UCI World Championships: Mathieu van der Poel takes rainbow with a commanding solo win

Dutchman survives late crash to win in Glasgow after aggressive race, Van Aert and Pogačar complete podium

Clock17:30, Sunday 6th August 2023
Mathieu van der Poel had enough time to sit up and celebrate his biggest road win yet at the Glasgow World Championships

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Mathieu van der Poel had enough time to sit up and celebrate his biggest road win yet at the Glasgow World Championships

The Netherlands’ Mathieu van der Poel won the men’s road race World Championships in commanding fashion on Sunday, attacking an elite group on the Glasgow circuit to go clear 22km from the finish and cross the line nearly two minutes ahead of his closest competitors.

Sprinting from a select group that had formed over the tough, wet circuits, Wout van Aert (Belgium) took silver whilst Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) beat Mads Pedersen (Denmark) into third for bronze.

After a gruelling and aggressive day of racing, the drama continued right to the very last with Van der Poel crashing whilst solo at the head of the race, but the Dutchman survived the late incident to win his first elite road rainbow jersey, adding to titles in cyclo-cross and the junior road race.

“It was one of the biggest goals I had left,” Van der Poel said of his win. “To win it today is amazing. It almost completes my career in my opinion, so for me, it’s maybe the biggest victory on the road. I cannot imagine yet riding in the rainbows for a year.”

Speaking of his attack, the new World Champion said: “I knew this was the hardest moment of the race because you had a downhill and then immediately the next bump. I felt pretty strong and I noticed the rest were a bit on the limit. Then when I went away, I didn’t expect to have a gap immediately but then when I saw nobody was following it gave me wings and I was just flying around the course.”

A drawn-out day of attritional racing

Starting in Edinburgh and finishing in Glasgow, this year’s men’s road race at the World Championships was one of the longest in recent times, coming in at 271km in length. The first 120km of this was made up of the traverse from the capital to the host city, which saw the peloton take on rolling roads and the Crow Road climb, before taking on 10 laps of a challenging circuit in Glasgow.

Raced on constantly-turning city centre roads, taking on steep climbs like Montrose Street and Scott Street, and linking up the countless corners and rises with fast descents, the Glasgow circuit was extremely technical and promised some unpredictable racing.

Heading out of Edinburgh, the breakaway attempts started almost as soon as the flag was dropped, and the day’s break established itself within the first 20km - the peloton seemed keen to let a group go, knowing the real racing would happen on the circuit. A nine-man move got up the road, containing the likes of Krists Neilands (Latvia), Owain Doull (Great Britain) and Matt Dinham (Australia). They worked well together, drawing out nine minutes of an advantage on the way to Glasgow.

After 80km of racing, the race was brought to a stop after climate protesters blocked the road, having reportedly glued themselves to the road surface. The halt in proceedings eventually went on for 50 minutes, but the racing finally got back underway again when the protesters had been moved. The breakaway were allowed to regain their advantage with 190km of racing still to do.

Hitting the Crow Road climb on the approach to Glasgow, the break’s lead began to come back down again, whilst at the back of the peloton some of the weaker riders and sprinters were already struggling to hold on. Spurring into action after the stoppage, the rest of the run-in towards Glasgow saw the pace and intensity start to wind up, anticipating action on the local circuits.

When they entered the circuit, the breakaway were 4:20 ahead of the peloton, led by the Danish team in support of Mads Pedersen. The Danes hit the laps fast and furious, already stringing out the bunch despite having more than 130km still to race. Their efforts brought the gap down to 3:44 at the end of the first lap.

Over the next few laps, the attacks started off the front of the peloton, with the likes of Mattias Skjelmose (Denmark), Tobias Halland Johannessen (Norway) and Alberto Bettiol (Italy) all getting involved, whilst some big names including Julian Alaphilippe (France), Jasper Philipsen (Belgium), and Fred Wright (Great Britain) struggled to hold on to the shrinking peloton.

The racing continued aggressively, with various moves going off the front but not quite sticking as Belgium and Denmark raced hard to bring the gap to the leaders down heading into the final 90km of racing. All the while, the likes of Tadej Pogačar and Wout van Aert were always in the right spot, at the front covering any risky moves.

An elite group forms in Glasgow

Going into the final six laps, the break was still just ahead but a small selection of favourites was forming in the chase, with just 24 riders remaining in what could be called the peloton, including the likes of Remco Evenepoel (Belgium), Michael Matthews (Australia), Pogačar, Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel.

With 76km to go, an acceleration from Van der Poel closed the final gap to the remainder of the break, and forced a split in the group, but that was only short-lived, and soon it was all back together at the front, with the favourites joined by a handful of breakaway survivors.

A few attacks continued over the following laps, but it wasn’t until 55km to go when one really stuck, with Alberto Bettiol going away solo and gaining a 40-second advantage as it started to rain on the Glasgow course. It proved difficult to bring the Italian back on the technical course, and the efforts of the chase behind saw Van der Poel, Pogačar, Van Aert and Pedersen go clear of the rest of the group, including defending champion Evenepoel.

This quartet continued racing hard to try and bring back Bettiol, and eventually, the Italian started to fade within the final 25km. With Bettiol in sight, Van der Poel attacked on one of the small climbs on the circuit to surge past the Italian and away from the other favourites.

The Dutchman quickly drew out a 40-second gap over his tiring competitors, but at 17km that lead looked in risk when he slid out on a wet corner. He was able to get back up still with a healthy gap, and without radios in the World Championships, the chasers wouldn’t have known about the incident to try and take advantage of it.

Instead, the crash seemed to spur Van der Poel on, and he seemed unstoppable over the final lap, ripping a broken part of his shoe off in anger as he stormed towards victory. With a clear gap on the line, he was able to sit up and celebrate his victory, whilst behind Van Aert won the sprint from the chasers to take silver, whilst Pogačar managed to outfox Pedersen on the line to take third.

Race Results


nl flag



6H 07' 27"


be flag



+ 1' 37"


si flag



+ 1' 45"


dk flag





ch flag

KÜNG Stefan


+ 3' 48"


be flag





au flag

DINHAM Matthew




lv flag





be flag





it flag



+ 4' 03"

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