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Cyclocross

Cyclocross World Cup: Laurens Sweeck sprints to victory

Sweeck uncorked an unbeatable sprint to the line at the World Cup stop at Beekse Bergen.

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Laurens Sweeck sprinted to victory Sunday to win the UCI Cyclocross World Cup stop at Beekse Bergen.

Lars van der Haar dashed to second, with Michael Vanthourenhout settling for third after leading for much of the final lap.

“I sprinted from quite far, but I knew we were riding fast, and it was difficult to stay on the wheel,” Sweeck said. “I went full from the beginning of the sprint, and I thought they were on the wheel, but they were not.

“I am almost at my best. I was little bit sick last week, but when I take two wins in a week, I didn’t feel 100 percent. The races were really good.”

Going into the closing laps, there were still 15 riders within 20 seconds, but a lead group pulled clear.

Vanthourenhout, Sweeck, Van der Haar, and Joris Nieuwenhuis held a small gap to the chasing World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt, who kept struggling through minor crashes and mishaps only to chase back.

With two laps to go in the eight-lap race, Sweeck dropped the hammer to try to blow up the front of the race. Vanthourenhout kept digging to stay on his wheel. Van der Haar regained contact coming through the sand to set up the bell lap with five riders still in play for the win, with Iserbyt yo-yoing off the back.

“I had a bad start and I unclipped a pedal,” Iserbyt said. “I was lucky to be able to come back to the front, but I had a few mistakes that I could not be in position to win. I can be happy with the result, but it is a pity for me today.”

Vanthourenhout pounced on the final lap, with Van der Haar and Sweeck on the rivet to stay close. Iserbyt dove past into third over the barriers, with the race knotted up going into the decisive sandpit.

Five came through for a five-up sprint on pavement, and Sweeck uncorked an unbeatable sprint to the line. It was good for his second World Cup win this season.

“I know I am not the best sprinter in the group,” Vanthourenhout said. “I think third was the best possible in that situation. I tried everything I could on the last lap to drop everyone, but it was not possible.”

Punching into the top-10 was Spain’s Felipe Orts with sixth, marking the best result of an elite male Spanish rider ever in a World Cup cyclocross.

Making order from chaos

A group pulled away in the middle laps Sunday. (Photo: DAVID PINTENS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Sunday’s race at Beekse Bergen was the first time the World Cup was contested on the Dutch course. A similar layout was used for the 2013 Dutch national championships, but with a mix of grass, tight cornering, some sand and grippy sections, along with some man-made obstacles, the course presented a tightly wound backdrop for the fifth round of the 2022-23 World Cup.

As expected for the Netherlands, there was almost no significant elevation. Under cool temperatures, sunny skies, and a slight afternoon wind, the technical, fast, mostly dry course provided a test of course and the ability to make short accelerations.

The race was interesting in that many of the top multiple discipline stars are set to rejoin the World Cup, with world champion Tom Pidcock, Wout van Aert, and Mathieu van der Poel poised to return.

Van der Haar and Sweeck opened a small gap on lap 2 when there was a hiccup in the line of riders behind them. Precision was key in the technical course laced with roots, sand, and loose dirt.

By lap 5, Nieuwenhuis surged to the front, with Van der Haar, Vanthourenhout and Sweeck on the chase. WorldCup leader Iserbyt had some trouble at the start, and was fighting his way back to hover at about 15 seconds back.

Going into lap 6 of 8 laps, Iserbyt chased back on to the leading quartet, but slipped out on a corner forcing him to chase back again.