Sweeck claims first World Cup victory in Maasmechelen

Laurens Sweeck (Crelan - Fristads) took his maiden elite cyclo-cross World Cup victory riding away from his rivals to win at Maasmechelen.

The 28-year-old attacked after a crash from World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) at the midway point before building an unassailable margin.

Former Belgian national champion Sweeck has finished runner-up at eight World Cup races during his elite career and taken 12 podiums, but the win had eluded him until now.

Sweeck led by 30 seconds at the last lap bell but suffered a puncture that cut his advantage in half.

Iserbyt got up from his crash to ride across to chaser Lars Van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) on the penultimate lap.

However, the European champion had enough power left on the last lap to distance Iserbyt for second.

World Cup leader Iserbyt had to settle for third, ending his run of three successive series wins.

Sweeck celebrated his first elite World Cup victory in front of the Belgian fans but admitted having a 'scary moment' when he suffered a last lap puncture.

"It felt great," said Sweeck.

"I had a good start and I had a good feeling also in my legs. I wanted to stay out of problems and tried to always keep to the front of the race and not to be behind two teammates or something like that.

"We both (Sweeck and Iserbyt) tried to make a gap. It was about little mistakes and Eli (Iserbyt) made a big one, I think.

"Also because we were on the limit I was also on the limit in the corners. You also have to keep the air in the tyres.

"I made it quite far in the race to do it but on the last lap it was a bit of a scary moment."

Despite taking second Van der Haar questioned having Maasmechelen as part of the World Cup series after also having a puncture.

He added: "It was a very dangerous course. I don't think it's a course for the World Cup, but the spectators were here which is the most important thing.

"I had to come back from a flat tyre so I don't know what would have happened if I had been at the front."

Iserbyt was left bleeding from his crash and said the course had 'too many stones' for a World Cup round.

How it unfolded

Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) came into the fourth World Cup round with a perfect record in the series winning the opening three rounds.

However, he only narrowly beat Laurens Sweeck (Crelan - Fristads) in a sprint finish two weeks earlier at Fayetteville.

A cruel puncture while leading yesterday's Superprestige event at Ruddervoorde denied Lars Van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) victory as Iserbyt took advantage and his fifth win of the season.

Maasmechelen nature reserve in Belgium hosted its first cyclo-cross event and a warm weekend resulted in hard and fast course conditions.

Sweeck got the fastest start cutting in front of rival Iserbyt with no love lost between the former teammates in previous races so far this season.

Quinten Hermans (Tormans Cyclo Cross Team) was second going into the opening descent but slid out, crashing heavy on the hard ground and losing a host of time and positions.

The battle between Crelan-Fristads rider Sweeck and rival Iserbyt continued from previous races as the Belgian riders jostled for position on the first lap.

Coming into the second lap the race remained largely together with the field in one long line behind Sweeck at the head of proceedings.

After suffering heartbreak at Ruddervoorde the previous day, Van der Haar had to change bikes on the second lap after having another puncture resulting in him moving down to 13th in the string of 16 leading riders.

Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal used team tactics to beat Sweeck last weekend at Tabor. Iserbyt and Michael Vanthourenhout once again had their former teammate surrounded at the front looking to repeat the move.

Sweeck was forcing the pace on the fast Maasmechelen course pulling himself away with rivals Vanthourenhout and Iserbyt.

World Cup leader Iserbyt was next to test his opponents overtaking Sweeck and then powering out of each corner with Vanthourenhout also equal to his teammate's attack.

By the race's midway point, the leading trio had a slender advantage of six seconds of a string of chasers.

However, Iserbyt pushed the pace too far and crashed on a downhill section resulting in him changing bikes and dropping back to the chasing group.

Sweeck took full advantage of his rival's crash and attacked to distance Vanthourenhout and go in search of a victory.

Behind, the race was truly on and after recovering from his earlier puncture, Van der Haar was leading the fight back to a fading Vanthourenhout.

Searching for his first ever elite World Cup victory Sweeck had built a margin of nine seconds over the chasers with four laps remaining.

Van der Haar was also on a charge behind went away in search of Sweeck alone, while Vanthourenhout slipped down the chasing group.

After recovering from his crash the previous lap, Iserbyt also rode himself back into contention and was sitting third and looking to bridge across to Van der Haar.

With three laps remaining, the Crelan-Fristads rider had a lead of 14 seconds over Van der Haar while Iserbyt was a further three seconds back.

While Sweeck looked in control of his pace, the World Cup leader looked under pressure as he bridged across to Van der Haar ahead of the penultimate lap.

Van der Haar was equal to an Iserbyt attack and responded with a move of his own, taking the bell lap 30 seconds behind Sweeck.

The Dutch rider was putting Iserbyt under severe pressure and another error for the Belgian rider ended his battle for second.

Sweeck had a last lap scare of his own when a puncture resulted in a bike change and his margin at the front was reduced from 30 to 18 seconds.

However, the Belgian was able to see his chaser on the course's switch backs and enjoyed his maiden World Cup victory on home turf.

Van der Haar will look to defend his European cyclo-cross championship title next weekend and showed his form finishing second 13 seconds behind.

After taking five wins already this season Iserbyt finished third a further seven seconds behind. 

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