Two more races, two more sprint finishes to cap a chaotic weekend for Baloise Trek
Lars van der Haar capped a weekend of sprint finishes for Baloise Trek by pipping Belgian rival Eli Iserbyt at the line for silver at the Cyclocross World Championships in Fayetteville. The result cements what has been a resurgent season for the Dutchman. Earlier this season, Van der Haar won the European Championship and Dutch National Championship. He now has four World Championship medals, his last a silver in 2016.
Van der Haar raced savvily from the start. He set the pace at the front before settling into a rhythm among a packed lead group of riders. During the fifth lap, after eventual winner Tom Pidcock made what proved to be the winning move, Van der Haar bridged to the primary chase group and bided his time at the back as a large Belgian contingent of Iserbyt, Michael Vanthourenhout and Laurens Sweeck attempted to eat into Pidcock’s lead.
Van der Haar made his medal-sealing attack on Lap 7 on the steep climb just ahead of the first pass by the pits. Only Iserbyt could follow his wheel, and over the last two-and-a-half laps the two would duel all the way to the finish line.
After the race, Van der Haar said he wanted to make his move even earlier, but the intense pace with Frenchman Clément Venturini in the group forced him to be patient.
“I was just waiting to find my moment, but every time that moment got stolen by Venturini because he was so strong today. That’s why I waited a little bit longer,” Van der Haar said. “Then I just kept riding. I didn’t care that Eli was on my wheel. I just thought, ‘I’m just going to keep going.'”
Van der Haar had one of the best seasons of his career at 30 years old, securing three wins and 12 podiums, with a small handful of races still to go. Baloise Trek teammate Toon Aerts took sixth on the day at 1’02” back from the front — his first finish outside the top five since Jan. 9. Together, they turned in yet another impressive duo of performances as part of remarkably consistent seasons in a chaotic men’s field.
Shirin van Anrooij takes silver in a thriller
The women’s U23 race was one of the most highly anticipated events of the weekend, thanks to the strength of its young talent. In terms of excitement, the race fully lived up to the hype. Puck Pieterse led out Shirn van Anrooij into the finishing straight to set up a sprint finish, and barely held off her Dutch teammate to win the World Championship.
Van Anrooij’s expression after the race tells the story:
Van Anrooij rode in a dominant, all-Dutch lead group of three riders along with Pieterse and 2021 U23 World Champion Fem van Empel. Van Anrooij accelerated hard on a steep incline during the second lap to create that elite group; only Pieterse stuck to her wheel, while Van Empel chased over two laps to latch back on.
The three riders traded ineffectual blows until the final lap when Van Empel committed a late miscue and clipped Pieterse back wheel on a short, steep incline and tumbled. Van Anrooij lost roughly four seconds as she tried to get around Van Empel, enough for Pieterse to get a gap and attempt to solo to victory.
Van Anrooij was determined to make the catch, however. She attacked a set of technical descents and caught Pieterse at the second pass by the pits, ensuring a sprint for victory after a series of banked turns. Van Anrooij opened the sprint from Pieterse’s wheel, and nearly pulled even at the line, but couldn’t quite overcome her compatriot’s own spirited effort. Van Empel took third at 12 seconds off Pieterse.
Trek Factory Racing’s young riders took a pair of top 10 finishes. Maddie Munro was eighth at 2’16” off the front, making her the fastest American at one of the biggest cyclocross races ever on home soil. British U23 champion Hattie Harnden took 10th at 3’34” back.
Munro was proud of her effort.
“I gave it all I could out there. There was so much energy, so many fans, it was a really special experience today,” Munro said. “I think I gave it all I could, and had a really great day mentally and physically, and that’s all I can ask for. It’s time to be proud of that, and also get ready for next season and try and improve from here.”