Pre-race, experts had predicted a two-man battle between Dutch star Van der Poel and his fellow 26 year old Belgian rival Wout van Aert – and that’s exactly how the race panned out.
An early slip in the sand section and crash in the muddy grass area by Van der Poel had seemingly handed the advantage to Van Aert.
However, disaster struck for Van Aert on lap three of the eight-lap race when he punctured.
Van der Poel didn’t need a second invitation to open up a gap as his forlorn foe was forced to change bikes.
At the halfway mark, Van der Poel held an eight-second lead and the gap between the two riders see-sawed with Van der Poel having the advantage on the grass, while Van Aert was more at home on the beach of the North Sea city.
In the second half of the race, Van der Poel churned out metronomic average times of 7:20 for the 3km-long laps as he steadily increased his lead.
It proved too much for Van Aert who fought bravely, but ultimately was left with too much to do after his puncture.
As ecstatic Van der Poel punched the air as he crossed the finish line 37 seconds ahead of Van Aert.
Belgium’s Toon Aert held off Great Britain’s Tom Pidcock to finish in third place.
“The flat tyre [for Wout Van Aert] was a little bit of luck from my side to come back but at that moment I didn’t feel the race was over yet,” Van der Poel said post-race.
“The course changed and became a bit faster at the beach section and I felt a bit better. I felt better legs by then and I improved every lap running through the sand, so the good feeling was growing lap by lap and that made the difference for me today.”
Due to Covid-19 restrictions no crowds and only limited support staff were allowed.
“It means a lot but it feels really strange and doesn’t really feel like a World Championships, there’s no crowd, no friend and no family around the track,” added Van der Poel.
“It feels a bit weird but when I pull the jersey on the podium maybe it will come to mind that I’m world champion again.”
Van der Poel’s win, his fourth overall title, completed a dream world championships for the Dutch who swept all four races over the weekend.