European Championship hat trick for track cyclist Harrie Lavreysen

Harrie Lavreysen cheers after winning the keirin final on the last day of the European Track Cycling Championships in Apeldoorn.Image VINCENT JANNINK/ANP

His European Championships are already ready. Jeffrey Hoogland has just ridden the B-final on the keirin, says the press, but falls silent for a moment when Harrie Lavreysen starts his last golden jump. “Let’s take a look at this,” he says, while his gaze glides over the track. Hanging against a fence, Hoogland suddenly turns out to be an enthusiastic commentator. “He’ll come again. Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. Hoppakee. Finished.”

A big smile. Of course, here is an athlete who narrowly missed the final an hour ago, but now the enthusiast is speaking. “This was beautiful. That’s so easy. So easy.”

With a jump that, according to Lavreysen, a former physics student, ‘defies the laws of nature’, the 26-year-old Brabander signed for his third European Championship gold, after his previous victory in the team sprint and the sprint. Results that Hoogland sincerely enjoys. The veteran from Nijverdal (30) secured his ticket for the Olympic Paris on Wednesday in the team sprint by being faster than Tijmen van Loon. That was also the focus for him at this European Championship.

Size too big

“Because I actually knew that Harrie would be a size too big here, the rest was a kind of playing for me. What you see with Harrie, speed, on and on, that is what is still missing a bit for me,” said Hoogland, who a year ago had strong doubts whether he would even be able to compete with the best in Europe at this European Championship.

His career threatened to plateau and in order to last until the Games, he devised a plan that would bring him to Paris in top form. Via the World Championships in Glasgow, where he already felt ‘more energetic and fitter’, that plan led to a successful world record attempt on ‘his’ kilometer in Mexico. “That brought me a lot and got me going again. I am hungry again, driven, and really want to achieve something in the sport. Have a lot more fire, a lot more plans. I am much closer to the top again.”

Hoogland says so, Lavreysen confirms it. “After the World Cup, Jeffrey really switched things up,” the latter notes. “I haven’t seen him this passionate in years.”

While there was still some friction in the sprint team last summer about effort and involvement, Lavreysen now sees that Hoogland is also working towards Paris with full focus. “To see him so busy, I think it’s fantastic. He had of course already indicated in advance that he might need that record attempt towards Paris and that is why we encouraged it. I think it was a very nice move on his part.”

Fine tuning

For example, the Dutch track sprint team hardly had any problems at the last major title tournament before the Games. Hoogland is back on the rise, Lavreysen in exceptional top form. And, as the star of the European Championship warns the Australian competition ‘on the other side of the world’, the Netherlands will be even better in Paris. “In the background I have been testing all kinds of things in terms of nutrition. Fine tuning, I’ll take it all with me again. Because a training like this week does not exist,” said Lavreysen, who, after his three gold medals in Grenchen last year, also treated his home crowd to a hat trick.

After double gold (team sprint, sprint) and bronze (keirin) in Tokyo, everyone in Paris is counting on another triple from Lavreysen, the intended catalyst of the Dutch medal hunt. Of course, that Olympic hat trick is also his great and only goal. “I can pretend it’s not the case, but then I’m fooling myself.”

And will the thirty-something Hoogland perform his last Olympic trick? “At this point I say: fine if this is my last cycle. But who knows, if I’m still hungry afterwards… I’m not going to rule anything out now.”

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