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Some fans at Sunday’s UCI world championships took to throwing beer and even spitting on riders during the elite men’s race. After finishing second to Belgian Wout van Aert, Dutch rider Lars van der Haar said he weathered the abuse during his effort.
“There were some points in the course where [fans] were spitting on me, and I got a lot of beer on me,” van der Haar said. “At that moment you’re so focused on the race and you’re doing your own thing, that you’re not really paying attention to that.”
Video from the race confirmed that van Aert was splashed by beer in at least one corner of the Zolder course.
Heckling is endemic to cyclocross, but fans occasionally take things too far. In 2012 Belgian great Sven Nys abandoned his bicycle during a bp Post Bank Trophy race and chased a fan who had pelted him with a cup of beer. In 2006 Belgian rider Bart Wellens kicked a heckling spectator during a round of the World Cup. The 2014 Cross Vegas event was also marred by beer spraying.
Van der Haar gapped the field midway through the eight-lap race, and rode with a 20-second gap over his chasers. That’s when fans at the Zolder race track began booing the young Dutchman and pelting him with liquids.
Van Aert eventually caught van der Haar, setting up a dramatic finish.
At the post-race press conference, van der Haar said some fans were, “not so respectful,” while the majority of fans cheered him on. The abuse, he said, did not impact the overall outcome of the race.
“No, some guy next to me influenced that result,” van der Haar said, pointing at van Aert.
After the race, some riders and fans took to Twitter to discuss the abuse.
Really happy with my 6th place at the Worlds, too bad not everyone was sportive with the Dutch riders. https://t.co/6i1YYR4jdm
— David Van der Poel (@Davidvanderpoel) January 31, 2016
Lars van der Haar: “It wasn’t even beer, they spat on me.” #cxzolder
Classy, Belgian crowds
— José Been (@TourDeJose) January 31, 2016