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After five consecutive wins, van Aert had to settle for second in the World Cup was in Valkenburg which was won by van der Haar for the third consecutive time after a dominant solo performance; van Aert defends the lead

Photo: Team Giant-Alpecin








18.10.2015 @ 16:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lars van der Haar ended Wout van Aert’s dominance of the cyclo-cross season when he made it three in a row in his home World Cup race in Valkenburg. After a solo ride that lasted almost the entire race, the Dutchman was in a class of his own while van Aert had to settle for second which was enough to defend his overall World Cup lead. Sven Nys rounded out the top 3.


The 2015 season was starting to shape up to be a trivial affair. Whenever he had been at the start, Wout van Aert had taken dominant solo wins, winning his first five races which included the opening rounds of the three major series, Bpost Bank Trofee, Superprestige and the World Cup.


However, van Aert was showing chinks in his armour last weekend when he won the Bpost race in Ronse. The Belgian had to dig extremely deep to get rid of Kevin Pauwels on the final lap and openly admitted that he had lacked the extra gear that he had had in his first four races.


That probably gave some hope for his rivals, most notable for Lars van der Haar who was looking to continue his winning streak in his home World Cup in Valkenburg. The Dutchman had won the race twice in a row and had done nothing to hide that the race was one of his big goals of the season.


Van der Haar managed to do what had seemed to be impossible just a few weeks ago as he beat van Aert in his home race. And he didn’t only win the race, he did so in very impressive fashion.


Van Aert had briefly looked like he was ready for another dominant performance as he got a gap on the first lap. Van der Haar found himself trapped in a small group but as soon as there was room to move up, he sprinted to the front and had rejoined van Aert at the end of the first lap.


Van der Haar immediately distanced the World Cup leader and it was evident that the local rider had the upper hand. The World Cup leader briefly made it back but after making a mistake in a muddy section, he again saw the local rider ride away. From there, the outcome was never in doubt as van der Haar rode solo for more than 7 laps to take an emphatic solo win.


Instead, the attention focused on the battle for second and it soon became apparent that it was a fight between van Aert, Sven Nys and Kevin Pauwels. The former two took turns putting in attacks while the latter was clearly suffering with the pace, finally surrendering a few laps before the finish.


Van Aert briefly seemed to having distanced Nys on the penultimate lap but the veteran clawed his way back. He was distanced again as they ran up the biggest climb on the final lap but again he made it back. Finally, he had to surrender to the fast past in a muddy section from where it was clear that the youngster would take second.


With the win, van der Haar moves into second in the World Cup standings and now trails van Aert by 10 points. The next round of the UCI series takes place on November 22 in the sand dunes of Koksijde while the next major cyclo-cross races are Saturday’s race in Kruibeke and Sunday’s Superprestige race in Zonhoven.


How it unfolded

On the muddy parcours, it was Michael Vanthourenhout who got off to the fastest start as he led the peloton through the first couple of turns but it didn’t take long for Wout van Aert to make the first acceleration. As soon as he started to run up the climb, he hot an immediate gap and hit the tarmac with a small advantage over a five-rider group with Vanhtourenhout, Corne van Kessel, Lars van der Haar, Kevin Pauwels and Sven Nys.


Van der Haar didn’t want to get caught out in his home race and as soon as he saw an opening he accelerated hard to slowly bridge the gap to the lone van Aert. Meanwhile, Nys slowly got the diesel engine going and started to put his companions under pressure, gradually distancing both van Kessel and Vanthourenhout.


Van der Haar joined van Aert just as they hit the finishing straight for the first time. He sprinted straight to the front to lead the World Cup leader onto the second lap while Nys and Pauwels followed at 8 seconds. Vanthourenhout was at 10 seconds while van Kessel had been caught by Julien Taramarcaz, Gianni Vermeersch and David van der Poel 7 seconds further adrift.


Van der Haar was in a determined mode and he immediately managed to distance van Aert as they reached the harder section of the course. Further back, Pauwels had taken over the pace-setting and Nys was struggling a lot to stay with his compatriot.


Van Aert dug deep to get back to van der Haar as they approached the completion of the second lap and moments later Pauwels also made the junction after having distanced Nys. However, van Aert made a mistake on a muddy descent which again allowed van der Haar to get an advantage.


At the end of the second lap, van der Haar led Pauwels and van Aert by 6 seconds while Nys was just 4 seconds further adrift. Vanthournhout was at 21 seconds while Vermeersch, van Kessel and Taramarcaz were just metres behind.


Van Aert’s mistake looked to be costly as van der Haar extended his gap in the first part of the third lap and instead it was Nys making the junction from behind. At the halfway point of the circuit, the gap had been more than doubled to 14 seconds and that prompted Nys to move straight to the front, trying to reduce the deficit.


At the end of the third lap, van der Haar had pushed his lead out to 21 seconds. Tom Meeusen, Vanthourenhout, Vermeersch, Taramarcaz and van Kessel were now together at 44 seconds.


Van Aert was clearly struggling on the technical course and lost contact with Nys in the tricky first part of the circuit, with Pauwels unable to pass the World Coup leader. However, the pair made it back after a period of hard chasing but van Aert was clearly struggling to keep up with the veteran.


At the end of the fourth lap, van der Haar led his three chasers by 29 seconds. In the next group, Meeusen had set a hard pace, distancing Vermeersch and van Kessel but they still found themselves with almost a minute to make up on the leading Dutchman.


Van der Haar was again by far the best in the first part of the circuit and added another 10 seconds to his advantage before van Aert came to the fore in the chase group to apply the pressure. Further back, Meeusen who was bouncing back after a bad start, slid out in the mud and suddenly had to chase hard behind Vanthourenhout and Taramarcaz


As they crossed the line with four laps to go, the gap had gone out to 38 seconds and it was already clear that only disaster could prevent van der Haar from winning the race. Taramarcaz and Vanthourenhout were drifting further backwards as they were now at 1.15 while Meeusen was at 1.25, followed by van Kessel and Laurens Sweeck who was starting to move up.


Van Aert led the chase group in the first part of the sixth lap until Nys put in another big attack. The veteran got a small gap over his two companions, with Pauwels clearly suffering behind the World Cup leader.


As they hit the second climb of the course, Nys had extended his advantage over van Aert to a few seconds while Pauwels was getting distanced by the World Cup leader. However, the gaps were minimal and by the time they hit the finishing straight, the trio was back together, with Nys leading them across the line 38 seconds behind van der Haar, meaning that the gap was unchanged after the sixth lap. Vanthourenhout and Taramarcaz were at 1.31 while Meeusen and Sweek wwere 12 seconds further adrift.


Pauwels was still suffering and as van Aert and Nys took turns applying the pressure, the Sunweb captain was losing contact. This time there was no coming back as the gap continued to widen throughout the entire lap. Moments later, Nys showed the first signs of weakness as a small gap was opening and he had to dig deep to stay with van Aert.


Van der Haar was still riding strongly as he started the penultimate lap, with van Aert and a suffering Nys following at 40 seconds. Pauwels was at 49 seconds and Taramarcaz and Vanthourenhout at 1.40.


Van Aert tried to distance Nys by riding hard for most of the lap but Nys was not giving him an inch. Instead, the veteran came through to take over when the youngster finally took a breather in the second half of the circuit.


The faster pace meant that the pair had reduced their deficit and when Nys rode hard up the finishing straight at the start of the final lap, the gap was 37 seconds. Pauwels was losing ground and was at 55 seconds. Taramarcaz had distanced Vanthourenhout and was at 1.42.


The excitement was now all about the battle for second place and it was van Aert who looked to ride away with runner-up honours when he distanced Nys by running up the steepest climb. However, the veteran was in no mood to surrender and slowly made it back to the youngster who continued to ride on the front.


In a muddy section, van Aert tried again and as he briefly slid out, Nys again lost a few metres. He was forcd back into chasing mode but could see the gap widen as they approached the finish.


Meanwhile, van der Haar turned onto the finishing straight and immediately raised his arms to celebrate the win. Just a few seconds later, van Aert followed suit, crossing the line to take second with a time loss of 24 seconds. Nys completed the podium after having sat up in the finale before Pauwels and Taramarcaz rounded out the top 5.




1. Lars van der Haar 2.05.58

2. Wout van Aert +0.24

3. Sven Nys +0.34

4. Kevin Pauwels +0.59

5. Julien Taramarcaz +1.40

6. Michael Vanthourenhout +1.59

7. Corne van Kessel +2.05

8. Clement Venturini +2.06

9. Dieter Sweeck +2.13

10. Laurens Sweeck +2.18


Overall World Cup standings:

1. Wout van Aert 150

2. Lars van der Haar 140

3. Sven Nys 135

4. Michael Vanthourenhout 115

5. Kevin Pauwels 115

6. Julien Taramarcaz 95

7. Corne van Kessel 92

8. Laurens Sweeck 90

9. Jens Adams 79

10. Dieter Sweeck 70



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