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Eli Iserbyt took a Belgian victory at the European cyclocross championships in Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, Sunday.
The 23-year-old beat Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) after the pair had led the action for much of the race. Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) took third.
The Belgian pair dominated a race that played out with a different feel in the absence of dominant forces Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel. Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout, both teammates at trade team Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal, went clear on lap three and were never seen again.
“Michael and I were the strongest today,” Iserbyt said. “It was maybe a little bit too early in the race to put in such a big attack, but I made a mistake in the second lap – I had a bit of a crash after the stairs, and so I had to go full gas. I thought, ‘now I’m going full gas, I’ll just go for it.'”
Van der Haar led the chase in a front group dominated by Belgians and came to within around 10 seconds of catching the two leaders. However, Iserbyt always looked in control as Vanthourenhout was never fully able to match his pace, always a few meters behind him.
“It was good to have Michael there to keep the pace at the beginning of the race, but we had to ride really fast because Lars [van der Haar] rides fast in the sand sections, where I’m not so good,” Iserbyt said. “I had to go really deep in the other sections.”
Iserbyt made his winning move in the penultimate lap, kicking clear of his countryman to soon build a solid gap. Once Iserbyt was away, Vanthourenhout had no response, finishing 16 seconds behind the youngster.
Having been denied by van der Poel at the European championships in 2019, Iserbyt will now wear the jersey through the 2020-2021 season, which gets started in earnest this week.
“It was a big goal for me in a strange season,” Iserbyt said of his victory. “To have a jersey so early in the season is good for the mental health and for the rest of the races.”