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Van der Haar wins Elite men's European Cyclo-Cross title

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Lars van der Haar wins the Elite men's European championship

Lars van der Haar wins the Elite men's European championship (Image credit: Bettini)
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Van Aert, Van der Haar and Pauwels on the European podium.

Van Aert, Van der Haar and Pauwels on the European podium. (Image credit: Bettini)
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Wout cvan Aert and Lars van der Haar battle at the 2015 European championships.

Wout cvan Aert and Lars van der Haar battle at the 2015 European championships. (Image credit: Bettini)
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Wout van Aert finished second.

Wout van Aert finished second. (Image credit: Bettini)
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Lars van der Haar in action Saturday

Lars van der Haar in action Saturday (Image credit: Bettini)
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Lars van der Haar wins the Elite men's European championship

Lars van der Haar wins the Elite men's European championship (Image credit: Bettini)

The first ever elite Men’s European cyclo-cross championships turned into a thrilling battle between pre-race favourites Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) and Wout Van Aert (Belgium). Van der Haar kept his cool and won the battle, reaching the finish with a small lead on Van Aert.

Due to an early flat Kevin Pauwels (Belgium) had to chase for most of the race. He was never in contention for the victory but took the bronze medal.

Van der Haar clearly couldn’t believe he had just beaten Van Aert to take the first ever elite men’s European title on home soil when he crossed the finish line.

“I still can’t believe it. It has to sink in,” Van der Haar told Telenet Play Sports. “Honestly, I have to admit that I figured it was over when Wout was gone. I somewhat gave up on it. I did hope that with one mistake from him that I could come back.”

That moment occurred during the sixth of nine laps in the race. Van der Haar was unable to keep up with Van Aert when the Belgian accelerated in the second half of the circuit. The race seemed to be over but surprisingly the young Belgian began to struggle one lap later. Van der Haar bridged back up and they began the final lap together. Van der Haar attacked first and he was able to reach a steep sand section with enough of a bonus to take the first European title.

“It was quite obvious that Wout was better on the run-dune section. I felt that I was better at the other side of the course in the technical section,” Van der Haar explained.

When I went I just wanted to try it, to play all my cards. If he would be able to counter me then so be it, because he was running better anyway. But I knew that if I could reach that running section with a bonus then victory was within my reach. In hindsight you’re always right. Wout played his cards too. He did all he had to do but made one mistake.”

Van Aert was massively disappointed

Van Aert was massively disappointed that he lost out on the European title. He lay over his bike after crossing the finish line. Words of consolation from his girlfriend and coach Niels Albert didn’t seem to help him.

“I had it in my hands but suddenly it just didn’t work anymore,” Van Aert said.

“He was smarter and stronger in the final lap. I never should have given it away when I was leading. I felt good but in the end I reached my limit and hit the wall. I really looked forward to becoming the first European champion but it didn’t work out. I would love to swap some of my eight victories this season for this one. Obviously it’s very disappointing that it didn’t work out on a day like today.”

The duo of Van der Haar and Van Aert were expected to colour the race in Huijbergen. Kevin Pauwels was an outsider, as was Sven Nys (Belgium) but the veteran Belgian was ill over night, missing out on his first and last chance on the European title before retiring in the spring.

Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium), Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) and Clément Venturini (France) coloured the first part of the race. By the end of the third lap Vanthourenhout and Sweeck were still riding up front. The two young Belgians were then joined by Van der Haar and Van Aert who had accelerated away from the rest of the field.

The Chicken run

During the first part of the fourth lap a technical section cost Vanthourenhout and Sweeck their spot up front. This section included a steep descent, referred to as the Chicken Run because of the option between a steep and a safe path. Just like most of the best riders Vanthourenhout took the tricky option but he slipped away in the following corner. Sweeck paid the price for his fast start a little later.

For the two following laps there was a status quo and co-operation between Van Aert and Van der Haar to hold off a comeback from Pauwels. Then Van Aert attacked on a sandy dune where he exploited his running skills.

“I felt really good and was able to create a gap on Lars. Normally I would just pull through but one lap later I felt that I was hitting the red zone. My chain briefly dropped when hopping back on the bike and I briefly blocked. Lars was back in no time,” Van Aert explained.

“In the final lap I still had my chances but I made the mistake not to be in front at that small forest. I briefly had to get off the bike.”

Pauwels was best of the rest at 39 seconds from winner Van der Haar. He was content with the podium result.

“I was riding on my limit for most of the race. Maybe that more was possible if I hadn’t flattened. I saw them riding in the penultimate lap but they were holding back,” Pauwels accepted.

Michael Vanthourenhout was fourth at 56 seconds, well ahead of in-form Julien Taramarcaz (Switzerland) and Thijs van Amerongen (Netherlands). Laurens Sweeck held off Corné van Kessel (Netherlands) to finish seventh. Radomir Simunek (Czech Republic) captured his best result of the season in ninth place ahead of Tim Merlier (Belgium) who lost some ground after crashing hard in the corner after the ‘chicken run’.


#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Lars Van Der Haar (Netherlands)1:02:29
2Wout Van Aert (Belgium)0:00:19
3Kevin Pauwels (Belgium)0:00:39
4Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium)0:00:56
5Julien Taramarcaz (Switzerland)0:01:20
6Thijs Van Amerongen (Netherlands)0:01:33
7Laurens Sweeck (Belgium)0:01:51
8Corné Van Kessel (Netherlands)0:02:08
9Radomir Simunek (Czech Republic)0:02:13
10Tim Merlier (Belgium)0:02:21
11Philipp Walsleben (Germany)0:02:24
12Steve Chainel (France)0:02:35
13Stan Godrie (Netherlands)
14Jens Adams (Belgium)0:02:54
15Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium)0:02:58
16Simon Zahner (Switzerland)0:03:03
17Rob Peeters (Belgium)0:03:19
18Clement Venturini (France)0:03:27
19Michael Boros (Czech Republic)0:03:38
20Niels Wubben (Netherlands)0:03:43
21David Van Der Poel (Netherlands)0:03:47
22Dieter Vanthourenhout (Belgium)0:03:58
23Vojtech Nipl (Czech Republic)0:04:07
24Marcel Wildhaber (Switzerland)0:04:18
25Martin Haring (Slovakia)0:04:26
26Twan Van Den Brand (Netherlands)0:04:43
27Severin Saegesser (Switzerland)0:04:53
28Tomas Paprstka (Czech Republic)0:05:27
29Jakub Skala (Czech Republic)0:05:40
30Mariusz Gil (Poland)0:05:58
31Matej Lasak (Czech Republic)0:06:31
32Ole Quast (Germany)-1 lap
33Kenneth Hansen (Denmark)
34Vladimir Kyzivat (Czech Republic)-2 laps
35Gusty Bausch (Luxembourg)
36Michal Malik (Czech Republic)
37Philipp Heigl (Austria)-4 laps
38Martin Eriksson (Sweden)
39Karl-Heinz Gollinger (Austria)
40Ingvar Omarsson (Iceland)
41Kipurs Kristaps (Latvia)-5 laps
42Domas Manikas (Lithuania)
DNFMarcel Meisen (Germany)
DNFTom Meeusen (Belgium)
DNFDiether Sweeck (Belgium)
DNFSascha Weber (Germany)
DNFVincent Dias Dos Santos (Luxembourg)
DNSSven Nys (Belgium)
DNSFrancis Mourey (France)


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