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Mathieu Van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) dominated a sandy but fast Scheldecross on Saturday in Antwerp.
Laurens Sweeck (Corendon-Kwadro) got the ball rolling early in the race, only to see Van der Poel follow his attack with seven laps remaining. The two linked up briefly before the BKCP rider punched it again, riding Sweeck straight off his wheel.
Sweeck clung to second as behind, a chase formed containing Rob Peeters (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace), Corné Van Kessel and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea), and David Van der Poel (BKCP), among others.
Going into bell lap Van der Poel had 27 seconds on Sweeck with Peeters, Meeusen and Philipp Walsleben (BKCP) battling for third at 1:04.
With such an advantage on the fast circuit, there was no catching him. Van der Poel had bags of time to enjoy his victory, zipping up and punching both fists skyward as he coasted across the line.
Sweeck hung on for second, 40 seconds down, while Meeusen proved best of the rest at 53 seconds.
“It was a course that suits me well. I had a good feeling in the warm-up and the sand was okay, and I had good legs, so it was good today,” said Van der Poel. “I like this kind of course, when it’s fast and technical and then a few sand sections. It was really fun today.”
“I felt that I could manage to keep the tempo for the whole hour, and it was difficult. But it’s awesome to ride in the front, alone, with the crowd supporting you.”
Sweeck, who started the day hoping for a top-five finish in the absence of Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb Napoleon Games), said he got off to a good start but Van der Poel “was just too fast for me.”
“I did an attack on the third lap, and I had a little gap on Meeusen, and I think Mathieu was on the wheel on Meeusen. Then he came to me, and I had maybe a bad moment from the attack I did, and then I did a little mistake in the turn and Mathieu was just too fast for me,” he said.
“I could stay at 10 seconds for maybe three laps and then I thought, ‘I think he’s too strong for me.’ And the gap behind me was also a little bit bigger, so I thought it was okay for me, second place. I was happy with that.”
Meeusen agreed that Van der Poel was the best man in Antwerp, saying the course suited his strengths.
“It’s very easy to blow the engine in the first lap if you go too fast. That was also the reason that, after the first lap, I didn’t ride the pace of Van der Poel anymore, and rode my own race,” Meeusen said.
“I said, ‘He’s better today, so if I keep following every time in the high-heart-rate pieces, then I blow my engine up.’ So I just rode my own place and it was third place — the first two were just better.”
Cant crushes in women’s race
Earlier, Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) won in similar fashion, riding alone to the win ahead of Telenet teammates Ellen Van Loy and Loes Sels.
“I like sand,” said Cant. “There was one long section in the sand and I could ride it through, and [the others] not, I think, so it was easy to make a gap.”
Van Loy said she too was able to ride the sand, which she explained normally “is not my kind of thing, I don’t like it at all.”
“I may be the most happy with the fact that I could ride the long sand section; for six laps I could stay on the bike. It wasn’t that fast, but still on the bike,” she said.
Editor’s note: Dan Seaton contributed to this report.