UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup: Double Dutch triumph in Belgium on Boxing Day
During the fifth and penultimate round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup, the Dutch riders brought home two Dutch victories on Boxing Day. Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team) and Lars van der Haar (Development Team Giant-Shimano) won their races on the former F1 car racing circuit of Terlaemen in dry but chilly Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.
In the youth categories the Belgians won on home soil with victories for Laurens Sweeck and Eli Iserbyt.
The prestigious location will be home to the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.
For the second year in a row, Lars van der Haar managed to claim victory on the Terlaemen car racing track. Last year he used his fast sprinting legs, but this year he simply outclassed the opposition with a long solo ride over the fast, greasy course.
In the third of nine laps Van der Haar set off and he was only seen back by his rivals at the finish line. Behind him World Cup leader Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games Cycling Team) awaited for more than a lap to react on Van der Haar. The in-form Belgian rider never got back to less than ten seconds and eventually started to fade back. Behind Pauwels a group with Corné van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea), Swiss champion Julien Taramarcaz (Corendon-Kwadro), David van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) and German champion Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) battled for third place.
With just over two laps to go Van der Haar was nearly a minute ahead of Pauwels when his chain came off. Due to the mechanical problems, his lead was cut back to 23 seconds. Nevertheless, Van der Haar was never in trouble and he cruised to a well deserved victory.
Due to the off-day from Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) who was formerly second in the World Cup classification Van der Haar moves into second place at 80 points from Pauwels. At the final World Cup round there are exactly 80 points at stake for the winner, meaning Pauwels isn’t completely certain of the overall victory just yet. Van Kessel won the battle for third place in Heusden-Zolder ahead of Taramarcaz, Walsleben and Van der Poel. Van Kessel remains in third place overall at 87 points from leader Pauwels. Meeusen drops to fifth overall behind Walsleben.
In the Women’s category, UCI World Champion Marianne Vos repeated the fast start that delivered her second place at last week’s World Cup round in Namur.
This time French champion and teammate Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team) was the last rider who was able to keep up with the cyclo-cross World Champion. Once dropped, Ferrand-Prevot quickly lost ground and Vos seemed to be heading for an impressive race-long solo.
In the background poorly started Czech champion Nash blasted forward, bridging up with Ferrand-Prevot at the beginning of the third lap but trailing leader Vos by half a minute. Also Sabine Stultiens (Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team) and World Cup leader Sanne Cant (Belgium) bridged across. Katherine Compton (USA) was second-placed in the World Cup at one point from Cant before the race but she dropped out of the same chase group in the third lap and abandoned the race.
During the third lap Cant broke a spoke in her rear wheel, dropping back behind Italian champion Eva Lechner (Rusvel) and compatriot Ellen Van Loy (Belgium). Last week’s World Cup winner Nash put the hammer down in that third lap, dropping Stultiens too but riding still at half a minute from Vos with Ferrand-Prevot on her wheel. That gap went up in smoke when Vos flatted in the penultimate lap. When hitting the final lap Vos was caught back by Nash and Vos’ French teammate Ferrand-Prevot. That last lap was a true thriller in which Nash seemed to have the upper hand until she slipped away before the final climb. Vos blasted forward and grabbed her fifth victory in Heusden-Zolder, ahead of Nash and Ferrand-Prevot. Cant was seventh but extends her lead in the World Cup classification to 29 points over Compton. Ellen Van Loy remains in third place overall.
Men Under 23
Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) sneaked away at the end of the second lap in the third round of the World Cup in the Men Under 23 category. The pace dropped in front and Sweeck profited. Behind him everybody was awaiting a reaction from top favourites. Every move from Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) was covered by World Cup leader Wout Van Aert (Belgium) while Sweeck collected a lead of half a minute. Late in the race the favourites accelerated but Van der Poel quickly had to let go of Van Aert as he struggled with his shoe cleat. Sweeck held on to his lead and won his first World Cup round. Van Aert was second at 24 seconds. Van der Poel won the battle for third place at nearly a minute from winner Sweeck.
Van Aert leads the World Cup classification by twenty points over his compatriot Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium). Sweeck and Van der Poel share third place at 35 points from Van Aert.
Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) won the third World Cup round in the Junior Men category. Two Dutch riders flanked him on the podium: Jens Dekkers and Max Gulickx. Previous World Cup round winner Johan Jacobs (Switzerland) was fourth in Heusden-Zolder ahead of Gage Hecht (USA). In the World Cup classification Iserbyt leads Jacobs by 25 points.
The final World Cup round is held next month in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.