Michael Vanthourenhout (29, Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) extended his European cyclo-cross title in Pontchâteau, France, with a phenomenal solo on a course that was recreated in a mud puddle. Vanthourenhout took off in the second round and was not caught again. Thibau Nys had an off day, but Vanthourenhout turned out to be the ideal substitute. Lars van der Haar made too many mistakes in the pursuit and had to settle for bronze after Cameron Mason.
Michael Vanthourenhout, reigning Belgian and European champion, has struck again at the perfect time. Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel are not yet in the field, Thibau Nys had an off day and Lars van der Haar made too many mistakes on the muddy and slippery course to really get into the race.
“I had good legs and went all out from start to finish,” said Vanthourenhout. “The season hasn’t been good so far, but I already felt good on the Koppenberg, but I couldn’t capitalize on that.”
But in Pontchâteau, where a jersey was handed out, it worked.
Laurens Sweeck opened the debates for the Belgians, but after his cannon start he quickly fell back. In the second round, defending champion Michael Vanthourenhout went out. No one could have imagined then that the course would already be in the right direction. “I thought his first half of the race was fantastic, but to be honest: I also doubted whether he would hold out,” said national coach Sven Vanthourenhout.
It was up to the Dutch to respond, but Joris Nieuwenhuis suffered a puncture. In the third round there was a response from the British Cameron Mason, but master stopper Eli Iserbyt called him to order with Pim Ronhaar on his wheel.
Halfway through the race, Dutch leader Lars van der Haar joined the pursuers. The other top favorite, Thibau Nys, had not managed to move along with Van der Haar and that was the end of the course for the Belgian top favorite: he was not having his day.
Slippers stop Van der Haar
Eli Iserbyt had a puncture and so Van der Haar lost his watchdog. In the fifth round, the Dutch leader brought out his second cartouche to try to close the gap on Vanthourenhout on his own, but after a slip, everything had to be done again for Van der Haar.
The course was already difficult, muddy and slippery and when the heavens opened in the last quarter of the race, the difficulty level was increased somewhat. But Vanthourenhout continued to ride a flawless race.
In the seventh of eight laps the race was completely completed. Vanthourenhout had extended his lead over Cameron Mason and Lars van der Haar made another slip.
Vanthourenhout was allowed to spread his arms after a fantastic race. Cameron Mason finished second, Van der Haar took bronze.