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The Belgian media was impatiently waiting for one man at the post-race press conference for the u23 Men’s Cyclocross World Championships in Koksijde, Belgium. And it wasn’t the World Champion Lars van der Haar of the Netherlands that they were waiting for. That man was second place Wietse Bosmans who let the opportunity of a lifetime crumble away on the final lap when he didn’t attack when his rival bobbled on a sandy climb.
“Are you angry with yourself?” was the first question asked to Bosmans. He replied simply, “I’m not angry. I’ve done what I could. I was the best in the sand stretches that’s what Lars said too, no I am not at all angry with myself. I don’t actually understand the question.”
A few questions later, it was finally van der Haar’s turn. “We all know that Wietse is the strongest and the best in the sand, and if Lars was maybe today the more clever?” was the question. With a smile, the small Dutchman quipped “I raced the quickest”.
Defending champion van der Haar and crowd favorite Bosmans were locked in a battle with Bosmans showing his strengths on the sand sections and van der Haar on the grass and pavement sections. They seemed evenly matched until a third rider, Michiel van der Heijden also of the Netherlands joined them halfway through the race. Bosmans resisted to all attacks to drop him, revving up the crowds lap after lap. Cross became a full body sport on the final lap, when van der Haar came in on the inside of a turn on the Herygers dune, forcing Bosmans to alter his line while van der Heijden was dropped after being slammed into the fencing by Bosmans.
Van der Haar took over the pacemaking until he bobbled and put a foot down in a climb, Bosmans came to the front and then did not press the pace. He looked behind him and allowed van der Haar to catch and take the sprint.
Bosmans seemed to have already conceded the win.
“I’m very conscious of the mistake I made.” Bosmans said. “I don’t think there are many opportunities to be at the head of the race at 200 meters from the finish but if you know that Lars is behind you, even if it’s a long stretch you’re never sure with him. I was actually convinced he would raced to the very finish and he would pass me.”
While van der Haar never lost his confidence. “I did doubt at certain moments especially because Wietse is so strong in the sand stretches,” he admitted, “but I knew that I could be stronger and quicker in the other stretches so that gave me some confidence to keep going.”
World Champion. With his two consecutive U23 World Championships, van der Haar is expected to move up to the Elite level soon with an announcement expected by the end of the week.
“It all depends on my negotiations with the UCI and with Rabobank.” he said of the move. “How they see my future and of course myself. I think it would be very difficult anyway to have a third year at the level I’ve been cycling now and I think it will be best to go to the elite men next year because they don’t expect me to perform immediately.”
Van der Haar also made his mark in America this season, when he unleashed a killer sprint, a long sprint, to win at CrossVegas all the way back in September. He would love to come back to the United States but it will depend on his team.
“Vegas is a nice race, it’s a hard race.” he said. “I just see it as a nice trip, I don’t need to win there. The win was just for me a big surprise that I won there because I started the sprint at 700 meters, I moved to top five, hey top three, f*ck I won. It was really crazy.”
While he did enjoy the trip, he did not enjoy the ensuing jetlag. “It’s nice to go the US, now I know what it is and I know about the jetlag. To go there you don’t have any problems but back here, I needed a week to get good again. Maybe now I can do it but if I’m older I don’t think I can do it.”
He definitely wants to go to Louisville for Cyclocross World Championships in 2013. “That’s on the other side of America so you don’t have to travel so far.” he laughed. But does not intend to spend more time than necessary. “I don’t want to make the jetlag bigger, five days in the US is enough for the World Championships.”
As for the future, van der Haar intends to stay in cross as long he has fun, and hopefully that will be a long time.