Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) took his first Cyclocross World Cup win in two years at the first European round of 2023 in Maasmechelen, Belgium, going one better than last year when he finished as runner-up.
He capitalised on minor mistakes from Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels-Sauzen-Bingoal) and teammate Thibau Nys and attacked to build a slim lead that he maintained all the way to the line after just over an hour of racing.
“It’s very important for me, winning is not easy. There are some really good guys, some young guys and today I really benefitted from my teammates,” said Van der Haar.
“It was a really hard race, but luckily it was just really hard from the sandpit to the finish line and the rest you couldn’t make up much time on. It was all about trying to focus on the hard part and then try not to make any mistakes.”
Van der Haar also revealed that his race nearly unravelled with a late puncture, but he was thankfully close enough to the pits to change bikes and hold his lead.
“I flatted with two laps to go so I thought it was over, but luckily it was not too far to the pit.”
Mistakes characterised Iserbyt’s race as he took minor tumbles and got caught on wooden posts throughout the eight-lap race, with World Cup series leader Nys simply not able to match the pace of his teammate and suffering a crash on the final lap.
This is Van der Haar’s second win of the season after taking victory in last Wednesday’s Kiremko Nacht van Woerden. Last year’s winner in Maasmechelen, Laurens Sweek (Crelan-Corendon) looked strong, but a rear-wheel puncture ruined his chances of fighting for the win.
Iserbyt and Sweek rounded out the podium behind with Nys dropping all the way down to seventh after entering the round as the favourite.
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