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Jackie Tyson

Eli Iserbyt extends World Cup lead with victory in Flamanville

DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Eli Iserbyt of Belgium and Team Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal competes during the 2nd UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup Dublin 2023 - Men's Elite on November 26, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images).

World Cup cyclocross leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) won the sixth round of the series in Flamanville. He held off a chase by Baloise Trek Lions duo Lars van der Haar and Pim Ronhaar to continue in the World Cup lead with a second victory of the series.

Van der Haar finished second, 13 seconds back, while Ronhaar, who had held a solo lead for four-and-a-half laps, secured third, another 34 seconds back.

“Very good, but very tired,” Iserbyt said in a post-race interview about how he felt. “My start was very bad. I had to go through the whole field to get to the front. Then after 30 minutes I found good lines on the track, so I’m pretty happy that I could grow into the race and do a final good set of laps.

“It was very important for me to win today. Also, to win in the [World Cup] leader’s jersey is not easy.”

The late charge by Van der Haar to catch and pass his teammate on the course also pushed him one spot higher in the World Cup standings to second overall, displacing Ronhaar to third position. 

“I was struggling a little bit in the first lap, to find my rhythm. Once I had it, I tried to go as fast as I could to the front, but Eli was a little bit faster. In the end he was just the best today. He had it under control," Van der Haar admitted.

Kevin Kuhn (Circus-Reuz-Technord) hit out with the early lead in the field of 43 riders, deep mud a deterrent to major moves early on a course with many transition points between slippery grass and deep ruts.

Rolling across the start/finish line for the first time, Kuhn continued to lead and towed four other riders - Ronhaar, Joris Nieuwenhuis (Baloise Trek Lions), Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Emiel Verstrynge (Crelan-Corendon), with Ryan Kamp (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) two seconds back in the chase. Trailing in eighth place was Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions), who had teammate Thibau Nys and Iserbyt on his back wheel.

On the second lap Ronhaar took over at the front, with Kuhn and Vandeputte matching pedal strokes, and Verstrynge and Nieuwenhuis dropping back a few seconds. The 22-year-old Dutch rider slipped in a few corners in the mud, but opened a gap of 10 seconds to the chasers as he completed the circuit.

Iserbyt made his way steadily through the pack to take over in second place on the third lap, followed by Kuhn, Nieuwenhuis and Van der Haar. Well behind fighting to stay in the top 10, Jens Adams leaned into Nys in a wide corner while attempting to pass and the two went down, allowing Toon Vandebosch (Crelan-Corendon) to overtake the duo.

Ronhaar added another four seconds to his lead as he soloed at the front for a fourth lap. Iserbyt, Nieuwenhuis and Van der Haar continued to chase, with Vandeputte beginning to lose touch by a few seconds and Kuhn going backwards, now in sixth 24 seconds back. Van der Haar admitted he used a lot of energy to ride to the front of the case with Iserbyt.

“It took me another lap to recover from getting in front of Eli. And then I felt really strong again today and I thought maybe I can do second or a third place,” Van der Haar said.

Iserbyt, the World Cup leader, used that mid-point of the race to make a move, going away in a solo effort to now distance Van der Haar and close down the distance to Ronhaar. He made up seven seconds in the last half of that lap.

With the lead about to change, Iserbyt and Ronhaar took fresh bikes in the pit on the fifth lap, and the pass was made when Ronhaar’s back wheel clipped the course fencing and he slipped sideways. Immediately, Ronhaar went into chase mode.

Once on the final circuit, Van der Haar bridged to teammate Ronhaar in pursuit of Iserbyt, but the World Cup leader carried enough of a gap that even a small bobble on a descent and a swerve to miss a couple of local geese wandering on the course did not allow an opportunity to make up the sizable gap. Behind, Ronhaar could no longer fire on all cylinders and faded behind his teammate.

“I was totally done,” Ronhaar said about his effort on the seventh and final lap. “I was riding strong lap times, every lap 8:35. I was not feeling that great, but my basic tempo was high. I saw that Eli had a bad start, so I wanted to push from the beginning. Then three laps from the end he sprinted to my wheel and I tried to stay with him, but I was done.

“When Eli came at me, I jumped [into] the barriers but it was a little bit tricky. He was just stronger. I am happy I am third. I almost fell off the podium.”


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