The podium on Saturday: Pauwels, Meeusen and Stybar. Sunday, Meeusen doubled up with another win. © Bart Hazen
Taking advantage of the battle between Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) for the general classification, Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) attacked for his second victory of the weekend on the icy Hoogstraten course.With the general classification in mind, Pauwels out-sprinted Nys for second place and is now only four points in arrears.
While Meeusen took the win, he credited his victory to the general classification duel. “Honestly, those two were the strongest men in the race today. I didn’t want to mix in their battle in the last lap but they were watching each other so bad that it was a golden opportunity for me to go for the win. Yesterday I felt like I was the best man in the race but today that certainly wasn’t the case. I’ll try to continue my season like this and convert my excellent form into results,” Meeusen told VT4 in his post-race interview.
From the start, teamwork and strategy were crucial to the racing. After taking the holeshot, Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) built a small gap with only Meeusen able to follow. As Nys went into the pits to switch bikes, Pauwels attacked with Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep). With his teammate bridging up, Vantornout stopped pulling until Pauwels arrived.
After reaching the front, Pauwels joined Vantornout to set a fast past hoping to keep Nys at bay. But Nys’ teammate Sven Vanthourenhout (Landbouwkrediet) led a ferocious chase. His accelerations were enough to drop Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and bring Nys up to the leaders with three to go. Hardly taking a moment to rest, Vanthourenhout went to the front and maintained a quick pace.
In the eighth lap, Vanthourenhout eased off the gas and moved back allowing Nys to attack. But Meeusen closed the gap quickly with Pauwels soon following. At the start of the final lap, Nys took the lead. But just ahead of the run-up, Meeusen moved to the front, took his time to get over it and then punched it to open a small gap.
With a headwind sprint, Nys eased off letting Meeusen take the win to prevent a Pauwels victory. While he lost to Pauwels in the sprint, Nys retains a four point margin.
Jonathan Page (Planet Bike-Blue Bicycles) rode to a solid finish in 16th place. He tweeted that he looks forward to the last races of the season: “Survived the weekend! No falls! Wasn’t frozen! Hope to be completely recovered for next weekend! 5 races left!…”
In the women’s race, with a notably absent Marianne Vos, Daphny van den Brand handily took top honors, followed by Nikki Harris, Pavla Havlikova and Sanne Cant.
|14||Gerben DE KNEGT||NED||37||1:00:21||2||2|
|19||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||26||1:01:32|
|1||Daphny VAN DEN BRAND||NED||34||37:05:00||80||80|
|14||Sophie DE BOER||NED||22||2||2|
|15||Caitlyn LA HAYE||BEL||19||1||1|