A double Dutch celebration kick-started the 2013/14 UCI World Cup season in Valkenburg as Lars van der Haar (Rabobank Development Team) and Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv-Giant) bagged victories on home soil.
Vos, who won a third world road race title last month, continued to show why she is widely considered the world’s best all-round rider with a stunning solo victory in the elite women’s event, leading from the first lap to pick up where she left off after victories in the final three events of the 2012/13 cyclo-cross season.
The Dutch superstar will miss the second round as she undergoes minor surgery, but she ensured she took an early overall lead with a classy display of speed and power to win by more than one-and-a-half minutes.
Former seven-time British champion Helen Wyman (Kona Factory) led early but from then on it was Vos who shone, with the 26-year-old taking the lead on the descent and continuing to extend her lead from there until the finish.
Wyman and defending World Cup champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclo-Cross Collective) mounted a pursuit and the American dropped the Brit on the second lap as she attempted, in vain, to catch Vos.
Wyman dropped back to join a chasing group of compatriot and current national champion Nikki Harris (Young Telenet-Fidea) and France’s Christel Ferrier-Brunier (Faren-Kuota) as they battled for the final podium spot.
And it was Harris who took it after an acceleration on the final lap, which first dropped Ferrier-Brunier before Wyman also succumbed to the pace.
Further back, fellow Brit Gabby Durrin just missed out on a place in the top ten, being pipped to the line by France’s Caroline Mani as they both crossed 3’30” after Vos.
Meanwhile in the elite men’s race, 22-year-old Van der Haar outgunned his more illustrious Belgian rivals on the famous Cauberg Hill to solo to his biggest career victory to date.
World champion Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony) suffered a number of punctures throughout the race and eventually succumbed to a broken chain, while defending champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) finished a distant 11th after missing his start.
Only world number two Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) came close to matching the young Dutchman as he crossed in second place, twenty seconds back.
Meanwhile, British national champion Ian Field, secured his best World Cup result to date, breaking in the top 20 for the first time by finishing 19th, 2’40” behind van der Haar.
With steady rainfall making the testing, hilly course all the more difficult, Pauwels was first away but nobody managed to make an attack stick in the opening laps.
Nys led the field, but a crash saw him lose position before van der Haar attacked on the third lap, with only Pauwels able to go with him.
The Belgian’s compatriot and team-mate Klaas Vantornout slowed the pursuing riders enough to earn the leaders a twenty-second gap but Pauwels lost ground after suffering a flat tyre.
German Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) attacked from the pursuing group and he and Pauwels rode together at 23 seconds behind with four laps remaining.
Pauwels, however, lost more ground as van der Haar continued to lead solo up front, with the Belgian momentarily caught by Nys and Vantornout. A flat tyre then accounted for Nys, before a broken chain eventually forced him out of the race.
Further up the course Pauwels dropped Vantornout before catching and passing Walsleben on the penultimate lap, but van der Haar comfortably kept the Belgian at bay to move into the early overall World Cup lead. Field’s 19th place finish earned Britain’s only elite male World Cup representative 42 points in the overall rankings.
At under-23 level, Dutch hotshot Mathieu van der Poel missed his start but recovered to finish third behind Belgian duo Michael Vanthourenhout, 20, and Wout van Aert, 19.
Elite men – result
1 Lars van der Haar (NED) – Rabobank Development Team in 1:02:45hrs
2 Kevin Pauwels (BEL) – Sunweb-Napoleon +20”
3 Philipp Walsleben (GER) – Powerplus +39”
4 Klaas Vantornout (BEL) – Sunweb-Napoleon +48”
5 Bart Aernouts (BEL) – AA Drink +1’00”
6 Tom Meeusen (BEL) – Telenet-Fidea +1’09”
7 Thijs van Amerongen (NED) – AA Drink +1’20”
8 Enrico Franzoi (ITA) – Selle Italia Guerciotti +1’31”
9 Bart Wellens (BEL) – Telenet-Fidea +1’39”
10 Corne van Kessel (NED) – Telenet-Fidea +1’53”
19 Ian Field (GBR) – Hargroves Cycles +2’40”
1 Marianne Vos (NED) – Rabobank-Liv Giant in 37’56”
2 Katie Compton (USA) – Trek-Cyclo-cross Collective +1’35”
3 Nikki Harris (GBR) – Young Telenet-Fidea +1’52”
4 Helen Wyman (GBR) – Kona Factory +2’04”
5 Christel Ferrier-Brunea (FRA) – Faren-Kuota +2’11”
6 Pavla Havlikova (CZE) – Young Telenet-Fidea +2’20”
7 Ellen van Loy (BEL) – DNCS-Pro 2012 +2’29”
8 Sanne Cant (BEL) – Enertherm-BKCP +2’53”
9 Annefleur Kalvenhaar (NED) – Giant Dealerteams 3’05”
10 Caroline Mani (FRA) – Raleigh-Clement +3’30”
11 Gabby Durrin (GBR) – Rapha-Focus +3’30”