Pre-race favourite Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) won a tactical edition of the Azencross in Loenhout on Tuesday afternoon, the sixth round of the BPost Bank Trophy.
Meeusen attacked halfway through the race and completed a long solo ride on the fast course. The Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace duo Tim Merlier and Wout Van Aert managed to claim the two other podium spots in the sprint at 18 seconds from the winner. It’s the third win of the season for the 27-year-old Belgian rider but the first victory in one of the major cyclo-cross series.
“2015 has been a difficult year for me. It’s nice to conclude it in this way. My rivals sincerely congratulated me here at the finish with being back at my level. I’m pleased to be back at my level too,” Meeusen said in the post-race flash interview with Sporza. “The win came partly due to my technical skills and due to the timing of my attack but I won a round in the series anyway, I’m happy,” Meeusen added.
The winning move from Meeusen came after a first half of racing in which world champion Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Corendon) unsuccessfully tried to create a selection. Van der Poel didn’t start well but Wout Van Aert got away much worse. The 21-year-old Belgian rider was caught up in a crash during the opening lap and also broke one of his wheels, twice needing to switch bikes.
Meanwhile, Lars Boom (Astana) enjoyed a much better start to his race than in Zolder, briefly featuring in the top 10 of the pack during the second of nine laps. At the intermediate sprint Laurens Sweeck (ERA Real Estate-Murprotec) took 15 bonus seconds for the classification, ahead of Merlier and Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink).
At the end of this lap Van der Poel blasted away from a large front group with Swiss champion Julien Taramarcaz (ERA Real Estate-Murprotec) glued on his wheel. Surprisingly enough, the duo didn’t manage to hold onto their lead of 10 seconds. It was Van Aert who was leading the chase with Radomir Simunek (ERA Real Estate-Murprotec) trying to protect the attack from teammate Taramarcaz.
After four laps of racing 13 riders were back together on the finishing straight, recovering from two fast laps. Suddenly Meeusen accelerated away from the group and nobody reacted straight away. “Tom attacked on a moment where I wasn’t keen to take the initiative again. He played it well,” Van Aert told Sporza.
In pursuit of Meeusen it was Gianni Vermeersch (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) who worked in the group but he was quickly forced to switch bikes due to a mechanical. Also Van Aert and European champion Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) switched bikes after mechanical problems.
The gap grew to about 10 seconds on the fast-but-technical part of the course. On the long finishing straight the chasing group of 14 riders hesitated again and suddenly Meeusen was 17 seconds ahead. In the following laps the scenario repeated itself and when hitting the final lap Meeusen was 34 seconds ahead of the ‘peloton’ where the big guns kept quiet.
“I knew that once I had a bonus of 15 seconds it would be hard to get me back. I’m not losing time on the technical sections. If the chasers go faster than me on the long straight sections they pay the price in the technical sections. It’s a vicious circle but it helped that the chase was slacked up,” Meeusen said.
In the final lap Meeusen was able to show off an air-trick and high-five his way to the finish line. After his less-important wins in Meulebeke and Ardooie he was delighted to claim the win in Loenhout. In the large group that fought for the two remaining podium spots, Radomir Simunek tried to lead out teammate Laurens Sweeck. Also Gianni Vermeersch, Wout Van Aert and fast teammate Merlier were fighting for positions. Kevin Pauwels, Van der Haar, Van der Poel and Sven Nys were riding at the back of the group.
In the time-based classification no major gaps would be created. Sweeck entered the home straight with a small gap but he smashed his handlebars when Merlier and Van Aert passed him just before the finish line.
“Just before hitting the final lap Wout rode by and told me he would lead out the sprint for me. I thought ‘oh no, just let me do my thing’ but it’s great we managed second and third place,” Merlier told Sporza.
In the time-based classification of the Bpost Bank Trophy, leader Van Aert now enjoys a bonus of 4:10 on Kevin Pauwels and 7:57 on Nys. On New Year’s Day the penultimate round of the series will be held in Baal at the much more selective course of the GP Sven Nys.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:55:53|
|2||Tim Merlier (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team||0:00:18|
|3||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team|
|4||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Era - Murprotec|
|5||Radomir Simunek (Cze) Era - Murprotec||0:00:19|
|6||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team|
|7||Mathieu Van der Poel (Ned) BKCP - Corendon|
|8||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:00:20|
|9||Julien Taramarcaz (Sui) Era - Murprotec||0:00:21|
|10||Sven Nys (Bel) Crelan - AA Drink Team||0:00:22|
|11||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team||0:00:23|
|12||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team||0:00:24|
|13||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team|
|14||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned) Team Giant - Alpecin||0:00:25|
|15||David Van der Poel (Ned) BKCP - Corendon||0:00:37|
|16||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) BKCP - Corendon||0:01:01|
|17||Twan Van Den Brand (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team|
|18||Diether Sweeck (Bel) Era - Murprotec||0:01:02|
|19||Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team||0:01:16|
|20||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:01:20|
|21||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Crelan - AA Drink Team|
|22||Rob Peeters (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team||0:01:30|
|23||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:01:39|
|24||Joeri Adams (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team||0:02:23|
|25||Niels Wubben (Ned) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:36|
|26||Hendrik Sweeck (Bel) Era - Murprotec||0:03:16|
|27||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team||0:03:31|
|28||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team||0:03:33|
|29||Michael Boros (Cze) BKCP - Corendon||0:03:59|
|30||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP - Corendon||0:04:02|
|31||Lars Boom (Ned) Astana||0:04:07|
|32||Michael Van Den Ham (Can)||0:04:10|
|33||Dave De Cleyn (Bel) Cycling Team Zemst VZW||0:04:11|
|34||Niels Koyen (Bel) CCN - Metalac Cycling team||0:04:23|
|35||Severin Saegesser (Sui)||0:04:27|
|36||Nicolas Samparisi (Ita)||0:04:38|
|37||Travis Livermon (USA)||0:05:14|
|38||Quentin Jauregui (Fra)||0:05:26|
|39||Martin Eriksson (Swe)||-1 Lap|
|40||Garry Millburn (Aus)|
|41||Jeremy Martin (Can)|
|42||Fabian Obrist (Sui)||-2 Laps|
|43||Markus Schulte-Luenzum (Ger)|
|44||Edwin De Wit (Bel) Rupelspurters Boom|
|45||Mark Mcconnell (Can)|
|46||Yannick Mayer (Ger)|
|47||Christophe Cavazzana (Fra)||-3 Laps|
|48||Angus Edmond (Aus)|
|49||Gilles Tresserre (Fra)||-4 Laps|
|50||Shinya Ikemoto Chn)|
|51||Shintaro Nakama (Chn)|
|52||Mario Matijevic (Bel)||-5 Laps|
|DNF||Florent Ligney (Fra)|
|DNF||Kevin Cant (Bel) Era - Murprotec|
|DNS||Lorenzo Samparisi (Ita)|