The top guns in the Under 23 category made a true thriller out of their cyclo-cross world championships race in the dunes of Koksijde, Belgium. In the end defending champion Lars van der Haar (The Netherlands) popped out just ahead of Belgian champion Wietse Bosmans and Michiel van der Heijden (The Netherlands).
“Wietse was the best in the sand, no doubt about that, but you don’t have to be the fastest to win the race. I think I rode smart,” Van der Haar said.
Repeating the 1994 Dutch-Belgian battle between Richard Groenendaal and Paul Herygers, the 2012 protagonists Van der Haar and Bosmans fought out an epic sand battle. Bosmans beat Van der Haar in the sand but the latter was able to crawl back in the other sections. Eventually a sprint decided the winner and it was Van der Haar who had most left in his tank to grab his second world title in a row.
Van der Heijden bridged up with the leaders halfway the race but he couldn’t exploit the rivalry between the two and finished third, just ahead of a surprising Arnaud Jouffroy (France).
Early on Van der Haar headed for a long solo move as he blasted away in the first sand sections, quickly collecting a gap of 10 seconds on the first chasers.
“Back in November [World Cup round] I messed up my start and I didn’t want to risk that again,” Van der Haar said.
The home crowd released a sigh of relief when they saw that their champion closed the gap in no-time before the end of the first lap. The duo dominated affairs until the fourth lap when Van der Haar made a tactical switch and no longer co-operated with Bosmans.
“During the first three laps I didn’t have to go flat out because I was able to ride all sand sections. Then I heard his crew shouting that Van der Heijden was coming and I wasn’t planning on working myself to death with him on my wheel,” Bosmans said.
Once Van der Heijden bridged up the trio exchanged accelerations. The Dutch duo tried to get rid of Bosmans while the latter did all he could to get out of their stranglehold. For two laps no gaps were created so a thrilling last lap would bring the decider.
The following accelerations were mainly tactical moves to get into the lead at the last important sand stretch, the X-dune. Bosmans seemed to have won that battle but then the ooh’s and aah’s were flying around among the big crowds in Koksijde. Van der Haar sneaked through a tiny gap on the left and shouldered with Bosmans into the corner. Van der Haar received a knock from the pole on the inside while Bosmans had to hop off his bike. The outcome was that Van der Haar rode ahead of Bosmans, stopping the latter from creating a decisive gap in the sand. Van der Heijden – still riding - tried to pass Bosmans on the right-hand side but Bosmans blocked him and Van der Heijden ended up into the fencing.
“To me, Lars went into a space that wasn’t there,” a disappointed Bosmans said.
“If I hit that section first I could’ve created a gap,” Bosmans said. “It was on the edge but it was about the option to win or lose,” Van der Haar reacted. “I thought I had more speed to pass Bosmans but he quickly moved back onto the ideal line and blocked me. It was a normal move,” Van der Heijden said. In the end the trio continued towards the final corners with Van der Haar leading Bosmans and Van der Heijden. When Van der Haar made a mistake in the following sandy descent Bosmans moved into the lead while Van der Heijden was hindered and lost contact. Bosmans couldn’t exploit his small gap and even allowed Van der Haar back into the lead, a crucial mistake. Van der Haar easily finished things off in the sprint.
Fourth placed Jouffroy bounced back from a first-lap chain problem but fell one second short of the bronze medal. “Because of my bad start position and a dropped chain I was dead last. I prepared well for the sand and gave all I had. I’m disappointed with the result but I showed my capabilities,” Jouffroy said.
US champion Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) also had a terrible start and just like he did in Hoogerheide, during the last World Cup round last week, he bounced back to twelfth place at the finish line. “In the start I received pushes and elbows and I didn’t click well into my pedal. I could quit or keep going. I never rested anywhere, sometimes a few seconds to recharge. There’s always next year,” McDonald looked ahead at the world championships of 2013 on home soil in Louisville, Kentucky.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lars Van Der Haar (Netherlands)||0:49:20|
|2||Wietse Bosmans (Belgium)||0:00:01|
|3||Michiel Van Der Heijden (Netherlands)||0:00:04|
|4||Arnaud Jouffroy (France)||0:00:05|
|5||Laurens Sweeck (Belgium)||0:00:50|
|6||Marek Konwa (Poland)||0:00:56|
|7||Mike Teunissen (Netherlands)||0:01:03|
|8||Arnaud Grand (Switzerland)||0:01:13|
|9||David Menut (France)|
|10||Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium)||0:01:28|
|11||Vinnie Braet (Belgium)|
|12||Zach Mcdonald (United States Of America)||0:01:48|
|13||David Van Der Poel (Netherlands)||0:01:55|
|14||Julian Alaphilippe (France)||0:02:04|
|15||Stan Godrie (Netherlands)||0:02:07|
|16||Tomas Paprstka (Czech Republic)||0:02:08|
|17||Vojtech Nipl (Czech Republic)||0:02:17|
|18||Clément Venturini (France)||0:02:30|
|19||Elia Silvestri (Italy)||0:02:49|
|20||Jan Nesvadba (Czech Republic)||0:02:50|
|21||Bryan Falaschi (Italy)||0:03:18|
|22||Karel Hnik (Czech Republic)||0:03:21|
|23||Michael (Jr) Schweizer (Germany)||0:03:22|
|24||Lars Forster (Switzerland)||0:03:39|
|25||Kenneth Hansen (Denmark)||0:03:42|
|26||Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium)||0:04:04|
|27||Igor Smarzaro (Italy)||0:04:07|
|28||Micki Van Empel (Netherlands)||0:04:13|
|29||Yannick Eckmann (Germany)||0:04:14|
|30||Kenta Gallagher (Great Britain)||0:04:20|
|31||Max Walsleben (Germany)||0:04:22|
|32||Fabian Lienhard (Switzerland)||0:04:41|
|33||Michael Wildhaber (Switzerland)|
|34||Daniele Braidot (Italy)||0:05:44|
|35||Emil Arvid Olsen (Denmark)||0:05:50|
|-1lap||Luca Braidot (Italy)|
|-1lap||Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spain)|
|-1lap||Cody Kaiser (United States Of America)|
|-1lap||Yannick Mayer (Germany)|
|-1lap||Jack Clarkson (Great Britain)|
|-1lap||Pablo Rodriguez Guede (Spain)|
|-2laps||Wojciech Malec (Poland)|
|-2laps||Jon Gomez Elorriaga (Spain)|
|-2laps||Patryk Kostecki (Poland)|
|-3laps||Inigo Gomez Elorriaga (Spain)|
|-3laps||Felix Coté Bouvette (Canada)|
|-3laps||Lex Reichling (Luxembourg)|
|-3laps||Ludwig Söderquist (Sweden)|
|-3laps||Bartosz Pilis (Poland)|
|-3laps||Jaroslav Chalas (Slovakia)|
|-3laps||Alexander Gehbauer (Austria)|
|-3laps||Luke Gray (Great Britain)|
|-4laps||Domas Manikas (Lithuania)|