Can Iserbyt challenge Van der Poel at the World Championships? "Obsessing over the title and just following Mathieu can be risky" Cyclo-cross

Can Iserbyt challenge Van der Poel at the World Championships? "Obsessing over the title and just following Mathieu can be risky"

Can Iserbyt challenge Van der Poel at the World Championships? "Obsessing over the title and just following Mathieu can be risky"

Mathieu van der Poel is undeniably the clear favorite for victory at the Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Tábor. While his compatriots Pim Ronhaar and Joris Nieuwenhuis appear to be his toughest competitors on paper, could Eli Iserbyt, arguably the most consistent performer throughout the cyclo-cross season, pose a real challenge? After clinching the overall World Cup title in Hoogerheide, the Flemish rider from Pauwels Sauces-Bingoal shared his thoughts and expectations for the upcoming championship race.

"This World Cup victory means a lot to me. It ranks quite high among my achievements. My Belgian and European titles are my crowning glories, but this World Cup win, along with my previous win in the general classification for the World Cup, takes a proud third place," said the West Flanders native. "It's a prestigious title, so it's quite an accomplishment. It marks the third goal I've achieved this season, and for that, I'm extremely pleased," he added, referring to his Belgian title and almost certain victory in the Superprestige series.

Despite feeling tired, Iserbyt is aiming high and hoping for the best at the World Championships

Iserbyt views his overall victory in the most prestigious regularity classification as a major boost heading into the World Championship race. "It's quite an achievement," he remarks. "I plan to savor this for a couple of days before shifting my full attention to the World Championships." At Hoogerheide, Iserbyt came in fifth, a result he's satisfied with. "Overall, it was pretty good, though I did struggle in the final rounds. I felt like I had expended my best energy. After the Belgian Championships, I've taken things a bit easier. I'm hoping to regain my energy in the week leading up to Tábor, which will be a week of rest for me. I've had two weeks of intense training in Spain, along with the Benidorm race, and I'm definitely feeling the fatigue. It's a good time to slow down a bit."

Iserbyt's season has already been successful. So, what would make the World Championship a success for him? "It's difficult to say. Obviously, a medal would be great. You always secretly hope for the best, the highest achievement, but being realistic, that's tough with Mathieu in the mix. This season, I've got nothing left to lose or win. Anything extra is just a bonus. That's a good mindset for taking on the challenge and aiming high."

"But as team Belgium, we can't just focus on Van der Poel," Iserbyt advises

When asked if he's considering a different approach to the World Championships - maybe aiming for a surprise - he responds with a smile. "I'm not sure yet if I'll do anything differently, haha! We need to check out the course first. They're predicting good weather, but you never know in the Czech Republic. Depending on that, I might adjust my tactics." So, what's the key tactical approach for Belgium? "The most important thing will be team riding. That could mean blocking, but also keeping up for as long as possible, driving the race, and going full-out for the other two medals. However, we can't just fixate on Van der Poel: getting too caught up in the title chase and just following Mathieu is risky."

Regarding Tábor, Iserbyt has mostly fond memories, having never finished lower than second there. Reminded of this, he responds thoughtfully. "That sounds about right! To be honest, I've always had a mixed relationship with Tábor. For instance, I lost the Junior World Championship there to Simon Andreassen but also clinched the European Championship against Tom Pidcock. I've won the World Cup race there too, though sometimes I've been a close second. It's often been a case of 'almost there, or not quite' for me. But generally, my memories are positive. The course is interval-based, but it's been altered a bit with some sections changed, so we'll need to take a look. Generally, it should suit me well."

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