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Cyclocross

Eli Iserbyt closes out dominant World Cup campaign with Hoogerheide triumph

World Cup-winner Iserbyt cranks away from leaders in final lap before holding off searing chase from Tom Pidcock in final race before worlds.

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Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) took a confidence-boosting win in the final round of the UCI cyclocross World Cup in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. The Belgian has been the dominant force in cyclocross this season, and this was his seventh World Cup win since opening up his account in Waterloo in early October.

Lars van der Haar (Trek Baloise Lions) crossed the line second after a surging chase from Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) in the last lap.

All the favorites for the Fayetteville world championships were on the start line. As well as being the traditional final round of the World Cup, Hoogerheide is also the last race before the world championships and a critical test of form. A dry week meant that the course was running fast, with only a few small stretches of deep ruts.

Before the race Quinten Hermans (Tormans Circus) confessed to feeling nervous after having missed several days of training due to sickness, but he looked strong on the opening lap as he followed fast-starter Ryan Kamp (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal). Coming off a heavy week of training in Mallorca on the Ineos Grenadiers training camp, Pidcock could be forgiven for having stiff legs.

Along with Iserbyt, Pidcock got shuffled back into the pack on the opening half-lap and began patiently picking his way back towards the front.

European champion van der Haar was keen not to let Pidcock and Iserbyt get back to the front and attacked through the finishing straight, taking Hermans with him.

On the third lap Pidcock eased through to the front of the chasing group and set off in pursuit of the two leaders. Within a lap the Olympic MTB champion had caught van der Haar and Hermans. At the back of the chasing group Toon Aerts (Trek Baloise Lions) had a painful crash at the barriers.

Having caught the leaders, Pidcock immediately attacked on the finishing straight.

Under pressure, van der Haar crashed on a fast right-hander, taking down Hermans, Van Kessel and Iserbyt into the bargain. The crash left Pidcock in the lead by 8 seconds from Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) but van der Haar wasn’t giving up; he clearly wanted to test his form and whenever he had the opportunity to lay down the power van der Haar went deep. Iserbyt absorbed the pressure then took control of the chase in the final three laps.

Iserbyt caught Pidcock and they eased the pace, allowing Vanthourenhout and van der Haar to get back to the front, so a group of four took the bell.

Iserbyt jumped in the finishing straight and pushed on through the technical sections at the start of the lap. Vanthourenhout forced van der Haar to do the chasing, with Pidcock relegated to fourth place. The Briton squeezed through to the front and tried to repeat the epic last lap turnaround of Rucphen, but he ran out of track.

The result did not significantly alter the final standings of the World Cup overall, which Iserbyt secured in Hulst in early January. Iserbyt finishes top with 485 points, team-mate Vanthourenhout finishes second on 357 points, with Aerts third on 348 points.

Though Sunday’s incidents did not give us a clear view of the relative levels of form between the riders, it did point towards a thrilling race next weekend.

Next week’s course in Fayetteville favors those with good power on the climbs. And for riders accustomed to only traveling around the Low Countries, the long-haul flight could play a role too. Recovery from jet lag could play an important role next Sunday.

Top-5:

1 Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal): 1.00.18
2 Lars van der Haar (Trek Baloise Lions): +0.02
3 Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers): +0.03
4 Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal): +0.05
5 Toon Aerts (Trek Baloise Lions): +0.54