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July 15, 2021
While every sport has deep-rooted rivalries, there is nothing more exciting than witnessing one come to life before our eyes. Each year, as new riders join the ranks, It’s only natural that the most talented and athletic of them enter into direct competition and battle for victory.
Those that rise to the top of the major tour classifications become uncomfortably familiar with each other, looking over their shoulder slightly more than they were previously accustomed to. From Greg LeMond vs. Bernard Hinault to Fausto Coppi vs. Gino Bartali, cycling's long history has had no shortage of memorable rivalries to get behind.
This year's Tour de France has been no different, with an entertaining battle between Wout van Aert vs. Mathieu van der Poel well underway. Both of these riders have proved their unmatched versatility and strength, battling side by side in cyclocross circuit races as youth since 2012, when Mathieu van der Poel drew first blood. In 2014, Wout van Aert took his revenge by snagging the U23 world championships in cyclocross.
Then in 2014, the two young riders decided to exit the younger racing category and move to the elite pro circuit, where they immediately solidified positions at the top of almost every race. Cyclocross became a two-horse race, with either one or the other leading by miles.
In 2016, the two riders began to test their road racing abilities, taking the once cyclocross rivalry to new heights. Both Van Aert and van der Poel heightened their sprinting and time trial abilities, ushering in what many believe is a golden era of cycling. Now, there's no guessing who will end up on top and how long they will last as the two riders continue to battle head to head in the 2021 Tour de France.
Although rivalries, at times, can become cutthroat and bitter, at the root is an inspiring and relatable message to push further and harder than your competitors or what you envisioned was possible. This universal sense of passion is what motivates you to tune in and watch bike racing every week, getting you out in the saddle to become the best possible athlete and rider you can be.
Luckily, for us as fans, we have the luxury to sit back and take it all in. For more Tour de France updates and bike hacks, visit the Thread + Spoke Journal or get your own MATJE VS WOUT t-shirt today.
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