8. The Ocho: 🚲 Cycling's "unicorn prince"
"Imagine turning a sport inside out with one of the most thrilling victories you'll ever see, and then basically saying: Well, that was cool. Now it's time to do something different."
- "That's Mathieu van der Poel," writes the WSJ's Jason Gay (subscription).
Background: Van der Poel is the reigning world champion in the winter sport of cyclocross, which is basically a steeplechase through mud. And in the summer, he shifts to mountain biking, where he's considered a top contender for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Driving the news: It's what happened over the last few months, however, that has installed van der Poel as cycling's "reigning unicorn prince," writes Gay.
- "For the first time, he threw himself into road cycling's 'classics' season — gritty, often drizzly single-day races that can play out like six-hour bar fights."
- In just a handful of starts, he won a remarkable six races … and then — poof! — he disappeared and retreated back to mountain biking, as was the plan all along.
The bottom line: One cycling writer compared van der Poel's classics debut to a "meteorite blazing across the night sky."
- As for Gay, an avid cycling fan himself, it reminded him of watching Prince play the drums — "nobody's supposed to be that good at that much stuff."