As Mathieu van der Poel steps back from the spotlight, Lars van der Haar has emerged as the prominent figure in Dutch cyclo-cross, according to national coach Gerben de Knegt. The 32-year-old Baloise Trek Lions cyclist has recently reconnected with the upper echelons of the sport, earning admiration and respect from De Knegt for his resurgence.
Van der Haar’s recent accolades, including four wins in each of the last two years, the European cyclo-cross championship in 2021, and last season’s triumph in the Superprestige general classification, contrast his earlier career phase. Previously noted for his consistency in making the top five but rarely claiming victory, Van der Haar’s transformation has captured De Knegt’s attention. During an interview with IDLProCycling.com, De Knegt expressed that, while Van der Haar has not necessarily improved significantly in technical terms, it’s his mental reorientation that’s been the game-changer.
De Knegt observed that a few years back, Van der Haar’s future in the sport was uncertain, but he has since found a new mode of operation that has propelled him back into the winner’s circle. The national coach remarked on Van der Haar’s perception of his own potential, particularly noting how he once settled for third place behind competitors like Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, whereas now he contends with a steadier mind. De Knegt attributed this newfound peace, partly, to Van der Haar’s personal life, pointing out the stability that comes with being a married father.
A Longstanding Connection: De Knegt and Van der Haar’s Shared Histories
De Knegt’s insights into Van der Haar’s evolution are deeply rooted in a personal connection that dates back farther than the public may realise. He shared a surprising anecdote from his own cycling past, recalling how a young, outspoken 15-year-old Van der Haar joined their training sessions. At that time, De Knegt, who was still actively competing, pondered the nature of the bold youth who would eventually become a key figure in Dutch cyclocross.