LOENHOUT, Belgium—On a controversial course, Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) proved that fortune favors the brave, launching a solo attack from a large group that he was able to hold until the finish, earning himself the win at Azencross, the sixth round of the BPost Bank Trofee series.
#Azencross @TomMeeusen having some fun during the recon. Really enjoyable to watch him race, and big congrats! pic.twitter.com/Kj4JrGrgEN
— 伟业 wei yuet (@wyuet) December 29, 2015
Famous for its pump track section and large rollers capable of sending riders airborne if desired, the Azencross course was not favored by racers to wanted to keep their wheels on terra firma.
Youthful exuberance was the order of the day at the start, with Michael Vanthournhout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) taking the holeshot, with Tim Merlier (Vastgoedservice / Golden Palace) and Laurens Sweeck (ERA Real Estate-Murprotec) slotted in behind him.
Fun and technical race today in Loenhout. #Azencross. Congrats @TomMeeusen pic.twitter.com/sxBTbI8wlR
— Mathieuvanderpoel (@mathieuvdpoel) December 29, 2015
Wout van Aert (Vastgoedservice / Golden Palace) was the victim of a poor start, and was far back in the field throughout the initial lap.
Not phased by traffic, van Aert and Lars Boom (Astana) both recovered well from poor positioning and worked their way into the top half of the race, jumping from group to group en route to the leaders.
Van Aert was able to connect with the lead group, and while Boom was making progress in joining the leaders, eventually paid for his effort and was seen stretching his back, and eventually falling off the pace.
At the front of the race there was a relative stalemate. As it went in the women’s race early on, the wide open and fast Azencross course led to a large group forming, with no one able to escape.
As the leading group rolled through the start finish on lap three, Matheiu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) decided to stretch his legs and perhaps go for a time bonus and attacked the group, bringing Julien Taramarcaz (ERA Real Estate-Murprotec) with him. Van der Poel was able to roll through the sprint bonus point uncontested and earned an eight second bonus in the BPost Bank Trofee GC.
With the two escapees gaining time on the field, all eyes were on van Aert. With a short effort he was able to go clear of the field and join the leading duo of van der Poel and Taramarcaz.
On such fast course, common knowledge would assume that a split was not meant to be, and the field made quick work of bringing back the trio of Taramarcaz, van Aert and van der Poel.
With van Aert and van der Poel neutralized, there was a momentary lull in the field. This was all the opportunity that Meeusen needed to launch what would be his race winning attack.
With his proven explosiveness and BMX-based bike handling prowess, Meeussen was at home on the Azencross course, and almost instantly had a 15 second gap.
As his gap grew up to 25 seconds, the group behind Meeusen had difficulty organizing. Sunweb-Napoleon Games began to work to bring down the gap for their leader Kevin Pauwels, but the chase group was too large and had too many hangers-on to make any real inroads to Meeusen.
The gap lingered at 16 seconds with two laps to go. Capitalizing on this indecision, Meeusen launched his way over every obstacle available on the course, and his 16-second gap swelled to 30 as he rolled through for the final lap.
With a large gap, Meeusen kept his pace up, and giving the crowd a show, kicking out his Ridley mid-air as much as possible throughout the last lap. He would win with a gap of 18 seconds.
Behind Meeusen, the field began to wind up for the sprint. Sweeck launched first, but the Vastgoedservice / Golden Palace duo took a page from the book of Etixx-Quickstep with van Aert doing his best Mark Renshaw impression to lead out Merlier. Merlier would finish second, and van Aert would take third in a photo finish.
Not everyone loved the technical, dry course:
What a horrible cross #azencross. Without mud it's to dangerous. Last lap I lost all control with jumping. Pfffff 14th in this bmx road race
— Lars van der Haar (@larsvanderhaar) December 29, 2015
Be sure to check out our Elite Women’s race report to see the down-to-the-wire finish, and stay tuned for video highlights.
BPost Bank Trofee Azencross Elite Men's Results
|3||VAN AERT Wout||BEL||21||56:11:00||0:18|
|7||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||NED||20||56:12:00||0:19|
|8||VAN KESSEL Corne||NED||24||56:13:00||0:20|
|14||VAN DER HAAR Lars||NED||24||56:18:00||0:25|
|15||VAN DER POEL David||NED||23||56:30:00||0:37|
|17||VAN DEN BRAND Twan||NED||26||56:54:00||1:01|
|23||VAN AMERONGEN Thijs||NED||29||57:32:00||1:39|
|27||VAN LEEUWEN Patrick||NED||30||59:24:00||3:31|
|32||VAN DEN HAM Michael||CAN||23||1:00:03||4:10|
|33||DE CLEYN Dave||BEL||27||1:00:04||4:11|