Mathieu Van Der Poel won his fourth world cyclocross title this weekend. While most write off his success to being physically gifted, it is the details that truly make the difference and separate his performance from the rest.
Let’s look at the details, specifically the ability and skill, that VDP used to win the World Championship. These details are things you can directly work on and apply to training to win your personal rides.
I. Transition to high power and high cadence standing to accelerate.
You will see VDP use this everywhere from the start, the corners, and the short hills. When you transition into high cadence, high power, and standing you create the most fierce acceleration possible. But careful, this is harder than it looks. Timing, technique, shifting, and weight position are key to getting the bike to shoot forward as fast as possible
II. Transition to lower power and lower cadence to carry speed.
This all about carrying speed. In cycling this ability is as important as gaining speed because there are so many places speed can be easily lost. We see VPD build speed before the sand and mud, and then lower his power and cadence to carry speed. Forcing the power in the wrong spot, like the sand, risks losing momentum while wasting energy.
III. Stay in personal zones, not worrying about what other’s do.
This is a hard one, but sometimes you have to let others pass you. VDP did not panic or race against the others to hold his position early in the race. He stayed in his zones and focused on giving his best effort.
IV. Able to pivot, reset, and regroup after mistakes.
Mistakes will happen, there is no such thing as the perfect race. But it is how you overcome your mistakes that makes the difference. VDP had a hard crash and many slips early in the race due to the fast pace. With each mistake he took the time to pivot, reset, and regroup which resulted in him coming out on top in the end.
V. Using forward focus to come from behind, take the lead, and take the win.
Chasing from behind can be tough, but the pressure of leading can be tough as well. VDP dealt with both as he showed excellent Forward Focus chasing down Wout and then continued that same Forward Focus to stay out front, never looking back, to win.