paris-Roubaix but he had multiple crashes that left him fatigued. But he was with the leading group in the last 50km when he was dropped.

Van der Poel is as classy as van Aert. They are both 6ft tall and while van Aert is smooth on the bicycle, van der Poel is more powerful and muscular. Van der Poel is also  cyclocross world champion and the road national champion of the Netherlands.

While van Aert is riding for a big team in Jumbo-Visma, van der Poel is riding for a small team and I think that unless his team can find a new financial backing for next year, I believe this Dutchman will donning new colors for 2020. There is this consensus that team Deceuninck–Quick-Step will gobble him up come next year!

So what did van der Poel did the past month? Well, he just placed 4th in the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem and won Brabantse Pijl, Dwars door Vlaanderen and of course, he won the race of this decade, the Amstel Gold Race.

If you think I am exaggerating about van der Poel’s Amstel Gold, look it up youtube. He was with a small group with 10km to go and a minute to make up. What did he do? Well, he just did what legends do but at age 24. He did 99% of the chase, caught everybody with about 300 meters to go! He rode off all of his chasing companions with a very long sprint and caught the leading duo of Julian Alaphilippe and Jacob Fulgsang and won in the most dramatic of fashion. Even Lance Armstrong was speechless!

Where did van der Poel got all of this talent? Well, his Dad, Adri, won Amstel Gold, Brabantse Pijl, Tour of Flanders, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the World Road and Cyclocross Championships  and multiple national cyclocross championships to name a few. His granddad is Raymound Poulidour, the 1964 Vuelta a Espana winner and 3x Tour de France runner up (if not for Eddy Merckx, he would have been a 3x champ).

While the classics season is over, remember those names, unless Peter Sagan says otherwise.

PETER SAGAN
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