Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) won the Koppenbergcross round of the Bpost Bank Trofee series on Friday in Oudenaarde, Belgium. Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) was second and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb) was third.
World champion Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony) extended his overall lead in the season-long series. After two rounds, Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) is second, 45 seconds adrift.
Earlier in the day, Helen Wyman (Kona) won the women’s race over Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) and Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea).
“I just kept trying in the places where I could ride fast,” said Wyman. “I just rode hard in the places I knew I could try hard, and then the descent was a lot easier, so you could maintain the gap. Sanne had a puncture, but she was close anyway, she never really lost much time. … Then Nikki came up to us and I thought, ‘Wow, I can go faster than this.’ So I just went again. But it hurt, every minute of it. That was really hard work.”
A sharp acceleration by Albert 35 minutes into the elite men’s race split the front group, with Belgian champion Vantornout able to follow, but Nys drew the lead group of five back before the next climb up the Koppenberg.
The next time around, Pauwels put in a sharp effort, again splitting the front of the race, but eight riders again regrouped. Philipp Walsleben (BKCP) attacked, earning himself four seconds and putting Nys into difficulty, but Pauwels chased hard to close the gap before the climb. Walsleben and Pauwels surged on the climb, dropping Albert and a pair of Telenet-Fidea riders.
The efforts continued to pressure the front group, but Nys and Albert were both able to latch on in the flats. Vantornout led into the mud for the last lap ahead of Walsleben, Vantornout, Pauwels, Meeusen, Nys, Albert, and Corné Van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea).
Meeusen surged into the technical section leading to the climb and attacked hard on the climb, leading Vantornout. The Belgian champ took to the front on the winding descent, Pauwels and Nys third and fourth, respectively. Albert was gone. Nys, the world champion, who led the series over Martin Bina (Kwadro-Stannah) by 12 seconds, lost contact with the three leaders, but chased hard for overall time.
“It hasn’t been a bad season, my shape is good, but I’m not better than the rest. Last year I had the feeling that I could do something special in the last lap [almost every race]. And now, at this moment, it’s not possible. Why? I don’t know. I need to wait until it’s coming,” said Nys. “It’s not bad, because in the last lap I felt myself as strong as the other guys, just not stronger. Maybe it’s the weather circumstances, that could be a reason, but yea, it’s something you can’t order. You need to wait until it happens.”
Ahead, Meeusen closed on Vantornout and the trio rode onto the finish straight together. Meeusen opened a fierce sprint — Vantornout and Pauwels merely watched as the Telenet youngster cruised to victory.
“I already had at the beginning of the season two nice victories. But in Belgium if it’s not [a series race] or a World Cup, they say it’s a small race. So they were saying, ‘Yeah, Meeusen had a good start to the season, but the first races were not that good.’ … Now it’s nice to show people I’m able to race to my full potential,” said Meeusen.
“The other riders know already that I’m really focused in the last lap and I’m also really [technically skilled], so I can ride close to the wheels. So I can begin the sprint in the best position possible, and that’s also really important when everybody is dead after a cyclocross that’s so heavy. Like today, we had to do eight or nine times up the Koppenberg. Then it’s not really a sprint anymore, it’s the guy who is the most fresh and in the best position. And that was me today.”