The 2013 overall World Cup winner Lars van der Haar (Giant – Shimano) showed today that he is on track by once again winning the opening round of the World Cup at Valkenburg. Van der Haar rode impressively, taking the holeshot and establishing an early lead, then shaking Tom Meeusen (Telenet – Fidea) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb – Napoleon Games) off his wheel on his way to victory.
Pauwels, who lost connection with Van der Haar due to some bad luck, turned his fortune around to explode out of a large chase group in the final turns, taking second ahead of Telenet – Fidea’s Corne van Kessel. US National Champion Jeremy Powers clearly enjoyed the conditions, carrying the form that has seen him dominating the US circuit to claim a fantastic ninth place. Sven Nys, who missed Thursday’s Kermicross due to illness, never showed himself at the front but looked to stay in the fight for the overall World Cup title before a stuck chain with three to go cost him his sixth place; the effort to regain ground ultimately proved too much, and he abandoned with a lap to go.
“After the first lap, I felt I could win today,” Van der Haar said after the race. “It went perfect. I didn’t expect to be alone so early, because Pauwels was riding strong, but I think I pushed him a little too hard and he made a mistake.”
The only other American contender, Jonathan Page, lost his race nearly before it began, breaking his rear derailleur as the field surged into the the first bottleneck of the race.
Ben Berden was also present for this year’s World Cup. Although he usually faces step competition for qualifying due to the sheer talent from the Belgian men, this year’s rule changes, which allow a rider ranked in the top 50 of the UCI standings to participate no matter the number of riders already from his or her country.
How It Happened
At a scorching-for-Eurocross 70 degrees, conditions were hot and dry today at Valkenburg. It was a short uphill sprint to the 180-degree holeshot, and it was no surprise that the honors went to Lars van der Haar. Last year, Van der Haar won at Valkenburg, in similar conditions, and as he accelerated away from the bottleneck he seemed very intent on doing the same. Sadly, as van der Haar stretched out the front of the field, the cameras focused on Jonathan Page running at the back, his bike in one hand, his rear wheel in the other.
Van der Haar continued to make the most of his lead, sprinting out of the saddle at every opportunity, guaranteeing that anyone that wanted to bridge to the front would have their work cut out for them. Partway through the second lap, Tom Meeusen and Kevin Pauwels caught van der Haar, and the three set about working their lead, with Francis Mourey leading the chase behind. Sven Nys, who had a solid position in the opening turns, looked clearly off his game, and began ceding positions and dropping down to eighth.
At the end of the second lap, the leaders held an eight-second lead, with large groups of riders crossing the line behind them. Jeremy Powers took advantage of the tarmac to accelerate past a large group and move into 14th position.
At the front, Van der Haar continued to drive the pace, while Philip Wasleben (BKCP Powerplus) took over chase duties behind. Nys, still not showing signs of life, continued to maintain his position while Powers inched closer to the top ten.
As the trio of leaders rocketed around the course, Van der Haar continued to throw jabs at Pauwels and Meeusen. Meeusen was the first against the ropes, losing contact with just over five laps to go. Pauwels, however, looked fit enough to respond to Van der Haar’s punches; that is, until he slid out and hit the matt on a loose downhill corner. The crash gave Van der Haar an instant ten seconds, and nothing but open road to winning the first World Cup of the season. For Van der Haar, it would be a clean, powerful ride to the end.
Behind them, Wasleben eked closer to Meeusen and Pauwels, while an additional 35 seconds back, Powers continued his fantastic ride, pulling around Francis Mourey and into the top ten.
With four laps remaining, Van der Haar had extended his gap to 25 seconds, with Meeusen burying himself, Pauwels on his wheel, and Wasleben just about to make contact. Behind them, Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb – Napolean Games) showed an impressive late-race surge, and soon bridged up to join the chasing trio. As van der Haar extended his lead to nearly a minute, the battle for second was now a four-horse race.
That is, before Telenet Fidea teammates Thijs van Amerongen and Corne van Kessel began to bridge, hoping to throw their names into the podium hat, causing Wasleben, the only racer without a teammate in the lead chase, to take to the front and expend the energy necessary to hold off the dangerous pursuit. But Wasleben could only stay on the gas for so long, and soon the chase swelled momentarily to six riders before the German champion, paying dearly for his effort, slipped off the back. The podium was now a battle between two Sunweb – Napoleon Games riders and three Telenet – Fidea.
Behind the drama, Sven Nys, with a lap to go, quietly withdrew from the race.
Van Kessel was the first to attack, sprinting around the small group on a stretch of pavement. Pauwels responded, and came to the front, as Klaas Vantornout . As the Telenet team looked ready to set up the next attack, Meeusen mistimed a corner and nearly lost control, disrupting their train and giving Pauwels the window he needed to put in an attack of his own, distancing the rest and pushing to the finish. Van Kessel followed close behind, followed by Vantornout, Meeusen, van Amerongen, Wasleben, Jens Adams, and then, in ninth, Jeremy Powers.
You can also find the full women’s race report along with photo galleries from the World Cup action at Valkenburg.
Valkenburg World Cup 2014 - Men's Full Results
|1||Lars VAN DER HAAR||NED||23||1:05:42|
|3||Corne VAN KESSEL||NED||23||1:06:16|
|6||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||28||1:06:23|
|19||Twan VAN DEN BRAND||NED||25||1:08:17|
|26||Patrick VAN LEEUWEN||NED||29||1:09:20|
|31||Javier RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ||ESP||35||1:10:33|
|37||Eddy VAN IJZENDOORN||NED||29|
|43||David VAN DER POEL||NED||22|