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The Dutch champion jumps away from a big group towards the end of the final lap and holds off Bina in the sprint to take his third World Cup win of the season and extend his lead in the overall standings

Photo: John de Jong

LARS VAN DER HAAR

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WORLD CUP - CROSS

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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27.12.2013 @ 12:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lars van der Haahr took a major step towards winning the UCI Cyclo-Cross Worlc Cup when the Dutch champion won the World Cup race in Zolder. On a very fast circuit, the Dutch champion was part of a very big group that was set to decide the race on the final lap, and jumped away near the end before holding off Martin Bina in the sprint to the line.

 

Four days after saving his overall lead in the World Cup after coming down in the Namur mud and chasing hard back to his main rivals, Lars van der Haahr got his quest to win the most prestigious race series back on track by winning the next round in Zolder.  The Dutch champion rode a smart race before jumping away from a large group on the final lap to win the race ahead of Martin Bina and Zdenek Stybar.

 

The traditional race on Boxing Day took place on the motor racing circuit in Zolder. Nice weather conditions made the course an easy one and the race developed into a very fast one, more like a road criterium than a muddy cyclo-cross race.

 

Throughout the entire race, several attacks were launched, with Stybar, Philipp Walsleben,  and Bina all being some of the main aggressors. However, the course was not one to make a huge difference and so a bigger group was constantly reformed at the front of the race.

 

All was set to be decided on the final lap where van der Haahr finally had some luck after a recent sting of near-misses. Running alongside Stybar on the final run-up, the Dutchman accelerated before powering down to the finish line and holding off Bina in the final sprint.

 

Walsleben rode an aggressive race but could only manage 4th and so lost some ground in the overall World Cup standings. The German champion remains in 2nd overall but now trails van der Haahr by 33 points.

 

Former world champion Niels Albert effectively saw his World Cup campaign come to an end in today's race as he crashed very early in the race. On a circuit that didn't suit his characteristics, he spent most of the time in chase mode and finished outside the top 10, dropping down to 5th in the overall standings.

 

The cyclo-cross riders will be back in action on Friday in the Bpost Bank Trofee race in Loenhout. The next World Cup race takes place on January 5 on the very fast circuit in Rome.

 

Walsleben leads the peloton

Wasleben won the opening sprint and led the peloton in the early part of the race. Stybar who is  starting far back due to his lack of UCI points, made a good start and passed several riders while Albert got his race off do a disastrous beginning when he crashed and had to give chase from the rear end of the peloton.

 

Corne van Kessel was the next rider to set the pace, before being overtaken by Marcel Meisen. The German has had several good starts in races this season and started to open a small gap.

 

Peeters and Meisen open a gap

Van Kessel's teammate Rob Peeters took over the pace-setting in the peloton and managed to bridge across to the lone leader just before the first passage of the line. Walsleben led the peloton onto the second lap while Albert was already 31 seconds behind.

 

Walsleben gradually opened up a gap while the peloton started to splinter under the pressure. When Kevi Pauwels slipped on a corner and held up several riders, the main group was split into even more parts.

 

Another attack from Peeters

The front duo was caught by the peloton but Peeters refused to give up. Again, the Telenet rider hit the front and formed a group with Stybar, Bina, van der Haahr, Klaas Vantotnout and Walsleben.

 

Sven Nys had not had the best start and was riding in a group with Thijs van Amerongen and Bart Aernouts. Marcel Wildhaber, Wietse Bosmans and Jim Aernouts followed close behind while Albert was still doing his best to get back in contention.

 

Nys is back in contention

The Nys group reached the front when four laps remained. Peeters launched an unsuccessful attack but was overtaken by Walsleben who opened a small gap. Vantornout took responsibility for the chase and brought things back together, only to see Stybar try the next move.

 

The Czech rider was chased down Vantornout, van der Haahr, Bina and Walsleben and a little later Peeters also got across. Nys was still on the defensive but gradually closed the gap to also join the lead group.

 

Stybar keeps attacking

Stybar was in an aggressive mood and tried a new attack, with only van der Haahr, Bina, Vantornot and Peeters being able to respond. A few moments after the passage of the line, Nys brought things back together while a frustrated Albert was now riding in a group with Bosmans, Pauwels and Jim Aernouts 19 seconds back

 

Stybar made another attack and moved away with van der Haahr and Bina but they were quickly chased down. As the pace went down a bit, the Albert group finally managed to rejoin the front.

 

Stybar tries again

Peeters was the next to try his hand but he was passed by Stybar who made another acceleration. The Czech briefly had a small gap but was reeled in on the run-up. The Czech led the peloton across the line to start the final lap.

 

Walsleben ws the first to up the pace and gradually pulled Peeters and van der Haahr away, with Stybar and Bina following close behind. As Nys and Albert started to struggle, they fell off the pace and a 7-rider group was formed.

 

Stybar and van der Haahr go head-to-head

Stybar attacked again but van der Haahr was quick to react. When they hit the final run-up, the pair was battling for position at the head of the group.

 

Van der Haahr won the duel and opened a small gap when he remounted. Bina gave chase but was unable to come around the fast Dutchman when he opened his feared sprint on the finishing straight.

 

Result:

1. Lars van der Haahr

2. Martin Bina

3. Zdenek Stybar

4. Philipp Walsleben

5. Rob Peeters

6. Sven Nys

7. Klaas Vantornout

8. Kevin Pauwels

9. Thijs van Amerongen

10. Bart Aernouts

 

Overall standings:

1. Lars van der Haahr 337

2. Philipp Walsleben 304

3. Klaas Vantornout 279

4. Kevin Pauwels 275

5. Niels Albert 273

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