The win by Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) at the Koppenbergcross on Friday came as quite a surprise. The 24-year-old Belgian prevented world champion Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony) from taking a much anticipated 10th Koppenbergcross victory and the cobble trophy that comes along with that win. His victory at Koppenbergcross was Meeusen's third win of the season and it is by far the biggest.
"Early in the season I grabbed two wins but they were quickly played down as easy wins because they're not part of any series," said Meeusen. "I rated them highly. Afterwards I had stomach problems and finished off the pace in Ronse and abandoned the World Cup in Tabor. People quickly talked about an unsuccessful trainer switch and poor start of the season for Telenet-Fidea. With this win we set things straight."
The victory in the Koppenbergcross is his fifth in one of the major cyclo-cross series but it's by far the biggest win of Meeusen's career. "Finally it's a big one. Sven Nys calls this the second most important race of the season so to win this race is quite an honour. I'm not as consistent as Sven Nys but it's clear I can play my role in some races now and then."
The health issues that kept him from riding well last month were treated by an osteopath and a food specialist. "My guts tend to block due to the big efforts. I was advised to eat more often and in smaller quantities. It's less fun but it helps."
In contrast to previous editions of the Koppenbergcross, this year's race was not a mud-fest. In a tactical race all the big guns eyed one another in anticipation of a big move. It became clear that the final lap would decide the race from a nine-man lead group.
"It was a 'cross for finishers," said Meeusen. "It was a matter of conserving energy during the uphill accelerations and recovering in the other sections for most of the race. A tactical race with a fast final lap suits me."
Meeusen kept Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) in check on the climb and fought his way back to his wheel in the meadow from the climb to the finishing straight. Vantornout and his teammate Sunweb-Napoleon Games teammate Kevin Pauwels then sat on his wheel.
"First I wanted to go on the climb myself but it was too far to the finish," said Meeusen. "Eventually I cornered up the road perfectly in second position. Everybody was on their limit so I immediately opened up the gas."
Meeusen entered the paved finishing straight sandwiched between Vantornout and Pauwels, but easily dispatched of the Sunweb-Napoleon Games duo in the sprint to the finish.
Last year Meeusen was in the middle of a media storm when he was called up as a witness in a doping investigation. Meeusen was no longer available for selection for the World Cup races and the world championships at Louisville, Kentucky in the United States.
"Last year I didn't dare to show my face. This year I wanted to show that I'm a regular, honest rider. They can take a thousand doping controls from me if they want. Now I will enjoy this victory. In the past I didn't take time to do that."