The overall winners of the 2013-2014 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup kicked off their new campaign in splendid style. Both Lars van der Haar (Giant – Shimano Development Team) and Katherine Compton (Trek Factory Racing) won their opening round of the 2014-2015 World Cup edition in Valkenburg, Netherlands. Racing in summer temperatures local rider Van der Haar completed a long solo ride in the Elite Men’s category. US Champion Compton bounced back from a distant position after the opening lap in the Women’s category.
Elite Men: van der Haar on home soil
Just like last year Dutch Champion Lars van der Haar was riding a level above the opposition in his category. The 23-year-old local rider found a course on the legendary Cauberg hill which suited his technical abilities with its short climbs, fast descents and slippery off-camber sections.
Van der Haar gapped the rest of the field already in the opening lap but figured it was too soon to ride alone. Belgians Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb – Napoleon Games) and Tom Meeusen (Telenet – Fidea) were the only riders able to bridge up to Van der Haar. Four laps into the nine-lap long race Van der Haar accelerated again as the main chase group was gaining ground on the leaders. Meeusen quickly settled for his own rhythm while Pauwels locked himself on Van der Haar his wheel. At the end of the lap Pauwels got into a deep rut and was thrown off his bike. Van der Haar powered away and steamed towards a well deserved victory on home soil. Behind him Pauwels won the fierce battle for second place. A few moments later 23-year-old Corne van Kessel (Telenet – Fidea) cracked the World Cup podium for the first time in his career. The Dutchman held off Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb – Napoleon Games).
The top-10 at the finish line featured some surprising names with 22-year-old Jens Adams (Vastgoedservice – Golden Palace Continental Team), US-champion Jeremy Powers and 21-year-old Gianni Vermeersch (Sunweb – Napoleon Games) all having a splendid ride in Valkenburg. Belgian Champion Sven Nys (Crelan AA Drink) struggled with the warm temperatures and a dropped chain. The 38-year-old cyclo-cross star pulled out of the race during the penultimate lap.
Elite Women: Comfortable lead for Compton
In the absence of World Champion Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv Women) who won last year in Valkenburg the Cauberg was waiting to crown a new winner. Pavla Havlikova (Czech Republic) got the best start but Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (France) took over halfway through the opening lap. Katherine Compton ran into trouble during the first scrimmages and had to switch bikes, dropping outside the top 10. Meanwhile European and British Champion Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team) surged forward, with Sophie de Boer (Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental Team) and Nikki Harris (GBR) marking her wheel. Belgian Champion Sanne Cant and her compatriot Ellen Van Loy were not too far behind. During the third lap Compton moved up through the field towards seventh place, passing local rider and former World Cup winner Sanne van Paassen (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team). During the two following laps Wyman moved into the lead while Compton slowly moved up through the lead group. With one-and-a-half laps to go Compton overtook Wyman and put her under pressure. Wyman lost ground on the longer climbs but fought back on the running sections. Not avoiding the risks Compton gapped Wyman on the bumpy descent shortly before the finish and reached the line with a comfortable lead over Wyman. The battle for third place was won by Sophie de Boer. Ellen Van Loy finished fourth, narrowly holding off Elle Anderson (USA).
In the Men Under-23 category in-form riders Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) and Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) surged away during the opening lap. A little later Van der Poel crashed, allowing Vanthourenhout to completed a nearly race-long solo ride and repeat his victory from last year. Half a minute later World Champion Wout Van Aert (Belgium) was runner-up before Fabien Doubey (France). Van der Poel was sixth.
Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) was the best in the Junior Men category, finishing well ahead of Max Gulickx (Netherlands), Johan Jacobs (Switzerland) and Thomas Bonnet (France).
The second round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup takes place on November 22 in the dunes of Koksijde, Belgium. There will be races in the Elite Men and Women category. The next round in the youth categories will be on December 21 in Namur, Belgium.