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Laurens Sweeck took his second consecutive win in the men’s race at the GP Leuven, with Tom Meeusen and Felipe Orts riding in for second and third respectively.
Meanwhile, British rider Anna Kay took a dominant victory in the women’s race at the event, which is the fifth round of the Ethias Cross series, beating the Belgian pairing of Ellen van Loy and Laura Verdonschot.
The muddy and slippery conditions took their toll on riders in both races with several falls in each, particularly on the technical downhill section.
With the World Cup in Tabor on Sunday, many of the big names chose to skip the race in Leuven but there was still a strong showing in both races.
Sweeck is the only top rider who chose not to skip the Leuven race and he’ll be making the long journey to Tabor for Sunday’s race overnight. The Belgian took his chance and went solo on the third of eight laps following a move off the front by Orts.
He never looked in trouble, even as a trio containing Meeusen, his teammate Daan Soet, and Orts rallied together to try and pull him back. Three became two as Soet was dropped but it would ultimately be a race for the final podium spots as Sweeck continued to dominate at the front.
As Sweeck rode through to victory, he had plenty of time to celebrate with fans and high-five them on the finishing straight. Behind, Meeusen put in a dig to distance Orts and comfortably claim the runner-up spot.
Kay puts the hammer down
Meanwhile, Kay took an early lead in the six-lap race women’s race and never looked back as she mastered the muddy conditions.
“It was one of the best races that I’ve done. I didn’t expect to come into the start of my season like this. I’ve been quite off the pace so it’s a pleasant surprise,” Kay said after the race.
Kay looked confident as she built up a substantial advantage over her chasers pushing herself to the course limits on some of the trickier sections.
In stark contrast, Van Loy looked nervous at times on the slippery surface, and she crashed on a downhill section at the halfway point of the race. Despite battling hard, Van Loy was not able to close down the gap to the lead and Kay romped to the win.
For Kay, the GP Leuven is just her second race back after she broke her collarbone in September when she was hit by a car driver during training.