Lars van der Haar went clear early to win the Valkenburg World Cup Elite Men's race solo and in a commanding fashion. © Bart Hazen

File photo: Lars van der Haar, shown here winning the Valkenburg World Cup, made history by being the first Elite Men’s European Cyclocross Champion © Bart Hazen

HUIJBERBEN, Netherlands – Lars Van der Haar (Team Giant-Alpecin) took the first ever European Cyclocross Championship for the Elite Men’s category, winning the 2015 title in his home country over Belgian’s Wout van Aert in race that appeared to be going in van Aert’s favor.

The pair had separated from the rest of the contenders by mid-race and a surge by van Aert in the sixth lap, before a section with two long, sandy run-ups appeared to put Van der Haar in the red. It could have been the winning move as van Aert has consistently managed to hold his lead in the past to claim victories. But it wasn’t meant to be. Van der Haar steadily reeled in the Belgian, making contact with two laps to go.

With the run-up approaching in the last round, Van der Haar decided to take the lead. A disappointed van Aert later told reporters, “It was like I drove up against a wall. Suddenly managed no more, it’s not understandable.” The fatigue was obvious as van Aert took a sloppy line on a subsequent drop — a unique feature on the course labeled the “chicken run” that had two options for descending — then had to dismount on a quick, steep section that Van der Haar was able to ride. It was all Van der Haar needed to secure the tile.

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games Cycling Team), coming up fast after passing teammate, early leader, and current U23 Cyclocross World Champion Michael Vanthourenhout in the sixth lap, was unable to make the catch finishing third 39 seconds down on Van der Haar.

Laurens Sweeck (ERA Real Estate-Murprotec), also a recent addition to the Elite category, finished seventh after being at the front of the race in the first half, crossing the line behind Switzerland’s Julien Taramarcaz (ERA Real Estate-Murprotec) and the Netherland’s Thijs van Amerongen (Telenet-Fidea). Noticeably absent from the historic event was Belgium’s Sven Nys who withdrew from the starting list in the eleventh hour citing stomach issues. Nys may take to the start of tomorrow’s Ruddervoorde Superprestige pending medical exam results.

Post Race Interview: Wout van Aert Obviously Disappointed with Second Place Result

European Cyclocross Championships Elite Men’s Brief Results:

  1. Lars van der Haar
  2. Wout van Aert
  3. Kevin Pauwels
  4. Michael Vanthourenhout
  5. Julien Taramarcaz
  6. Thijs van Amerongen
  7. Laurens Sweeck
  8. Corné van Kessel
  9. Radomir Simunek
  10. Tim Merlier

Curious how the Elite Women’s race went down? Read our 2015 European Cyclocross Championships Elite Women’s race report here.