Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) showed his strength from beginning to end on Sunday as the Superprestige series opened at Ruddervoorde.
The Belgian champion took the hole shot and then laid down a powerful run on the bell lap, shedding world champ Sven Nys (Crelan-KDL) and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea).
He quickly put a handful of seconds on Meeusen and Nys, and it would be enough — he crossed the line alone, celebrating his victory, as Nys slipped past Meeusen to take second on the day.
“It’s fantastic,” said Vantornout.
Meeusen held on for third, with World Cup leader Lars van der Haar (Rabobank) fourth and Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) fifth.
A fast start
Vantornout stormed to a five-second lead early in the first lap with van der Haar, Nys and Meeusen chasing. Albert was leading a second pursuit.
The three eventually caught Vantornout and it was a four-man lead group charging into lap two with Albert chasing solo, just ahead of a long line of racers.
Nys took the lead early in the lap, briefly gapping Meeusen, but a dab further on let the Telenet rider rejoin. As the leaders went through the start-finish and into lap three Albert finally latched on and then went straight to the front.
As Albert drove the pace, Meeusen lost the wheel again, and this time his chain, too — the Telenet was quickly five seconds back and running a short rise as the others rode away from him.
Then Albert pried open a small gap, and built on it, and with four laps to go he was alone off the front with Vantornout and van der Haar in pursuit some seven seconds down, and Nys and Meeusen chasing them.
The foursome came back together just long enough to see Vantornout set out alone after Albert. First the Belgian champ caught the leader, then the world champ, and the wind went right out of Albert’s sails.
With two to go, Vantornout and Nys were in the lead with Meeusen just behind. Albert was six seconds down with van der Haar at 12 seconds.
Again Meeusen dragged himself up to the two leaders, but Vantornout kept accelerating, clearly the strongest of the three as they raced into the bell lap. Albert and van der Haar were together, but 14 seconds back.
And then the big Belgian champion thundered away on an extended, up-and-down running section that led to a sketchy, off-camber descent. He was gone.
Nys edged around Meeusen just before a long, sandy stretch, but the defending Superprestige champ was racing for second. Vantornout coasted across the line with seven seconds to spare, while Meeusen rounded out the podium four seconds later.