The Sunweb – Napoleon Games team had arguably one of its best days of racin on Sunday at the Superprestige in Gavere, Belgium. "Gavere is ours," team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen claimed after the team managed eight podium finishes on Sunday, including Klaas Vantornout and Kevin Pauwels taking the top two spots in the Elite Men category.
"The question wasn't if I would win but when," Vantornout said after the race. "Already last week I felt good but the course ruined it for me over [in Ruddervoorde]. This is the most beautiful course of all. I asked for rain and I got it. The best riders prevail in a race like this."
"After every corner there could be trouble but on the straightforward sections I felt strong. It was a matter of timing. I had tried it earlier on the climb but it was still four of five laps to go. That was too far. I knew where to go and I waited until the penultimate lap to strike," Vantornout said.
"For two laps long I gave all I had. There was no time to enjoy until the finishing straight. That was great. It was pure enjoyment. To be able to win here, in this way, is impossible to describe. It can't be compared with the Belgian championships because that brings a jersey along with it that you can wear all year long, but this one comes just behind."
The Sunweb team domination started midway through the race when Vantornout profited as Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) had problems getting back on his bike. Only Pauwels and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) managed to get back to the lean leader. When talking to the Sunweb duo after the race it became clear that the self-assertive Vantornout was helped by Pauwels' lack of confidence.
On the penultimate lap, Pauwels led the group with Vantornout and Meeusen, but Vantornout opted not to let a gap open in order to grant his teammate an easy lead and force Meeusen in a difficult position. As the trio was heading towards the often decisive long, slippery climb near the end of the lap, Vantornout overtook Pauwels and exchanged some words. "He asked me to open a gap," Pauwels said. "And that's what I did in that running section. Why he didn't do that for me? I think he must've felt better than me; he was slightly better."
Meeusen realized the Sunweb duo was making its move and overtook Pauwels, but when hopping back on his bike Meeusen struggled to get in his pedals. At the top of the climb Vantornout had a gap of 12 seconds. Meeusen tried hard to close the gap down but never got closer than six seconds.
"Of course they played team tactics, and that was their right but that doesn't mean I have to like it. A poor bike change didn't help me either," Meeusen said.
During the final lap Pauwels gapped Meeusen, securing second place. "I thought both Klaas and Tom were better than me," Pauwels said. "Maybe that's why I dropped Tom in the final laps, because I saved more energy earlier on. He tried to ride the climb and I started running straight away. That's how I overtook him and I didn't look behind; I was gone."
"I'm satisfied, second place isn't bad. Downhill I lost some ground, uphill I was OK but maybe I didn't believe enough in the victory," Pauwels said. "My running has improved a lot. I worked hard to strengthen my back last summer and that pays off. It's not that I like running now."
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