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Cyclocross Racing

Lars van der Haar scores huge comeback victory at Koppenbergcross

Van der Haar overhauls race leader Vanthourenhout on Koppenberg summit finish after desperate last-lap chase.

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Lars van der Haar (Baloise-Trek Lions) won a dramatic edition of the prestigious Koppenbergcross race Tuesday.

Van der Haar beat back the one-two play of Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal pair Michael Vanthourenhout and three-time Koppenbergcross champion Eli Iserbyt, came back from a final lap crash, and overhauled solo leader Vanthourenhout just 150m from the line.

The result is the European champion’s third of the season, but by far the biggest given the status of the cobblestone-laden race.

Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout finished second and third in what will mark a disappointing result for the two teammates.

Van der Haar’s victory marks the first Dutch win on the Belgian circuit since Mathieu van der Poel conquered the Koppenberg in 2017.

The leader’s group took some time to shake out in what was a fast, aggressive start to the iconic Oudenaarde-based race.

Defending champion Iserbyt and young star Thibau Nys (Baloise-Trek) forced the pace and eventually stretched out a group of six.

Baloise-Trek saw three riders make the split with Nys, Van der Haar and Pim Ronhaar, while Iserbyt had teammate and wingman Vanthourenhout for company. Lander Loockx (Deschacht-Hens-Maes) completed the lead group.

Vanthourenhout and Iserbyt looked to squeeze the pressure with their typical one-two move, but the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammates couldn’t force the decisive split as Van der Haar repeatedly neutralized the danger.

The group briefly expanded in lap four of eight, but the protagonists remained the same.

Van der Haar continued marking out attacks by teammates Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout before he and Iserbyt surged a few seconds clear over the Koppenberg.

The two looked to have forced the decisive split before Vanthourenhout bridged a huge gap to set up the three-rider showdown that played out in the final laps.

Vanthourenhout hammered on the front for Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammate Iserbyt, but van der Haar couldn’t be dropped. Meanwhile, Iserbyt looked a half-watt from his best.

Van der Haar seemed to have the race under control until he slipped and fell on a tight corner at the start of the last lap. Vanthourenhout took advantage and roared away before Iserbyt sat locked on Van der Haar’s wheel as the Dutchman chased.

Vanthourenhout looked odds-on for victory until the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal rider ran out of gas right at the bottom of the cruel Koppenberg summit finish.

Van der Haar powered past the flagging Vanthourenhout with a huge, muscling climb before he crossed the line and collapsed off his bike in both exhaustion and elation.

Iserbyt crossed the line second in some slim consolation after seeing his three-race winning streak at Koppenbergcross come to an end.

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