Joris Nieuwenhuis is thriving after committing full time to cyclocross racing
Joris Nieuwenhuis scored a breakthrough win Saturday, powering through a muddy course in Merksplas to win the fourth round of the Superprestige series. The 27-year-old is committing to cyclocross full-time this season after splitting time with road racing for most of his career. His win — by 1:36 over Eli Iserbyt, who had won the previous three rounds of the series — signaled the start of his next chapter in earnest.
“It has felt refreshing for me to focus fully on cyclocross,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It requires a different lifestyle compared to WorldTour racing. I feel more freedom in the decisions we make — us being the team, my trainer Paul and me. Besides that, I set my own difficult, but realistic, goals. As a domestique in the WorldTour, you never know which races you will end up racing.”
Nieuwenhuis proved he has a diesel engine to rival anyone in the sport. Riding in wheel-deep mud, he asserted himself at the front of the race from the start, going away with Belgian rider Niels Vandeputte. He eventually went solo, gaining time by riding up short, steep ramps that forced his rivals to hop off their bikes and run.
At the end of five laps, out of seven, Nieuwenhuis led by 35 seconds. He continued to push his advantage from there.
“Before the start I didn’t expect my legs to be this good,” Nieuwenhuis said. “But before the season started I was super confident that at least one day would be my day. And during the race I just had a super strong focus, made almost no mistakes and that helped me to the win.”
After Nieuwenhuis’ incredible effort, four different Baloise-Trek men’s riders have now won major races this season. He joined Thibau Nys (World Cup Waterloo), Lars van der Haar (World Cup Maasmechelen) and Pim Ronhaar (World Cup Dendermonde).
But that’s not all — Nieuwenhuis followed up the win by taking third place at the fourth round of the UCI World Cup in Troyes on Sunday. He joined the podium with Van der Haar, who took second, giving Baloise Trek its fourth shared major podium of the season.
“It’s super motivating to ride in a team that is winning a lot with different riders.” Nieuwenhuis said. “It boosts the confidence that we are all doing the right things.
“Results wise it has to be one of my best weekends ever. But I strongly believe that there is more left in the tank. I’m not on the best level that I can reach yet.”
Up next on the ‘cross calendar: An X2O Trofee race in Kortrijk on Saturday, followed by another World Cup round in Dublin on Sunday. We’ll wait to see which riders take on which races, but Baloise Trek could position itself to win both, just as they have seemingly all season.
And you can be sure Nieuwenhuis will be making his bid for a podium spot. He is quickly becoming a household name within the sport. More importantly, he’s enjoying the challenges and experiences presented by being a full-time cyclocross racer.
“For me the most beautiful aspect of cyclocross is the weather,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Because it has such a big impact on the race. Every type of weather has its own benefits and challenges for every single rider. It makes it a versatile sport.”
Nieuwenhuis is coming into his own in a whole new way in the midst of an already accomplished career. And he’s yet another reason why the Baloise Trek Lions are perhaps the most fascinating team in cyclocross this season.