In a thrilling display of cycling prowess, Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin-Deceuninck clinched the overall victory at the second annual Madrid Criterium, marking a significant milestone in his illustrious career. Van der Poel, the reigning world champion, dazzled the crowd as he surged ahead of a group of six elite riders, crossing the finish line of the road race in triumph before an audience of an estimated one thousand enthusiastic spectators.
Spanish cycling luminaries Juan Ayuso of UAE Team Emirates and Omar Fraile of Ineos Grenadiers secured the second and third spots on the podium, respectively. This event held particular significance for Van der Poel, marking his inaugural race on Spanish soil in his professional career.
Speaking to the media in the aftermath of his victory, Van der Poel expressed his delight at the warm reception he received, noting, “It’s really very nice to be here, with a lot of people. I enjoyed it, and the atmosphere was good.
The course was hard, concise and intense”. Despite the absence of last year’s champion, Tadej Pogačar, the competition was fierce, with UAE Team Emirates’ Ayuso and Marc Soler, alongside other crowd favorites such as Luis Léon Sánchez of Astana Qazaqstan, Juan Pedro López of Lidl-Trek, Cristian Rodríguez of Arkéa-Samsic, and Movistar’s Oier Lazkano and Carlos Verona, all taking to the start line for the 25 parade laps through the city’s heart.
Sánchez's Graceful Farewell
The event also served as a poignant farewell to cycling veteran Luis Léon Sánchez, who is set to retire at the end of 2023 after a 20-year professional career, including 47 UCI victories and 31 Grand Tour appearances.
The riders paid homage to Sánchez, raising their bicycles in a guard of honour as he made his way to the start line, creating an emotional and memorable moment. Before the road race unfolded, Sánchez delighted fans by securing a victory in the elimination race, outpacing Van der Poel and Lazkano.
In a prelude to the day’s events, fans flocked to Plaza del Callao on Sunday morning to secure autographs from Van der Poel and Spanish cycling legend Alberto Contador, making it a true celebration of the sport. With its blend of competitive fervor, emotional tributes, and fan engagement, the Madrid Criterium once again proved to be a highlight on the cycling calendar, capturing the imagination of enthusiasts and solidifying its reputation as a must-watch event.