Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) picked up his second victory of the snowy Belgian weekend, topping Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) and Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) on the frozen Hoogstraten course.
In the battle for the overall series victory, Nys still leads Pauwels by four points after losing the sprint to Pauwels. Their rivalry allowed Meeusen to attack mid-way through the final lap, and he was able to keep his gap until the finish line, grabbing his second win of the season and his second win in a row.
"Honestly, those two were the strongest men in the race today. I didn't want to mix in their battle in the last lap but they were watching each other so bad that it was a golden opportunity for me to go for the win. Yesterday I felt like I was the best man in the race but today that certainly wasn't the case. I'll try to continue my season like this and convert my excellent form into results," Meeusen told VT4 in his post-race interview.
For leader Nys his third place behind Pauwels was a good result with the eye on the general classification. "When Meeusen got away that was a good thing for me since I risked to lose less points that way. If you have the overall classification in mind then sometimes the actual win in the race becomes less important, which is kind of sad," Nys said.
For Pauwels his win over Nys in the sprint moves him only one point closer. "I'm quite satisfied although I preferred to win. Four points is not a lot although I'll have to win in Middelkerke [last round]," Pauwels said.
There were no surprises at the start with Pauwels' teammate Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) grabbed the hole shot and all favorites were present near the front. Vantornout quickly developed a small gap and only Meeusen was able to bridge up during the first lap.
When Nys opted to switch bikes on the next lap in favour of a bike with lower tyre pressure Pauwels, attacked from the chase group with Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep). With Pauwels coming up Vantornout ended his co-operation with Meeusen until the pair bridged up.
"It's the kind of course I hate the most. These are very frustrating races for me. I'm feeling very good but I can't show it on the ice. To me it may thaw as soon as possible. Our first goal was to keep Kevin in front and take the race in our hands. It wasn't easy but I think it succeeded," Klaas Vantornout said.
While Vantornout worked hard for Pauwels in front the chase group was led by Sven Vanthourenhout (Landbouwkrediet), giving all he had to help his teammate Nys bridge back up with Pauwels. The most important victim of these accelerations was birthday boy Niels Albert who ended up riding in a second chase group at long distance.
Halfway through the third lap Sven Vanthourenhout closed the gap, and continued to set the pace in front for his teammate.
"The priority was to avoid a point-loss for Nys. It was hard to control the race and in the last laps it was up to Nys to control the damage. The efforts to control the race probably cost me a podium result here but that was not our goal. I'm satisfied, whether more was possible or not," Sven Vanthourenhout said.
In the lead group Nys launched the first serious attack in the eight lap with Sven Vanthourenhout blocking the way behind him. Meeusen reacted first and little later Pauwels closed the final meters on Nys. Only Meeusen and Sven Vanthourenhout were able to stay near the leading duo. Meeusen bridged up but then got dropped on the same icy run-up. The young Belgian burned another match to re-join the leaders and even added an acceleration on the start-finish area.
Nys led Pauwels and Meeusen during the first part of the last lap. Meeusen moved into the lead just ahead of his run-up, taking his time to get over it while blocking his foes, and then punched away and opened a gap on the pair.
Nys eased off ahead of the headwind sprint, not risking to lose two points on Pauwels in a three-man sprint. Meeusen had time to celebrate his win while Pauwels beat Nys in the sprint for second place. Sven Vanthourenhout rolled in as fourth ahead the main chase group where Simunek won the sprint ahead of Vantornout, Stybar, Taramarcaz, Dieter Vanthourenhout and Thijs Al (AA Drink-Leontien.nl).
World champion Niels Albert finished one spot further back in seventeenth position. Offering himself a birthday present didn't seem possible in Hoogstraten. "No, I had a good start and good sensations but in the second lap I made a mistake on a run-up. It took a lot of energy to come back and from there I knew it didn't make sense to push on. The aftermath of the world championships are taking its toll," Niels Albert said.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||0:58:59|
|2||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||0:00:03|
|3||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||0:00:22|
|5||Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||0:00:23|
|7||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Julien Taramarcaz (Swi)||0:00:31|
|9||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Thijs Al (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl||0:00:32|
|11||Marcel Meisen (Ger) Eddy Merckx-Indeland||0:00:54|
|12||Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||0:01:03|
|13||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||0:01:14|
|14||Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||0:01:22|
|15||Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco||0:01:35|
|16||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike-Blue Bicycles||0:01:37|
|17||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||0:02:07|
|18||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||0:02:21|
|19||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl||0:02:33|
|20||Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ||0:02:40|
|21||Niels Wubben (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Ben Berden (Bel) Ops Ale-Stoemper||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||0:02:50|
|24||Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ||0:02:54|
|25||Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Kevin Cant (Bel) Van Goethem||0:04:20|
|27||Bart Hofman (Bel)||0:04:25|
|28 (-1 lap)||Jelle Wallays (Bel)||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Dries Pauwels (Bel)||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||91||pts|
|2||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||87||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quickstep Cycling Team||77||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|4||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||68||Row 3 - Cell 3|
|5||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||65||Row 4 - Cell 3|
|6||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||64||Row 5 - Cell 3|
|7||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||57||Row 6 - Cell 3|
|8||Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus||52||Row 7 - Cell 3|
|9||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||50||Row 8 - Cell 3|
|10||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||33||Row 9 - Cell 3|
|11||Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||30||Row 10 - Cell 3|
|12||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||28||Row 11 - Cell 3|
|13||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl||19||Row 12 - Cell 3|
|14||Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco||15||Row 13 - Cell 3|
|15||Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||13||Row 14 - Cell 3|
|16||Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||13||Row 15 - Cell 3|
|17||Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ||11||Row 16 - Cell 3|
|18||Aurelien Duval (Fra) U.V.Aube||11||Row 17 - Cell 3|
|19||Marcel Meisen (Ger) Eddy Merckx-Indeland||11||Row 18 - Cell 3|
|20||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||10||Row 19 - Cell 3|
|21||Niels Wubben (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||8||Row 20 - Cell 3|
|22||Julien Taramarcaz (Swi)||8||Row 21 - Cell 3|
|23||Thijs Al (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl||6||Row 22 - Cell 3|
|24||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||5||Row 23 - Cell 3|
|25||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team||4||Row 24 - Cell 3|
|26||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus||2||Row 25 - Cell 3|
|27||Mitchell Huenders (Ned) Ruiter Dakkapellen Wielerteam||1||Row 26 - Cell 3|
|28||Twan Van Den Brand (Ned) WV Schijndel||1||Row 27 - Cell 3|
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