Michael Vanthourenhout showcased his strength across a rain-soaked technical circuit and, in front of cheering home crowds, won the elite men's title at the UEC European Cyclo-cross Championships on home ground in Namur, Belgium, on Sunday.
Vanthourenhout won what turned out to be a clear battle between two riders, marred by many crashes, but won by 40 seconds ahead of defending champion Lars van der Haar (Netherlands), while Vanthourenhout's teammate Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) finished in third place at 2:17 back.
Dismounting his bike to lift it above his head after crossing the finish line, Vanthourenhout met his family and team to celebrate the championships victory on a day where strength, skill, and luck, in equal measure, played a role in his success.
"It was a very tough and one of the hardest races I've ever raced," Vanthourenhout said. "I felt that my legs were very good, but on the second and third laps, I made mistakes, and it was hard to catch Lars.”
"I pushed the whole race, and Lars made a lot of mistakes. I was stronger in the technical sections, so I loved the race.”
"It means a lot. I had never raced in a jersey in the elite category, this is the biggest victory of my life. It is beautiful."