Van der Poel completes European cyclo-cross hat-trick
Mathieu van der Poel won his third consecutive European cyclo-cross title in Silvelle in Italy on Sunday.
Van der Poel led over the start-finish line for the final time with Eli Iserbyt close behind him and three other Belgians - Michael Vanthourenhout, Laurens Sweech and Quinten Hermans - all trying to cling on to their relentless pace.
But the final 17.5km in sodden conditions was too much for them to stay with the defending champion and only Iserbyt, a three-time winner on the World Cup circuit this year, was able to challenge in the closing stages.
However, Van der Poel held him at arm's length, winning by just three seconds before Sweeck won the battle for the final spot on the podium, 20 seconds behind the leader.
"It was a difficult course to make a difference," Van der Poel said.
"I have some very big goals in 2020 and now I'm a little bit focused and excited for the races on the road and then the Olympics."
"After combining cross, mountain biking and road over the past year to great success, he returned for just his second cross race of the season, winning here, just as he did in Ruddervoorde last week," Eurosport cycling expert Rob Hatch said after the race.
"His closest rival, Eli Iserbyt was on his 11th race day (having won 7 from 10 of those) and although managing to push the Dutchman hard, he couldn’t prevent the star from yet again confirming his status as a monster on just about any terrain. Three wins in a row now at the euros, although we won’t see the European champion’s jersey for a while, as he remains world champ.
"A word on Tom Pidcock, who was the best of the rest, once the riders from the low lands had their say, at 20yrs of age, the Yorkshireman is managing to live up to the hype so far, finishing 8th in his first continental championships at elite level."
Great Britain's Pidcock, who won the Under-23 event last year, was the highest-placed rider not from the Netherlands or Belgium, coming home in eighth.