Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal's Eli Iserbyt says that he's hoping to rediscover the form he had at the start of this cyclo-cross season, and that some time spent training in the warmer climes of Spain may help him reach a similar level in time for a busy period of 'cross racing around Christmas.
The two-time under-23 world champion finished third at round 5 of the Superprestige series in Zonhoven, Belgium, on Sunday, behind Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) and his own Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammate Laurens Sweeck, but hasn't won since the Koppenbergcross – the opening round of the DVV Trofee – on November 1.
The Belgian won seven of his first nine races this season, including the first three rounds of the World Cup in Iowa City and Waterloo – both in the US – and in Bern, Switzerland, but his slight slump in form has coincided with the return of the undisputed current king of 'cross, Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), who returned to the discipline at the fourth round of the Superprestige series in Ruddervoorde on November 3, and hasn't lost a race since.
Iserbyt's loss of form shouldn't be entirely unexpected, however: like Britain's Tom Pidock (Trinity Racing) – the current under-23 world champion – Iserbyt is in his first full season at senior level, but, after such a good opening to the season, the 22-year-old has tasted something that he'd like to try again.
"I was really flying, but I know that I'm not going to be able to get to any better a level than I was then at the start of the season," he admitted to Sporza.be on Monday. "I'm not doing another week of training in Spain, and then I hope to be back to my best for the busy Christmas period."
Iserbyt had already spent a week in Spain in the lead-up to last weekend's Zonhoven round of the Superprestige, and knows from experience that it's difficult to get back into the rhythm of 'cross racing, and is hoping that he may instead benefit from the warm-weather training further down the line.
"After a training camp, I always have a hard time in the starting phase of a 'cross and I had some trouble getting into my rhythm [in Zonhoven]," Iserbyt said.
"I'd managed to feel a bit better by the end of the race, and just have to remember that I'm gradually coming back into form. I certainly feel much better than I did at Kortrijk and Kosijde," he said.
In round 5 of the World Cup in Koksijde on November 24, Iserbyt finished a distant 13th, but still retains the overall lead in the competition – his main goal of the season – by 18 points from nearest challenger Aerts.
In Kortrijk, for the third round of the DVV Trofee, Iserbyt finished fifth, and also still heads the overall classification – which is based on overall time, rather than points – by 2:10 from his teammate Michael Vanthourenhout.
"This weekend [December 14/15], I hope to reap the benefits of those two training weeks in Spain," Iserbyt said of the Hotond Cross DVV race in Ronse on Saturday and the Druivencross in Overijse on Sunday. "Those two courses are a bit more my thing than the sand in Zonhoven."