Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) proved fastest of a tough four-man lead group on Sunday at the Vlaamse Druivencross Overijse.
Meeusen, Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) and BKCP-Powerplus teammates Mathieu Van der Poel and Philipp Walsleben had been taking the measure of each other for several laps of the slippery 2.5km circuit, and as they began the final go-round Meeusen and Vantornout began battling for the lead with the BKCPs mostly trying to hang on.
Vantornout took charge at one point only to see Meeusen slipstream past and instantly apply the pressure, briefly distancing Van der Poel, who had led for a couple of laps before fading back to the chase.
The Telenet kept churning the pedals and stayed on the front, hitting the finishing straight first, leading out the sprint, and taking the win. Vantornout hung on for second with Van der Poel third.
“When I can take the victory it’s always special because normally I have to do it in a sprint, and today it was as well,” said Meeusen.
“Mathieu van der Poel didn’t ride yesterday, so he was very fresh, and he attacked two times in [the second half] of the race, so I knew if I could hold his wheel I could compete for the victory. I had to be first in the last corner, and I was first there, and I could just hold it to the finish.”
Vantornout knew he was in for it going into the last lap with Meeusen.
“You know it will be difficult when you enter the last lap together with Tom Meeusen. He’s also a very clever rider, who also knew he had to enter the last straghtaway as the first rider,” said Vantornout.
“I still felt power in my legs to do the sprint, I could keep going in the sprint, but it was not enough to beat Tom. It’s a bit disappointing … but it’s a confirmation I’m doing well and yesterday [at GP Hasselt] was only bad luck.”
Van der Poel was likewise disappointed not to be fighting for the win, but said he was already looking forward to the next race.
“It was a tough course, and I controlled the race, and I thought I was going to sprint for the win, but I made a little mistake the last lap. So I was not in for the win today,” he said.
“I’m happy and satisfied about my race, because it was really tough and I always was in the front, but now it’s a bit disappointing. You always want to win, and it’s a bit frustrating, but I have to think positive and look at the bright side of today. It’s difficult to win a cyclocross this year, and it’s been a while for me. So I look forward to next week already.”
Earlier, Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) continued her dominance of elite women’s cyclocross, prevailing in a two-woman battle with world road champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Liv-Rabo).
Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea) had a strong start on the heavy course, and Ferrand-Prevot put up a worthy fight, but Cant would not be denied.
She overhauled the world road champ in a heavy section and rode to the win. Ferrand-Prevot took second with Sophie De Boer (Kalas-NNOF) third.
“I think we both made mistakes, but I had in the last lap one push, and it was just enough,” said Cant.
She had planned to attack in the last lap, in the running section.
“But I had some troubles the lap before, so I had a gap to close. So I had to change my tactics,” she said.
Ferrand-Prevot said Cant was the stronger rider on the day, and the stronger runner, too.
“It was a good race for me. I’m not so good when it’s muddy, but I try to be better,” she said. “Today I wanted to try to fight with Sanne. I did it, but one lap early, I think.
“I was not so fast on the running, and so [after I attacked] she came back on the mud. She was stronger.”
Editor’s note: Dan Seaton contributed to this report.