Niels Vandeputte, the UCI’s seventh ranked rider who placed 13th in the Tabor Worlds, was the strongest in Sunday’s penultimate round of the 2023-2024 X2O Badkamers Trofee, earning the biggest victory of the season and his first C1 triumph. Without winning a round, veteran campaigner Lars van der Haar is poised to take the major cross series title hat trick: World Cup (2013-2014), Superprestige (2022-2023) and this year’s X2O Trofee.
Van der Haar’s closest rival after six of eight rounds was four-round winner Mathieu van der Poel, but the world champion had moved onto the road. Therefore, the nearest fellow was this season’s World Cup and Superprestige titlist, Eli Iserbyt at +4:29.
Iserbyt and Michael Vanthourenhout didn’t get the best of starts on Lap 1. Thijs Aerts surprised with the early lead, Joris Nieuwenhuis leading the charge followed by Vandeputte. Nobody pitted as the string came back together. Van der Haar raced in Position 5. Vandeputte pulled the lead group over the line at 7:48.
Joran Wyseure stayed with Vandeputte, van der Haar and Nieuwenhuis on Lap 2, but Aerts couldn’t hang. Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout were still outside the top 10. In the forest the group grew through Filipe Orts and Jens Adams, Nieuwenhuis pushing the pace.
Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout, the top two in Saturday’s Superprestige finale, fought their way into the top 10 on Lap 3. By the line, Vandeputte, Adams and Orts had lost contact.
Vandeputte made it back by Lap 4‘s wooded section, and then it was van der Haar’s turn to lag. Iserbyt had scrapped to fifth.
Wyseure, sabotaged by chainsuck in Saturday’s Superprestige, led confidently on Lap 5 of 8 before Nieuwenhuis crashed hard on a sandy turn and had to retrieve a fresh bike. Wyseure and Vandeputte were loose, both with an opportunity to take a huge win. Nieuwenhuis pursued with van der Haar.
Two young Belgians took eight seconds on two Dutchmen going into Lap 6. Nieuwenhuis made the junction, but van der Haar couldn’t link up, the series leader 11 seconds adrift going into the penultimate lap and with Iserbyt closing in.
When they heard the bell, Wyseure had to catch up. He went right to the front and put Vandeputte under pressure again. The Dutch champion led the trio through the forest. Vandeputte surged away when it reached the other side of the lake. Wyseure the…