Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) took his maiden elite title leading from the front to win the elite men’s UEC Cyclo-cross European Championship on Sunday. He took the win ahead of compatriot Michael Vanthourenhout, while Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) finished third.
Iserbyt, 23, was beaten into silver by Mathieu van der Poel in last season’s European championships, but with the Dutch rider absent on this occasion, he put in a dominant performance to win in Hertogenbosch.
Iserbyt had won the world and European titles as an under-23 before making the move up to elite category last season.
With COVID-19 forcing a host of races to be cancelled this season the Belgium said that winning the title was a boost to his morale.
“This was a big goal for me in a strange season, to have a jersey this early in the season is very good for the mental health,” he said.
“So I’m very happy with that.”
Iserbyt said that a crash on the second lap forced his winning move taking with him silver medallist and fellow Belgium rider Michael Vanthourenhout.
“Michael and I were definitely the strongest today and it was maybe too early to early in the race to give a big attack but I made a big mistake on the second lap,” he added.
“I had a bit of a small crash after the steps and I had to go full gas. I thought that now I’m going full gas I should go for it.
“It was good to have Michael to keep the pace a little bit in the begging of the race.”
Iserbyt added that the pairing had to be aware of the skill set of eventual bronze medallist Lars Van Der Haar who had to fight his way back into contention following a poor start.
“We had to ride really fast because Lars (Van Der Haar) always did a very good sand section and mine was not so good, so I had to dig really deep in the other sections,” added Iserbyt.
How it unfolded
Dutch riders had dominated their home championships prior to the elite men’s race taking golds in the other three categories and accumulating six medals.
However, the men’s race was a different scenario with five Belgium riders swamping the front from the outset with Toon Aerts leading the charge away while Dutch favourite Lars van der Haar was down in 12th.
Aerts put the power on during the opening lap putting his rivals under pressure and leaving only Spanish rider Felipe Orts in the middle of eight Belgium riders.
Orts, who has signed a one-year contract with road team Burgos BH next year, stumbled in the sandpit bringing down Quinten Hermans and allowing Van der Haar the chance to move up the string of Belgium leaders.
An error by Iserbyt on a technical downhill banking saw his rival Aerts ride clear along with Michael Vanthourenhout.
With his rival gapped Aerts looked to take advantage forcing the pace on the third lap but Iserbyt was able to pull the gap back to the leaders.
Iserbyt went straight to the front powering out of the turns on the fast and flowing track and taking Marlux–Bingoal trade teammate Vanthourenhout with him forcing a seven seconds gap.
Behind a large group of nine riders were still in contention in the chasing pack at the half-way distance, but the gap in front grew to the leaders.
With the gap growing out to 16 seconds Van der Haar took control of the chasing pack in a bid to prevent the Belgium dominance.
The Dutch rider used his technical skills and was the only rider able to power through the sandpit and reduced the margin to the leaders.
Van Der Haar was followed by Aerts until the Belgium slid out on a descent leaving his Dutch rival clear in the chase behind the leaders.
Laurens Sweeck was the Belgium who closed the gap to Van der Haar while Orts also remained in the battle for a medal with 40 minutes raced.
However, former European champion in 2015, Van der Haar was riding consistently and distanced his rivals again in the fight for bronze.
With two laps remaining Iserbyt continued to stretch Vanthourenhout kicking out of the corners and pulling out a margin of five seconds.
With a lap remaining Iserbyt had a 13-second lead while Van Der Haar kept on the pressure behind and was just nine seconds behind Vanthourenhout in the battle for silver.
Iserbyt had time to enjoy the final lap taking a clear victory with team-mate Vanthourenhout taking silver while Van Der Haar clinched bronze for home nation Netherlands.
|Rider Name (Country) Team
|Eli Iserbyt (Belgium)
|Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium)
|Lars Van der Haar (Netherlands)
|Laurens Sweeck (Belgium)
|Toon Aerts (Belgium)
|Daan Soete (Belgium)
|Felipe Orts Lloret (Spain)
|Quinten Hermans (Belgium)
|Joshua Dubau (France)
|Vincent Baestaens (Belgium)
|Kevin Kuhn (Switzerland)
|Timon Rüegg (Switzerland)
|Jakob Dorigoni (Italy)
|Corne Van Kessel (Netherlands)
|Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spain)
|Thijs Aerts (Belgium)
|David Menut (France)
|Steve Chainel (France)
|Stan Godrie (Netherlands)
|Maik Van der Heijden (Netherlands)
|Cristian Cominelli (Italy)
|Frederik Hähnel (Germany)
|David Van der Poel (Netherlands)
|Gilles Mottiez (Switzerland)
|Joris Ryf (Switzerland)
|Antonio Folcarelli (Italy)
|Daniel Mayer (Czech Republic)
|Ondrej Glajza (Slovakia)
|Mickaël Crispin (France)
|Marcel Meisen (Germany)
|Michael Boroš (Czech Republic)
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