With conditions in Waterloo again fast and hot for Friday's C2 race, Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) knew the racing action would be fast. When he blasted off to a blistering start to match the afternoon heat, he did not quite plan on it being that fast.
Sweeck, who finished third last weekend in the Jingle Cross World Cup, blasted off the holeshot and then led the international field out onto the course on the grounds of Trek Headquarters in Waterloo.
One lap into the 10-lap race, Sweeck had an 8-second advantage on a chase that included Felipe Orts (Teika UCI Team), Nicholas Cleppe (Telenet Baloise Lions) and Steve Chainel (Chazal Canyon). Sweeck stayed on the gas in Lap 2 and extended his lead to 12 seconds.
Cleppe kept the pressure on Sweeck the rest of the race, but he could not put a dent in Sweeck's advantage.
Even though Sweeck perhaps went out a little too hot, he held onto his lead to the end and now enters Sunday's closing U.S. World Cup on a hot streak.
"I just wanted to be in front in the beginning because it was a fast lap," Sweeck said after the race. "It was maybe not the best thing to do, to ride the whole hour alone in the front. But when you are there, you're not thinking about that."
With a number of the top finishers from Saturday's Jingle Cross World Cup sitting out Friday's C2 at the Trek CX Cup on Friday, the race provided a good opportunity for Laurens Sweeck, Tom Meeusen (Corendon - Circus) and others to get a hard effort and good result ahead of the U.S. World Cup finale on Sunday.
Similar to some previous years, conditions in Waterloo were hot on Friday, and rains from Thursday dried out. Sweeck and his competitors entered the race expecting a fast start, and when the hour of racing started, their expectations were met.
Sweeck ripped off the holeshot and then kept the pressure on up the small hill to the barn flyover that towers over the Trek property. Sweeck's early pace proved too much for his competitors to follow, and within a few minutes, he was already solo off the front.
Sweeck was aided in his effort by an early crash by Thijs Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) when he got a little too sendy on the small tabletop feature race announcers were calling the "BMX feature." His teammate Corne van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions), a rider looking to bounce back after a tough Jingle Cross World Cup, ran into him, knocking one of Sweeck's expected competitors well off his blistering pace.
One lap into the race, Sweeck had an 8-second lead on a chase group that included Felipe Orts, Nicholas Cleppe and Steve Chainel. Another rider looking for some Jingle redemption, Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld), got off to a fast start and followed right behind them.
In the second lap, Sweeck did not settle in and stayed on the gas, powering up the climb to the barn flyover and smashing through the technical features. Two laps in, his lead was up to 12 seconds.
During the second lap, Cleppe broke free from the group of three to take up the chase of Sweeck, while Orts and Chainel paired up in the battle for third.
The race stayed that way until the 4th of 10 laps, when Cleppe started to erase Sweeck's lead a bit, pulling to within 6 seconds through the start/finish straight. After the race, Cleppe said his eyes were always looking forward, not back.
"I saw the gap to Laurens was a little smaller in the fourth or fifth lap, so it provided some morale for me," Cleppe said about his big push. "The other guys behind me, I wasn't really worried about them. I only had my eyes looking forward. That was the spirit for the race."
Cleppe's best challenge to Sweeck ended when he had to pit in Lap 5, allowing Sweeck to extend his lead and get some breathing room. From there, Sweeck kept his lead at around 10 to 15 seconds, managing his efforts to not overcook it in the afternoon heat.
He celebrated his second win of the 2019/20 season with a little dousing of water to cool off before the post-race festivities.
"I just rode my own speed and did not go over my limit," Sweeck said. "It was not easy because I was feeling the heat the whole race. I went a little bit slower, and I thought Nicholas was coming, but he was staying 7 or 8 seconds behind me. Then I made the gap a little bit bigger and finished it to the end."
Behind Sweeck, Cleppe held strong to second place, even as Orts broke from Chainel and gave his best effort to catch Cleppe. Orts only got within 7 seconds at the finish, allowing Cleppe to take 2nd and reach the podium after taking 4th during Sunday's C1 in Iowa City.
"The feeling was good today," Cleppe said. "I was really hot, but I was feeling okay. The second lap I saw Laurens full gas and thought, 'The legs are feeling good,' so I tried to catch him, but Laurens was too strong for me. So I got second place."
Orts took 3rd, and U.S. fan favorite Steve Chainel, Steve finished fourth. Van Kessel had perhaps the best showing of the afternoon, bouncing back from his run-in with Aerts to take fifth.
Hyde turned his strong start into a sixth-place finish.
For more from Waterloo, see the photo gallery and results below.