Michael van den Ham excelled in the horrendous conditions of Sunday’s third round of the World Cup in Dendermonde, Belgium, taking 17th to tie his best career World Cup result in 2016’s Las Vegas round. It’s now 2-2 between Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel in this cyclocross season, as Van Aert emerged from the morass to win his first 2020-2021 World Cup round. Van der Poel had the better of his Belgian rival in the second round of the World Cup and Saturday’s Superprestige race, while Van Aert beat the Dutchman in the Herenthals round of the X2O Trofee. By winning the third round, Van Aert seized the series lead.
The weather, fueled by Storm Bella, was atrocious. It had poured rain earlier in the day, ensuring plenty of mud. Most riders pitted every 2.52-km lap. Even the wind was strong. The race was in danger of not happening until the bridge and the gantry were removed from the course. It was a day that demanded a lot of running.
It was a new 2.52-km course.
Spectacle guaranteed on this new course in Dendermonde! 💥 #CXWorldCup pic.twitter.com/qWFzbBqKTr
— UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup (@UCIcyclocrossWC) December 24, 2020
Two rounds had been raced before Sunday. Michael Vanthourenhout took his first ever World Cup victory in Tabor, Czech Republic, while van der Poel triumphed in Namur. Vanthourenhout led Van Aert by seven points at the top of the standings.
Van Aert and Corne Van Kessel became entangled on Lap 1, delaying both. In the heavy conditions it took a while for there to be any separation in the long line. Van der Poel, Van Aert, Tom Pidcock, Toon Aerts, Vanthourenhout and Quenten Hermans crossed the line together.
Van Aert nabbed the lead on Lap 2 and van der Poel quickly grabbed his wheel. The duo finished the second circuit 22 seconds in front of Vanthourenout, Hermans and van Kessel.
Lap 3 saw Van Aert pull away from his great rival, establishing a huge gap of 31-seconds. Van den Ham was 23rd.
By Lap 5, Van Aert was a full minute ahead of van der Poel. Aerts was momentarily in third place until Vanthourenhout took over.
No matter what you are doing right now, you are probably having a much better Sunday than these guys. pic.twitter.com/yBrDcPltjU
— Cycling out of context (@OutOfCycling) December 27, 2020
With Van Aert’s gap continuing to balloon, Aerts vs Vanthourenhout demanded more attention. Toon pushed ahead of Michael on Lap 6. When Van Aert heard the bell he had a 2:14 lead over the world champion and finished almost three minutes clear.
The next round is in Hulst, the Netherlands, on January 3. Originally planned as 11 races, the 2020-2021 World Cup had six races cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020-2021 World Cup, Round 3, Dendermonde, Elite Men
1) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Jumbo-Visma) 1:06:10
2) Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherland/Alpecin-Fenix) +2:49
3) Toon Aerts (Belgium/Telenet Baloise Lions) +3:06
17) Michael van den Ham (Canada) +6:41