The raucous crowd at the Men’s Elite race at CrossVegas was treated to a show of tactics when top American and European stars traded blows. In the end, a youngster snatched the victory. Current under23 Cyclocross World Champion Lars van der Haar (Rabobank) took the win a very tight three-way sprint that came down to a photo-finish.
“I have a pretty strong sprint.. It was amazing, I could not see the line so I wasn’t sure I won.” said van der Haar a few minutes after crossing the line.
Christian Heule (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) took second and Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea), third.
The field shattered on the first lap with a lead group of 18 which was quickly whittled down to ten riders after a strong attack by Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus). Off the front were van der Haar and his teammate Bart Aernouts, Heule and his teammates Tim Johnson and Jamey Driscoll, Peeters and his teammate Bart Wellens, Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt), Todd Wells (Specialized), and Powers.
For the next laps, attacks and counter-attacks flew in a game of tactics with Trebon doing most of the chasing to close down any gap. Simply said no one wanted to let anyone go though many tried.
Driscoll was the first rider to manage to escape, gaining ten seconds with three laps to go. Seeing that both Johnson and Heule were blocking at the front, two-times world champion Wellens took a solo flyer to bridge up to and then drop Driscoll. Wellens soldiered on alone until he was caught on the final lap. A few more attacks from Powers, Trebon and Peeters were neutralized with the group reforming before the final corner.
If this race is any precursor for the race of the season, it’s going to be fabulous racing, or as Johnson put it ‘balls to the walls’.
Lars van der Haar (Rabobank). “When I saw Wellens get caught I was pretty far behind. I saw Peeters go and I thought I could never win. When we went into the last turn I was with the front group again. I know that I can sprint really well. I decided to give it everything I have. At first I thought I would not even get on the podium but then I saw the first three slow down. I think they were pretty tired. I know I was pretty tired. I have a pretty strong sprint. It was amazing, I could not see the line so I wasn’t sure I won.”
Christian Heule (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). “The strong riders keep going even if some attacks are happening and then you have the not that strong riders who lose a little gap and then they come back when the race becomes tactics at the front again. The thing is to see on which riders’ wheel you can stay and which rider you have to pick when it is fast. I made really no friends at this race. I remembered Mourey did really nothing last year and won the sprint and I did about the same and was second for probably about five centimeters or something. It could be totally different in a year, but right now I’m okay with second.”
About the final sprint. “The sprint start before the last steps, riding for position and fighting very hard. The last straight is only fighting against yourself.”
Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea). “It was very hard. I know before that start that it would be a sprint. We are in Las Vegas and I gambled three laps before the end for the attack and I lost. It’s a pity, the shape is good but I know alone here with three laps before the end was not good enough.”
Why attack at three laps to go. “It was Driscoll that was in the attack and he take a big gap. With Johnson and Heule, they stopped the group and I thought, yeah it was a little bit gambling, it was waiting, waiting or going for the attack, and I choose the attack. I came with Driscoll and I thought with two we are stronger than alone but it was not good enough so I go alone with still three laps, it was long, half lap too long. Pity but the shape is good so next weekend in Seattle we hope a little bit closer in the ranking.”
About the race. “It’s amazing, everybody like crazy in the race. It’s nice to be here, it was one hour of suffering but I like it.”
Top 10 Results
1. Lars van der Haar (Rabobank)
2. Christian Heule (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld)
3. Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea)
4. Jeremy Powers (Team Rapha-Focus)
5. Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt)
6. Bart Aernouts (Rabobank)
7. Timothy Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld)
8. Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea)
9. James Driscoll (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld)
10. Todd Wells (Specialized Racing)