Mathieu van der Poel has won the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Namur. The Dutchman triumphed in the first clash of the season between himself, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock. In the women?s race, Lucinda Brand was untouchable for the third year in a row.

The Citadel de Namur provided the backdrop for a nail-biting duel between Van der Poel, van Aert and Pidcock. Last week, the Brit left van der Poel in his wake in the Telenet Superprestige in Gavere and booked his first victory in a qualifying cyclo-cross competition. Would he be able to repeat that feat once more at the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Namur?

Pidcock immediately took the lead. Together with van Aert, van der Poel and World Cup leader Michael Vanthourenhout, he broke away from the rest in the early stages. It was already clear at that point that the winner would emerge from this small group.

Eager Pidcock tried to shake off his competitors several times. He found an opening during one of his many accelerations, but van Aert and van der Poel ? who joined forces in the pursuit ? never lost sight of the young Brit. Vanthourenhout's chances went up in smoke after a puncture.

In the penultimate lap, van Aert, closely followed by van der Poel, closed the gap with Pidcock. The World Champion waited until the right moment and managed a splitting break in the next climb. Van Aert folded, but did not break. Van der Poel only managed to get a couple of seconds ahead, nevertheless that turned out to be just enough to win the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Namur for the fifth time.

When he crossed the finish line, van der Poel was only 3 seconds faster than van Aert. Battered Pidcock finished third with 11 seconds after an impressive cross. Unlucky Vanthourenhout finished in fourth place just over one minute behind them. Quinten Hermans, Lars van der Haar, Toon Aerts and Daan Soete finished more than 2 minutes later. Corné van Kessel came ninth with 3:25 and Ryan Kamp tenth with 3:31.

Belgian Champion Laurens Sweeck did not manage any better than 19th place. And Eli Iserbyt? No sign of him in the results. The European Champion already saw his chances of finishing at the top disappear into thin air in the first round after problems with his chain.

THREE IN A ROW FOR BRAND

Lucinda Brand started as the top favourite in the women's race. She has been the strongest in Namur for the last two years and is stringing the victories together this season.

It was one of her compatriots, Denise Betsema, who got off to the best start. She had accumulated about ten seconds lead after the first lap. But Brand did not sit back and caught up with Betsema and overtook her on the cobblestones, after which she set off on her long and impressive solo.

Betsema battled it out with Ceylin Alvarado and American Clara Honsinger for second spot. In the final lap, Betsema had to let go of Honsinger. 29 seconds behind Brand, Honsinger cruised over the finish line in second place, 9 seconds later Betsema completed the podium. They were followed by World Champion Alvarado and Hungarian Kata Blanka Vas. The best Belgian was Sanne Cant who finished in 12th place, 3:03 after Brand.

UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup Namur

Men:
1. Mathieu van der Poel
2. Wout van Aert
3. Tom Pidcock

Women:
1. Lucinda Brand
2. Clara Honsinger
3. Denise Betsema