Michael Vanthourenhout Secures Consecutive Victory at Rain-Soaked European Cyclo-cross Championships

By Monica Buck

In an impressive display of skill and endurance, Belgian cyclist Michael Vanthourenhout has successfully defended his title at the 2023 European Cyclo-cross Championships, held in Pont-Château, despite the onslaught of treacherous weather conditions that turned the race into a battle against the elements.

Riding through torrential rain and pervasive mud, Vanthourenhout managed to forge an early lead and maintained his dominance to finish ahead of Great Britain’s emerging talent, Cameron Mason. Lars van der Haar of the Netherlands, a perennial favorite, was relegated to a third-place finish in a gripping contest against both the course and the competition.

Reflecting on his performance, Vanthourenhout said, “The season was not going well, but after the [mid-week] Koppenbergcross race I felt very storm, so today was my day. From the beginning, I felt like I had good legs, and I went full from start to finish, and it was enough to take the victory.” His relentless drive from the outset proved crucial in establishing a gap that would withstand the pressure applied by Mason in the final lap.

Despite the dual honor of wearing the national champion’s jersey, Vanthourenhout acknowledged the unique challenges it presents: “I’m very happy with this [jersey] unfortunately I’m also Belgian [cyclocross] champion so it’s a little bit difficult. But being European Champion for a second time in a row is also very good.”

The Belgian team displayed impeccable teamwork throughout the race, with an assertive start setting the tone. Laurens Sweeck led initially, setting a blistering pace in the opening lap, which was soon taken over by Eli Iserbyt before Vanthourenhout launched his decisive move. It was a textbook example of cyclo-cross strategy, with Iserbyt and Witse Meussen executing a perfect front-of-the-pack blockade, allowing their lead to grow in the early stages of the race.

However, it was the unexpected counter-attack by Mason on lap three that introduced the real drama, slicing into Vanthourenhout’s lead. Yet, as the race progressed past its midpoint, Vanthourenhout’s consistent performance in spite of the conditions kept him firmly in the lead.

Adversity struck several riders with Iserbyt suffering from a puncture and van der Haar experiencing a crash. The Belgian trainer Sven Nys could be heard urging his riders to maintain their position, emphasizing the competitive intensity of the race.

In the closing stages, with Mason securing a historic podium finish and demonstrating the intensity that marks cyclo-cross as a demanding sport, Vanthourenhout held strong to secure his lead, crossing the finish line with a tangible sense of triumph over both the competition and the challenging course that had tested all the riders to their limits.

Cyclo-cross – European Championships 2023 | Men’s Elite Race Results

  1. Michael Vanthourenhout, 1:02:13
  2. Cameron Mason, +00:07
  3. Lars van der Haar, +00:19
  4. Pim Ronhaar, +00:21
  5. Ryan Kamp, +00:44
  6. Eli Iserbyt, +00:58
  7. Laurens Sweeck, +01:05
  8. Niels Vandeputte, +01:14
  9. Felipe Orts Lloret, +01:23
  10. Witse Meeussen, +01:39