This Baloise Trek squad is so freaking fun
Pim Ronhaar, just 22 years old, didn’t arrive in Dendermonde this past weekend aiming to win. The former U23 Cyclocross World Champion has been biding his time within a competitive men’s field, improving every week as he builds himself into a regular contender.
But when your legs feel good, sometimes you just have to see where they can take you. And Ronhaar rode his to a dominant performance in the mud, winning his first career elite World Cup race by 16 seconds over Baloise Trek teammate Lars van der Haar — the third shared podium by Lions riders this season.
Three different Baloise Trek riders — Ronhaar, Van der Haar and Thibau Nys — have now won World Cup races this season. A fourth, Joris Nieuwenhuis, took second at Saturday’s Superprestige race in Niel and finished fourth at World Cup Waterloo.
“It feels good to be in such a good team,” Ronhaar said after the race. “We have four men’s riders who can win races. We really motivate each other. When we can help each other to win races, that’s our strength right now.”
Ronhaar stayed patient during Sunday’s race, even as Belgain rider Toon Vandebosch stayed off the front for three laps. Vandebosch faded on Lap 4, leaving Ronhaar to battle Laurens Sweeck for the lead. Ronhaar went clear, taking an eight-second gap with three laps to go, and never had to look back. Heading into the final lap, he had a 33-second lead.
With his teammate putting on a show of force, Van der Haar could ride intelligently behind, picking off riders after Ronhaar had established his move. Van der Haar moved into second place on the course while Sweeck was stopping the pits.
“I have a really good bond with Lars,” Ronhaar said. “He’s one of my best friends. Last night we were in the hotel together, in the same room coincidentally. So becoming first and second like this is very nice for the team and for us.”
Van der Haar extended his lead in the World Cup leader’s jersey, with Nys, in third-place overall, choosing to sit out Sunday’s race and Eli Iserbyt, in second, taking fourth on the day.
“It wasn’t a Van der Haar parcours, but I kind of surprised myself. Maybe I am turning into a mud devil after all,” Van der Haar said after the race. “Eventually I had an open lane, so I sped up to get to that front group. While I was doing that, Pim was doing the same thing in the front, and actually that was ideal. I didn’t take anyone with me. Pim kept his lead alive perfectly and I was able to control it in the back.”
Lucinda Brand put an exclamation point on what was yet another brilliant team weekend for Baloise Trek. The 2021 Cyclocross World Champion made her return to racing following a crash in the Simac Ladies Tour last September. She is working her way back to peak racing form, but she still managed to take second on Sunday behind Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado.
Brand set the pace at the front of the pack on the first lap, maintaining her lead despite a bike change in the pits. She didn’t have the legs to maintain her gap ahead of a flying Alvarado, but Brand gave a diesel effort to hold off everyone else, staying well ahead of third-place Zoe Backstedt, who finished 1:35 back of Brand.
“It was great to finally be back. Watching all the races from the couch really made me hungry to join, especially because most of the races have been so muddy already,” Brand said after the race. “Of course I was super nervous about how it would go, because training is so different from racing. The start was almost too perfect. After half a lap I felt the lactate already [laughs]. Clearly I wasn’t used to it. But that I could find my rhythm and have a steady race made me very satisfied regardless of the result.
“Of course, there’s a gap I need to close, but for now, to come back like this, makes me really happy.”
Baloise Trek only seems to be getting stronger as the cyclocross season goes on. The team has an impressively deep roster of riders, all of whom are willing to work for one another depending on the circumstances. Every weekend the squad gives us a brand new reason to watch. You won’t want to miss what happens next.