Mathieu van der Poel struck a pessimistic note after his defeat at the hands of Wout van Aert in Mol, saying he had ‘no explanation’ for why he was so far behind.
The four-time world champion was still good enough for second place at the Zilvermeercross on Friday, but had to watch his old foe ride away from him on the final two laps.
By the finish of the sandy race, Van der Poel knew he was chasing a lost cause and crossed the line a full 56 seconds behind Van Aert.
“I don’t have such a good feeling,” Van der Poel said, according to Het Nieuwsblad. “I didn’t feel great today and I’m not satisfied.
“I don’t really have an explanation for it. We worked hard and maybe I have to refocus a bit towards the next races. Hopefully I can offer a little more resistance, because I cannot be satisfied with this.”
Van der Poel began his 2022-2023 cyclocross campaign with victory in the World CUp round in Hulst, going on to win again in Antwerp, beating Van Aert in their first clash of the campaign.
He struggled in the snow of Val di Sole last weekend but came to the Exact Cross Mol – also known as Zilvermeercross, looking to kickstart a busy Christmas racing period.
Van der Poel will next race in the Gavere round of the World Cup on December 26, then at the Superprestige rounds in Heusden-Zolder and Diegem on December 27 and 28, before rounding out the year at the Exact Cross in Loenhout.
The new year will kick off with the X2O Trophy rounds in Herentals and Koksijde before the World Cup in Zonhoven on January 8. After a break for a training camp on the road with Alpecin-Deceuninck, he will ride the Benidorm World Cup on January 22 ahead of the World Championships in Hoogerheide on February 5.
“Hopefully I will have better legs over the Christmas period and I can offer more resistance, otherwise I will always be behind Van Aert,” he said.
“But this has happened to me before. It is now a matter of swallowing it and then on to the next race.”