Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb - Napoleon Games) used his running skills and ability in the mud to win the Belgian cyclo-cross title after an epic and ever changing battle in the Erpe-Mere.
The 32 year-old from Tourhout crossed the finish line pointing to his jersey a few seconds ahead of Tom Meeusen (Telenet Fidea) and Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace) who was struck by a mechanical problem and cracked under pressure in a spectacular race. Sven Nys (Crelan - AA Drink Team) bounced back from his spell of poor form to be amongst the fight in the front group and finish fourth.
"Two years ago I did not know what was awaiting me. Now I enjoy knowing that I can ride a whole year in this beautiful jersey," Vantornout told Sporza after his win.
The 2013 Belgian champion struggled with sinusitis around Christmas, skipped several races but bounced back with a surprise victory on a running course that suited him perfectly.
"I'm surprised too. I've been seriously sick but not a lot of people will believe it. I do not wish it upon anybody. Luckily I was always able to keep riding. That's why my base form was intact. This race was all about base form,"Vantornout said.
The muddy conditions forced riders to run several sections of the route and produced a crazy race, with the race lead changing times. After two laps through the sticky mud, Van Aert was away alone and seemingly on his way to a long solo ride to victory, repeating his performances of the last few weeks. Thing changed on the third of six laps. Defending champion Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) gained momentum and closed the gap on Van Aert. A few moments later Van Aert had gear problems and the 20 year-old lost a lot of ground.
"All went according to plan. I was alone. I had given a lot but the others were losing ground. I was riding at a steady pace that was possible to maintain throughout the race. Then I had a mechanical,” Van Aert told Sporza.
Despite a chance to comeback, Van Aert never managed to take the lead again.
“After that I never felt like I could win again. My goal were these championships and that went seriously wrong. Maybe the amount of people here influenced me when I had bad luck. Last week I won by a minute and here that didn't happen. Things didn't work out for me at the championships. I've got to do something about that, "Van Aert said.
While Van Aert fought against his disappointment and the mud, other riders seized an opportunity during the second half of the race. Nys was unable to hold his lead and Vantornout was the first to close the gap during the third lap. The pace in front dropped and during the fourth lap other riders joined the lead group. First Van Aert came back and then Rob Peeters (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace), Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games). During the penultimate lap Meeusen set the pace with only Nys seemingly in trouble.
Last lap thriller
The last lap was a thriller. Peeters created an early lead when Van Aert shut the door behind him. Vantornout reacted and closed the gap with Van Aert marking him. The others were distanced.
The decisive moment came on a steep and slippery descent and a following climb. Vantornout had to take his foot out and stepped into the barriers. Peeters and Van Aert were about to pass him but Vantornout did not move his bike out of the way, forcing Peeters to stop. He used the moment of hesitation to get going again and powered away to victory.
"He made a mistake and knew that if they passed him he'd lose five seconds. It's not over the top. That's cyclo-cross, "Nys told Sporza, defending Vantornout after seeing the television reply of the moment.
Vantornout denied doing anything wrong.
"My move? I don't know about that. I knew Peeters was in second place. With all respect for Rob but he's not the biggest talent. I just had to go flat out and straight away I had ten seconds. I was struggling, having cramps everywhere. I thought Tom would come back but I managed to hold on," Vantornout said.
Vantornout shook his head in disbelief as he approached the finish line, shouting in celebration and punching his fists in the air as he took his Belgian national second title.
Meeusen was second, Van Aert a disappointed third, while Nys rode a strong final half lap to take fourth place.
"I feel like a winner. I head home with the confidence that I can ride a finale, "Nys said.
Pauwels finished fifth ahead of Peeters. Early leader Tim Merlier (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) was seventh. Right behind Merlier Jan Denuwelaere (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) won the battled with Vincent Baestaens (BKCP-Powerplus) and Patrick Gaudy for the Elite riders without a professional contract category.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team||1:10:53|
|2||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:00:11|
|3||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team||0:00:18|
|4||Sven Nys (Bel) Crelan - AA Drink Team||0:00:22|
|5||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team||0:00:31|
|6||Rob Peeters (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team||0:00:49|
|7||Tim Merlier (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team||0:01:52|
|8||Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team||0:01:56|
|9||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||0:01:58|
|10||Patrick Gaudy (Bel)||0:02:29|
|11||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team||0:02:48|
|12||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:03:06|
|13||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team||0:03:33|
|14||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel)||0:05:07|
|15||Jens Adams (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team||0:05:39|
|16||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Crelan - AA Drink||0:05:52|
|17||Vinnie Braet (Bel)||0:07:22|
|18||Anglo de Clercq (Bel)||0:08:02|
|19||Bart Hofman (Bel)||0:08:35|
|20||Jelle Brackman (Bel)||0:08:46|
|21||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||0:08:52|
|22||Niels Koyen (Bel)||0:09:31|
|23||Tom van den Bosch (Bel)||0:09:53|
|24||Ruben Vandevelde (Bel)||0:10:17|
|25||Dave de Cleyn (Bel)||0:11:16|
|26||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||0:13:05|
|27||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team|
|28||Joeri Adams (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team|
|29||Stijn Penne (Bel)|
|30||Kevin Cant (Bel)|
|31||Ingmar Uytdewilligen (Bel)|
|32||Mathieu Willemyns (Bel)|
|33||Quincy Vens (Bel)|
|34||Jelle Van De Walle (Bel)|
|35||Bert De Wispelaere (Bel)|
|36||Wouter Goosen (Bel)|
|37||Pascal Colaert (Bel)|
|38||Hendrik Sweeck (Bel)|
|39||Kevin Reynaert (Bel)|
|40||Kevin Neirynck (Bel)|
|41||Jan Vancompernolle (Bel)|
|42||Klaas Vankersschaever (Bel)|
|43||Edwin De Wit (Bel)|
|44||Jochem Danckaers (Bel)|
|45||Robin Stenuit (Bel)|