Cyclocross

CX: Lars Van Der Haar powers to first World Cup win since 2017

New European champion out-paces Eli Iserbyt after a blistering battle in the Czech Republic.

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Lars Van Der Haar (Trek Baloise Lions) made the most of his outstanding form and resurgent confidence Sunday to take the Tabor cyclocross UCI World Cup ahead of Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) and Quinten Hermans (Tormans Circus).

The course suited Van Der Haar’s high-power riding style and the Dutchman bided his time before ratcheting up the pace on the penultimate lap. It was his first World Cup win since Hoogerheide 2017. Last year’s winner Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) finished fifth, just behind Toon Aerts (Trek Baloise Lions).

The course in Tabor has not changed much over the years. Zig-zagging across a grassy field, climbing and descending short steep banks, the track is fast but the frequent rutted corners can be treacherous. The track is consistently wide, with few bottlenecks.

While Tabor is a regular fixture for the World Cup, the long journey from the Low Countries puts extra pressure on the riders and their support crews, particularly when there is an important race in Belgium the day before. This year all the riders at the top of the World Cup standings chose to skip yesterday’s Ethias Cross GP Leuven, won by Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal). During the week Sweeck said that winning races in Flanders was more important to his sponsors than foreign World Cups.

This attitude may feel out-dated but it does demonstrate part of the problem the UCI faces in trying to expand cyclocross geographically.

Eli Iserbyt knocked into second but still leads World Cup standings

TABOR, CZECH REPUBLIC - NOVEMBER 14: (L-R) Eli Iserbyt of Belgium and Team Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal on second place, race winner Lars Van Der Haar of Netherlands and Team Baloise Trek Lions and Quinten Hermans of Belgium and Tormans-Circus Cyclo Cross Team on third place, pose on the podium during the podium ceremony after the 25th Tabor UCI Cyclo-Cross Worldcup 2021 - Men's Elite / #CXWorldCup / on November 14, 2021 in Tabor, Czech Republic. (Photo by )
Lars Van Der Haar, center, was all smiles after winning Sunday in Tabor. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

The long overnight journey, however, did not seem to blunt Sweeck’s speed.

On the opening lap he stayed with the favorites, led by Iserbyt, as a long line of riders began to assess the course and the competition. Like the women’s race an hour earlier, it was a tense and tactical race. Iserbyt, Vanthourenhout and Van Der Haar all put in testing digs to see who reacted.

There was a team dynamic at play as well, unusual for cyclocross. The Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal trio of Iserbyt, Vanthourenhout and Sweeck were working together against the Trek Baloise Lions duo of Aerts and Van Der Haar, while Tormans Circus had Hermans and Corne Van Kessel in the front group.

On the fourth of eight laps, Hermans suffered a flat front tire and gingerly guided his bike to the pits, losing seven seconds. But it was well-timed, because the group ahead sat up in the finishing straight, allowing the Fayetteville winner to rejoin them less than half a lap later.

Vanthourenhout put in another teasing attack over the planks and Aerts was quickest to respond. Both riders were ultimately to pay for that effort. On the sixth lap Aerts went into the pits for a new bike, re-integrating into the group in fourth place. Iserbyt took advantage of Aerts’ position by attacking shortly afterwards. Van Der Haar was quickly onto his wheel and the stage was set for a showdown between the World Cup leader and the European champion.

On the penultimate lap Van Der Haar took to the front and it was clear that he had an edge over Iserbyt. Van Der Haar was punching out of the corners, Iserbyt desperately trying to hold his wheel. Hermans wasn’t much farther behind but never looked like getting on terms. The final lap started with the Dutchman holding a lead of barely a second. Halfway round the circuit, at the top of the hill, he had six seconds and the race was won.

Iserbyt now has 205 points in the overall World Cup ranking, and Lars Van Der Haar jumps into second place, with 154 points. After a relatively poor performance in the European Championships, Iserbyt won Thursday’s Superprestige Jaarmarktcross in Niel and second place today was a solid result. Van Der Haar’s victory will, however, give the Trek Baloise Lions team some hope that the overall World Cup victory could still be within their grasp.

Rank Name Team Time
1 Lars Van Der Haar Trek Baloise Lions 1.02.27
2 Eli Iserbyt Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal 0.11
3 Quinten Hermans Baloise Trek Lions 0.15
4 Toon Aerts Baloise Trek Lions  0.29
5 Michael Vanthourenhout Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal 0.41