IT'S only a couple of seasons since Lars van der Haar stepped up to elite racing - one season early - to test himself against the senior elite. Since then he's won two senior Dutch national titles.
In 2013 Van der Haar dethroned the six-time champion Lars Boom and then successfully defended his Dutch tricolour jersey in Gasselte twelve months ago. On Sunday in Veldhoven, over a sandy lakeside course, his possible hat-trick of titles will be made extremely difficult by the presence of nineteen-year-old Mathieu van der Poel.
Van der Poel, twice a winner of the World junior title, has been (along with Belgian Wout Van Aert) a revelation this season when racing against the senior elites and won his last race against them - the Soudal Classic in Leuven. Van der Haar did not race in Leuven and the pair last met in the Diegem evening Superprestige race when Van der Poel was the winner and took the lead in the series.
All the signs point to Van der Haar missing out on his hat-trick to the new, young Dutch sensation.
As defending national champion Van der Haar will be racing in the new colours of his Giant-Alpecin team in Sunday's championship. He's already been seen sporting the team-branded helmet (top) in his two races this year - Baal (January 1st) and Surhusiterveen (January 2nd).
Marianne Vos (below) is expected to win the elite women's title on Sunday - as she builds up to the defence of her World title. Sabrina Stultiens and Sophie de Boer will be her nearest challengers.
Photo above: © Team Giant-Alpecin.
Veldhoven venue & course preview
Thanks to Gert-Jan Bosman.
The venue for the Dutch national championships is a wooded lakeside holiday park near Eindhoven. With rain forecast to fall across the Nederlands before the main title races on Sunday, the Veldhoven course is expected to become even harder than in it's current state.
With long stretches of lakeside sand and plenty of mud the organisers claim that it could be one of the toughest national championships for many years. To add to their tough test the organising team have enlarged what was a small pile of sand into a large three or four metre high mound which they have christened their "Mont Ventoux."
Elite men: Lars van der Haar
Elite women: Marianne Vos
Under-23 men: Mathieu van der Poel
Junior men: Joris Nieuwenhuis
Saturday January 10th
10.30-15.30: Other age categories.
Sunday January 11th
10.30: Junior men.
12.00: Under-23 men.
13.30: Elite women.
15:00: Elite men.
Venue: Recreatiecentrum 't Witven, Veldhoven near Eindhoven. Parking details here
We'll be adding updates to this page as the weekend goes on so please check back.
Updates from Veldhoven
Saturday: Muddy conditions
Sunday: Lots of running...