OKBET CYCLING : With a long, solitary effort in Waterloo, Eli Iserbyt has won the first World Cup of his career
To start off his defense of his UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup championship, Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauces-Bingoal) won the first event of the season in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
When Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions), eventual winner of the Trek CX Cup and European Champion, had the jump on the first lap, the Belgian patiently waited for his opportunity. After another circuit, Iserbyt put in a strong effort and pulled away.
It felt fantastic to race by myself,” Iserbyt commented after his successful solo effort. It was the idea all along; all you need are excellent legs to take advantage of the space I gave myself.
Michael Vanthourenhout’s presence in the lead position allowed him to safely distance himself from the cyclists chasing him. With his new team, Crelan-Firstaids, Laurens Sweeck blew by the rest of the chase pack and crossed the finish line in second position.
While Thibaut Nys (Baloise Trek Lions) wheelied in for fifth, Van der Haar attacked Vanthourenhout in the dying minutes to capture the final podium slot. Nys had broken his collarbone in an accident during same event a year before.
To my pleasant surprise, Eli performed really well today. I attempted a really tight following distance, but Laurens caught me off guard. “That was a little silly of me to go too far back, but I believe he was better anyhow,” Van der Haar, who won the C1 on Friday, said. After that, all you had to do was zero in on that last spot.
I thought Thibau Nys should make an effort with three or four circuits to go, so I attempted to give him a space once or twice, but Michael Vanthorenhout did not let that stand in his way. At that point, I went for broke in the last stretch.
Iserbyt had previously triumphed on a rain-soaked track, and he was hoping that the overcast circumstances on Sunday would deliver once again.
A bit more moisture would be nice, but today was fine. Iserbyt felt at home in the highly technical environment of the Waterloo program. My legs allow me to put in a lot of work on the laps when I’m feeling strong. The previous three weeks have been challenging for me physically, but today I feel great. I’m content.
A large train was chasing behind Iserbyt on the fourth lap of the nine-lap race for men. Sweeck, Van der Haar, Vanthourenhout, and Nys needed one additional circuit to finally break apart from one another. Sweeck, who had been in the first group to pursue after Iserbyt, stepped on the gas and made up over 10 seconds on the back half of the race.
When he cut the deficit to eight seconds, I slowed down a little before going full throttle again, telling myself to go harder but also reminding myself to breathe and avoid making any errors. Iserbyt said, “In my mind, the race is quite dull” because of Sweeck’s late-race drive to close the gap at the front. To be precise, we only went flat out for an hour. Truthfully, it was a challenge.
After completing the first leg of the journey, Iserbyt kept on his solo advance in front of Sweeck. There was a second pursuit group of three riders, consisting of Nys, Vanthourenhout, and Van der Haar, who were over 30 seconds behind the lead group. Pim Ronhaar (Baloise Trek Lions), Daan Soete (Deschacht-Hens-Maes), and Toon Vanderbosch formed an alliance out in the distance (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
Iserbyt and Sweeck maintained their distance for another lap, but Sweeck lost time when he lost control of his bike in a turn just before the Belgian Stairs. For whatever reason, the Costa Rican rider Felipe Nystrom Spencer, who was in last position at the time, became a fan favorite when he stopped at the barriers, dismounted to congratulate the audience, and then continued on, with Iserbyt barely 15 seconds behind him.
Iserbyt strengthened his advantage during the last three circuits to claim his third consecutive World Cup Waterloo victory. Former teammate Sweeck came in second, while Van der Haar passed the rest of the pack on the last flyover and slammed on the brakes to finish in third.
I started at about 15th or 20th, so I was pushing hard right from the get to make up ground on the frontrunners. I wasn’t up front, so I missed Iserbyt’s departure. Everyone was probably making an effort to bridge the distance, but progress was slow. I tried to close it with what I had in my legs, but it wasn’t enough,” Sweeck added. It was challenging, but I managed to complete one lap quicker than Eli. The competition was fierce.
Sweeck’s third-place performance at Poldercross in September was his second podium of the year. Following the race, Iserbyt spoke highly of his old colleague from Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal.
It’s good for him, us, and the species as a whole. It’s encouraging that he seems so enthusiastic today. He can run his race, and the rest of us can run ours, making for a more liberated atmosphere all around. It should be an exciting season because of the mutual respect we have for one another.
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