Mathieu van der Poel struck a pessimistic tone after his loss to Wout van Aert in Mol, saying he had “no explanation” as to why he is so far behind.
The four-time world champion was still good enough for second place on Friday at Zilvermeercross, but he had to watch in the final two laps as his old adversary pulled away from him.
By the end of the sand race, Van der Poel knew he was chasing a missed target and crossed the finish line 56 seconds behind Van Aert.
“I don’t have a good feeling,” Van der Poel said out loud. Het Nieuwsblad. “I didn’t feel good today and I’m not satisfied.
“I don’t have a real explanation for it. We have been working hard and maybe I need to focus a bit on the next few races. I hope I can put up a little more resistance because I can’t be happy with that.”
Van der Poel began his 2022-2023 cyclocross campaign with a win at the World Cup race in Hulst and won again in Antwerp by beating Van Aert in their first crash of the campaign.
He struggled in the Val di Sole snow last weekend but made it to the Exact Cross Mol, aka Zilvermeercross, to kick off a busy Christmas racing season.
Van der Poel will next compete at the Gavere round of the World Cup on December 26, then the Superprestige rounds in Heusden-Zolder and Diegem on December 27 and 28 before completing the year at the Exact Cross in Loenhout.
The new year begins with the X2O Trophy races 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 World Cup in Benidorm on January 22 before the World Championship in Hoogerheide on February 5.
“Hopefully during the Christmas period I will have better legs and can put up more resistance, otherwise I will always be behind Van Aert,” he said.
“But that has happened to me before. Now is the time to swallow it and then move on to the next race.”