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CX Week: Lars Butts In, Zonhoven on Tap, and a Patrick Gallery!

Patrick Verhoest

No denying it anymore, the ‘Cross season is in full swing now. You know how I know? Because Patrick Verhoest is sending me his amazing photos to post! See above. And on to Ronse...

May I Butt In?

The narrative for the season is etched in stone — it’s Mathieu van der Poel vs Wout Van Aert for all the glory, all season long. But Lars van der Haar’s win in Ronse forces us, for at least a week, to ponder whether things could get a bit more interesting. On Sunday van der Haar won a race in classic road fashion: attack the two biggest names in the race at a moment when they weren’t inclined to respond, and then hope they start looking at each other to see who gets to chase. The two Rainbow Kids actually found a third alternative, slowing down enough for a peloton to form and installing Kevin Pauwels on the front instead, but it was too late.

Van der Haar excels at a number of things, one of which is getting around a fast, flowy course, and the Hotond is that: a grassy crit with some heavy corners and small rises, but little else. Little Lars might suffer when things get extra heavy, against wattage beasts van der Poel and Van Aert, but those moments weren’t on the menu. Zippy Little Lars held off the favorites and for a day is in the conversation for the 2017-18 season.

Now, whether he is stronger than before, we should start to find out soon enough. Because...

Everyone Into the Pit

Sunday next is the Zonhoven cross, the first of several can’t-miss races. Zonhoven is known, of course, for being held in and around a giant pit of sand on an old military base. Everything about this idea is awesome.

The sand is deep, the hillsides are steep, and the displays of power are awesome. The crowds pack the pit to create one of the sport’s most distinctive stadium atmospheres. If you can’t enjoy this, I honestly don’t know why you made it this far into a ‘cross post. But of course you can enjoy this, and I suggest you do.

The last four winners are Sven Nys, Kevin Pauwels, Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, plus Albert, Stybar and Wellens before them — a who’s who of the sport’s last decade. It’s not a race that leans entirely in one direction or another, since outside of the pits it’s pretty fast and flowy across a sorta flat plain dotted with small sand sections. Van der Haar has been third here, so if he can overcome the two young champions, it’ll be a sign of good things about to happen. And if not... then at least he won in Ronse, where he probably should.

Oh, and by the way...

  • American Katie Compton soloed home to comfortably win the women’s elite race, undeterred by a bee sting and a trans-Atlantic transfer, as Sanne Cant left the race early. Maud Kaptheuns was second at 23” back.
  • Thibau Nys, son of the legend, did not, repeat NOT, win the U17 race. He finished second to Dutch rider Salvador Alvarado. Nys is 14. So yeah, it’s happening.