Lars van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant Off-road Team) has been given permission by the UCI to compete in the elite men's category at all eight World Cups plus the world championships in the upcoming 2012-2013 cyclo-cross season, his team announced today.
The 20-year-old Dutchman dominated U23 competition this past season, winning a total of 14 races in the category. Highlights include victories in three of four World Cup races en route to the overall title, three race victories in each of the Superprestige and GVA Trofee series en route to overall titles for both, the Dutch U23 national championship, the European U23 championship, all capped off by his second-straight U23 world championship.
"Lars spent the past season winning pretty much everything there is in the [U23] category. He's going to take a step higher," said team manager Jan ten Tusscher.
Van der Haar, currently on vacation in Egypt, was pleased to find out the news about being granted dispensation to race with the elite men, rather than the U23s, at cyclo-cross's marquee events.
"It's a nice new challenge," said Van der Haar. "I have just sat in suspense for the UCI to agree, but I could not think of any reason why they would not give permission. For cyclo-cross it is good to show other riders at the front among the Belgians."
Van der Haar did compete head-to-head with elite 'cross professionals at several events throughout the season where there wasn't a separate U23 category, and he has already found success. Van der Haar won his first race of the season at CrossVegas, won again nine days later on home soil at Openingsveldrit van Harderwijk, and finished in the top-10 on five other occasions this past season.
While Van der Haar has shown ample promise, the team will let him progress at his own pace without pressure, although he would still like to see consistent placings in the top-10. "Maybe once a spike to the top-five," said Van der Haar. "I'd like to give the Belgians a little party and I look forward to again having to go very deep for a good result."