Vanthourenhout focuses on scoring the last spot on the Belgian World Cup team. © Jonas Bruffaerts
by Christine Vardaros
Ruddervoorde may be just one race out of many, but to a couple of Belgium’s top guys, namely Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) and Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Revor), it will decide their fate for the next couple of weeks…and possibly the rest of their season. According to Belgian National Team coach Rudy De Bie, Ruddervoorde is the last opportunity for these riders to prove that they are worthy of representing Belgium in the two upcoming World Cup events held in Aigle, Switzerland, this weekend and Plzen, Czech Republic, the next.
Coming into this event, it seemed as though Meeusen was the front runner due to Vanthourenhout’s string of mechanicals the first few races of the season. But after Vanthourenhout’s sixth place versus Meeusen’s 10th – a total time difference of a mere 37 seconds – the balance may have been tipped in favor of Vanthourenhout. While both riders deserve to represent their country, there is only one spot available in their eight-rider team that’s already stacked with the likes of Bart Aernouts (the only guy who could keep Zdenek Stybar’s wheel in Ruddervoorde), Sven Nys, Klaas Vantornout, Kevin Pauwels, Bart Wellens, Dieter Vanthourenhout and of course Niels Albert who just returned from injury to finish an impressive seventh in Ruddervoorde.
When asked of his chances to be chosen for the World Cups, Meeusen conceded, “Sven was very good today, so I think maybe they will select him. He won already in Aigle so my chances are not too big, but I hope to ride there. Otherwise I have no races for three weeks. I need some competition for the moment to bring my level higher…so I hope that I’m selected.”
As for Vanthourenhout’s thoughts after Ruddervoorde, where he rode with the chase group of four riders, he said, “It was good. I am happy. Just the last round I made a little mistake. The possibility for a third was there but I finished sixth. Yeah, the last lap is just details though. There were two very strong riders [Stybar and Aernouts], but after that we were on the same level.”
As for the World Cups, Vanthourenhout adds, “The last three races weren’t good so a couple of days ago I said to myself that Ruddervoorde will be the start of my season and I made a good one of it. After today I have a good chance. I think the possibility to race next week is 90%.”
Monday, October 11th, is the day the riders expect to find out if they’ve won the coveted spot on the Belgian Team.