The first clash of shoulders in Benidorm between the Dutchman Van der Poel and the Belgian Van Aert occurred on the last lap, when the two pressed the hypersonic speed button, when they decided that the race would be resolved head-to-head because their engines did not They stand up to comparison, even though the Belgian Laurens Sweeck – fourth in the race after his compatriot Iserbyt – was proclaimed champion of the World Cup. More than anything because of the number of tests he has run because Van Aert (Jumbo) and Van der Poel (Alpecin) think more about the road, the classics and their teams.
It was a last round of exclamations and sighs, a one-on-one between the best, the desired Hitchcock script. The Belgian tried it when starting in an area of twisty curves; Van der Poel replied in the passage through the sandbox; Van Aert took advantage again in a speed zone between the forest; and, finally, the Dutchman ruled after going better through the planks and in the final curves, able to hold his own in a final sprint in which the Dutchman almost missed the fences. “The last overtaking surprised me because I was more focused on putting speed. I am upset that I did not take the victory”, Van Aert accepted with sportsmanship. “It was a very beautiful, dangerous and slippery race to go so fast. I am happy for the victory”, replied Van der Poel, who collapsed on a fence to catch his breath and savor the victory on a great day.
At nine in the morning there were already queues to enter the circuit in Benidorm, which was opening with a test in the World Cup. “But it’s going fast”, resolved some parents impatiently who would soon see their son roll in the youth test. Although before they made a stop on the way to look at the stands of clothes and, incidentally, order something in a fast food stall, businesses saturated by the influx of people (around 15,000 people). “This is like in Belgium”, resolved another fan, dressed in a wig with the colors of his national flag, satisfied with how the set-up was set up —some 340,000 euros had cost—, and that the previous night the wind had thrown a lot of billboards and the workers had to get up early to put everything in place. New sacks for the boards, a little watering to avoid an inevitable dust storm with the passage of cyclists and a lot of nerves. Although each one processed them in his own way.
The day before, Van der Poel hardly wanted to lavish himself, tense to recover the ground lost in recent times against Van Aert. Neither did Britain’s Pidcock. Nothing to do with the five-time Spanish champion Felipe Orts, claimed before the microphones and cameras, even interrupted during dinner at the team hotel because the fans wanted selfies. “They ask me to be fifth [acabó noveno] when I’ve never done it!”, he laughed afterwards, as if he wanted to release a tension that in the morning, before the race, he shook with a bike ride to get to the circuit while Mario, his mechanic, adjusted him the weapon.
Van Aert, Van der Poel, the great protagonists, the magnets for the fans, also arrived at the circuit with enough time. The Dutchman passed through the arena first while a child showed him a banner in which he asked for his gloves in exchange for ham. “The good one, huh?”, clarified the mother. But everything remained in a photo and in a macaronic phrase of the young man: “Van Aert is nothing, huh?”. And, speaking of the King of Rome, the Belgian appeared, rested because in the morning he had decided not to go running to the desolation of the Jumbo-Visma team’s press officer, who did it alone.
There was little left for the trident to face each other on the sand, the grass and the steps, which took the Dutch Van Empel to prevail in the women’s category both in the race and in the World Cup, her compatriot Pieterse dismounted just a few meters from the end. The fans rang the banners eagerly, the cyclists breathed deeply and a meteoric start for Van der Poel, who took the curve first to pedal as if there was no tomorrow, worried about opening the gap because he knew that on this circuit it was difficult to close the gap , relieved because Van Aert was rubbing shoulders with the rivals in ninth position. Nothing was what it seemed.
Pidcock tried to make the Homeric race with a brutal start, deflated with the passing of the kilometers. Sweeck and Iserbyt stood up to the end. But the victory would be decided between the Belgian from Jumbo or the Dutch from Alpecin. And between watts with an ax and the ability to avoid bumps, Van der Poel took the glory. Momentary, of course, because before the end of the month they will meet in the last round of the World Cup and, above all, on February 5 the World Cup will be held in Hoogerheide (Netherlands), another presumed battle of roosters and geniuses.
While they were still dusting the circuit, the mechanics had already removed the rollers for the riders and were working on the final set-up of the bikes. And, although they seem similar to road weapons, they have certain differences. The main one is that they change the geometries of the frame to make it off-road and comfortable, stable and robust.
Vary the distance between the pedals, which are usually higher to avoid collisions between the bottom of the frame and branches, stones or any other obstacle on an unpaved road. The bikes also weigh a little more because of the frame reinforcements, plus the wheelbase is longer to offer greater stability. On the other hand, the wheel arch is a little wider so that mud does not accumulate, the tubulars in cyclocross are taped -while the tires are smooth on the road- to help drive faster on uneven terrain. Normally, they only use one chainring – although some, like champion Sweeck, use two – because there is less chance of the chain coming off, and the pedals are easier to release the shoe, since unlike on the road, they penetrate both sides To not waste time. And, finally, within the most significant, the change is electronic -you just have to adjust it and change some batteries that last a long time- because if it were mechanical, the cable would suffer from mud and water.
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