Lars van der Haar of the Netherlands repeated as U23 world champion today in a dramatic last lap and final sprint ahead of Belgian Wietse Bosmans and Dutch teammate Michael van der Heijden. The trio had been riding together for a few laps, with Bosmans racing smartly to stay with the two Dutch riders. On the last lap, where the slightest factors could make or break a world championship, the trio all nearly came a-cropper on the Herijgers Dune, with Bosmans and van der Haar both stumbling in a corner of deep sand and van der Heijden catching his brake lever on a sign.
That left Bosmans and van der Haar in the lead, and Bosmans seized another advantage on the last dune climb, when van der Haar flinched and gave away five meters with precious little racing left to go. Flemish announcers went berserk there, but van der Haar had the best legs of anyone in the field. He closed the gap quickly with the same burst of speed he'd used to launch several small attacks and tactical maneuvers in the last two laps, and used a second burst to pass Bosmans in a grassy stretch just before the finish. That sewed up the title, with only a left hand turn on pavement and a short distance to the line for van der Haar to hold the lead.
France's Arnaud Jouffroy, by the way, came from way back to nearly make the sprint in a tremendous final lap. Too late for a medal though. Final results:
- Lars van der Haar, Netherlands
- Wietse Bosmans, Belgium
- Michael van der Heijden, Netherlands
- Arnaud Jouffroy, France
- Laurens Sweeck, Belgium