Lars van der Haar will probably take the holeshot on Sunday, and the odds of him leading at the other end of the race are getting better.
Height: 1.69m (5'6")
Weight: 57kg (126lbs)
Hometown: Woudenberg, Netherlands
Pedigree: Two time U-23 World Champion, two time U-23 World Cup overall winner, first Netherlands national champion without the last name "Boom" in some time. Little Lars is is in his first year in the Elite ranks but has scored one win and a number of podium placings, rarely falling outside the top ten this season. Most recently he has won two out of his last three races, coming in second in the last World Cup stop in Hoogerheide on a fast, snowy course in his first weekend in his new national champion's skinsuit.
How's He Doing?
On the up. In the last four rounds of the World Cup, Lars has placed 8th, 7th, 6th, and 2nd. He took the scalps of all the other major Worlds contenders two weeks ago in Hoogerheide... but the dynamics of racing were different with most top riders taking few chances on the snowy course with an eye towards Worlds and Niels Albert just doing enough to retain his overall lead. That said, little Lars looked as sharp or more as the aggressively racing Kevin Pauwels, likely to be one of the biggest threats on a fast course Sunday.
Plus? Lars has raced at CrossVegas - and won once - three times now, giving him substantially more overseas travel experience than Sven, Albert, Pauwels, etc.
How's The Course For Him?
Tailor made. Niels Albert named him as the favorite for Worlds two months ago, citing the young Dutchman's speed and fast sprint. Though Albert was likely hoping to deflect some attention from himself later down the road (it was in an interview immediately after Albert had bested van der Haar in a race...), there was a sparkle of credulity in it, as all good bluffs must have. With the course looking increasingly like it will be dry on Sunday, it should suit Lars better than almost anyone out there.
The Case Against van der Holeshot
It's his first year in the elites... he simply does not have the experience (and likely not fully developed power) of guys like Nys, Albert, and Pauwels. Next year, at Hoogerheide? I think we might be singing a different tune.
Van der Haar initially had ambitions to be a gymnist until a torn achilles tendon forced him from the sport and pushed him towards riding. He's found his niche and seems poised to follow the trajectory of Sven Nys, adamantly stating he will always be a cross racer and not pull a treacherous departure from the sport like his countryman Lars Boom. Good on you, King of the Holeshot.