Entering the current cyclo-cross season, Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) had one goal in mind – to win a major race. The 23-year-old Belgian's sights were set on World Cup, GVA Trofee or Superprestige events. Last weekend he finally achieved his goal in grand fashion by winning two major races in one weekend: GVA Trofee Krawatencross in Lille on Saturday and Superprestige Hoogstraten on Sunday.
As Meeusen crossed the finish line in Hoogstraten, one would think he would be focusing on how wonderful it was to pull off the win two days in a row, but instead his first thought was, "I'm so happy I can stop pedaling now." His sprint to the line started a little over 1km out which can explain his excitement to finally hold the legs still.
"Since yesterday I was in the winning mood so I'm just really thrilled that it worked out so well," said Meeusen. "There was a lot of pressure that fell off my shoulders from the wins. I go on training every day to have a victory once this year. Last year I had two victories so this year would be not so good if I had none. I was very scared when it was already February and it didn't happen."
Racing in a country like Belgium where most of the world's best 'crossers congregate, victories are never easy to attain. "This season there are four really good riders (Niels Albert, Sven Nys, Kevin Pauwels, and Zdenek Stybar), so when someone like me has a super day I am only second or third. There was always at least one of those four who was better which was very frustrating," said Meeusen.
Of all the World Cup, GVA Trofee and Superprestige events, until Meeusen's two wins, all but one of them were won by the either Albert, Nys, Pauwels or Stybar. The solitary race that got away from the fabulous four was GVA Trofee Essen which was taken by Meeusen's teammate Bart Wellens. He snagged the victory after a last lap mechanical took race leader Nys out of the competition.
As Meeusen reflects back on his magical weekend, he said with a sigh of relief, "But now I did it. I had my ideal course conditions on the ice both days where I always gain a few extra percentage points towards a chance for victory. Now I can be proud. I can relax knowing I can start the summer season with a mentally good feeling. That will make me motivated to train harder to be even better for next winter… and try to win on non-icy races too!"
Up to this point he came close to his goal on a few occasions with a second place in Superprestige Gavere and a third place at the Igorre World Cup. In addition, he scored a second in Fidea Scheldecross and a third in both Bosduin's Kalmthout and Rucphen.
"I simply missed a little bit of luck," said Meeusen. "I don't get so many chances to win so if I get it I have to be both 100 percent and have luck on my side."
Looking back at Meeusen's season, he has frequently finished in the top five at the toughest events including a fourth place at the World Championships in Koksijde at the end of January. While some riders would allow themselves to rest on their merits, Meeusen credits his unrelenting competitive nature for keeping him motivated for that elusive win.
"Being consistent is nice but to be really proud of myself I needed a victory in a big race," said Meeusen. "And if I didn't get this win finally, I surely would have been really disappointed!"
When asked after his victory in Hoogstraten how he will celebrate his successful weekend, he said, "With two sets of 30 minutes on the Tacx [rollers]. There will be time enough to celebrate after the season, so instead I will focus on holding onto my form through the end of the season in hopes of having a few more nice results."