Ian Field was Great Britain’s top finisher in a thrilling elite men’s race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder on Sunday.
Field came home in 28th position as, up ahead, Wout van Aert of Belgium won a terrific battle with Lars Van Der Haar of the Netherlands.
Van Aert’s chances of adding the world title to his world cup victory looked to over just after the halfway point of the eight-lap race, the Belgian tangling with defending world champion and pre-race favourite Mathieu Van Der Poel, allowing Van De Haar to open what looked to be a winning advantage.
But Van Aert recovered to re-join Van der Haar at the head of the race, finally getting the better of the Dutchman at the end of the final lap. Kevin Pauwels took bronze ahead of Sven Nys, the legendary 39-year-old in his final world championships, with Van Der Poel fifth.
“It was a tough day out,” said Ian Field. “I got a really good start and was 18th but I couldn’t quite hold it. It felt good but not really good and it has been a long season. I was going well in mid-September.
“It wasn’t the best course in the world for me but I put it all out there and in a position to do a good ride and did my best.”
Put myself top 20 position but didn't have it to stay there. 4mins off wout, respectable. https://t.co/QFleL2nHEx— Ian Field (@FieldyCX) January 31, 2016
Liam Killeen was next home for Great Britain in 37th place, with David Fletcher further back in 49th place, two laps down. Jack Clarkson did not finish.
Earlier Nick Barnes finished in 38th place in a dramatic under-23 men’s race which saw the home nation get their first win of the championships, with Eli Iserbyt beating Czech Republic’s Adam Toupalik in a sprint.
It was heartbreak for the Czech, who, a lap earlier, believed he had won, celebrating as he crossed the line, only to have to chase back onto Iserbyt and fellow Belgian Quinten Hermans to do it all again. In the end, Toupalik’s earlier sprint had taken too much out of him and the title went to the Belgian UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup winner.
Barnes crossed the line four minutes and 55 seconds behind the drama up front, in front of a near capacity crowd at Circuit Zolder.
"The atmosphere is fantastic,” said Barnes. “I raced a lot harder here purely and simply because you've got people cheering you on. Even being around 30th where I was, around about, you got so many people still cheering for you - it's fantastic.”
"It's such a fast course using the drier tyres because if you use the muds they slow you down so much” continued Barnes. “But there were some really slippery corners out there, especially on the first lap when everyone is going crazy.
"I came down once on the first lap. I was going over a bridge and got tangled with two guys and I ended up coming off worst but racing is racing.”