by Michael van den Ham
Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb – Napoleon Games) took an unexpected win in the Men’s Elite Race during the Belgian Nationals. Despite not being at the top of most people favorites list, Vantornout capitalized on mistakes and had a bit of good fortune, to earn the red, black and yellow jersey for the second time in his career. Tom Meeusen (Telenet Fidea Cycling Team) and a disappointed Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice – Golden Palace Cycling Team) finished on the podium.
Before the start, most had their bets on the race being handily won by the U23 sensation, Wout Van Aert. When Wout hit the front of the race just five minutes into the first lap, this prediction certainly looked to be in the process of coming true. By the end of the first lap, he and a brilliantly racing Tim Merlier (Sunweb – Napoleon Games Cycling Team) had separated themselves from a group containing Sven Nys (Crelan – AA Drink Team), Rob Peeters (Vastgoedservice – Golden Palace Cycling Team), Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb – Napoleon Games Cycling Team), Gianni Vermeersch (Sunweb – Napoleon Games), Vantornout, and Meeusen.
Wout’s victory seemed almost inevitable as Merlier began to fall off Van Aert’s devastating pace. However, in the group, a resurgent Nys decided it wasn’t time to cede his throne to the New Prince just yet, and left the chase group behind as he attempted to bridge up to leaders. By the end of the lap he had made it to Merlier and sat 13 seconds off of Wout’s pace. After riding an impossibly muddy rise that nearly everyone else was running, a comfortable looking Nys closed the gap to Van Aert. Unfortunately for both Van Aert and for eager fans anticipating a ‘battle of the generations’, Wout’s chain snapped and left him running to the nearby pit. When he emerged, he had fallen back to the second group containing the eventual winner K. Vantornout, Pauwels, Peeters, and Meeusen.
As they hit the pavement with three laps to go, Klaas Vantornout had bridged up to Nys, 10 seconds behind, Peeters was playing the role of diligent teammate and pulling Wout back to the front, and Meeusen and Pauwels followed a further five seconds back.
One lap later, and the six riders were back together. They remained group, more or less, for the remainder of what looked like a more relaxed lap. Each rider plotting and planning their final lap bid for Belgian tri-color glory.
Ultimately, it wasn’t so much an attack that won that race, but a mistake. On the same muddy incline that Nys had so easily ridden earlier in the race, Klass Vantornout slipped up and held up everyone else. By the time Van Aert and Peeters had untangled their bike, Vantornout had remounted and established a small, but solid gap. With less than a lap remaining, that was all it took to secure his second national title. Meeusen gave chase, but had to settle for second, Van Aert crossed the line a further 8 seconds back for third. He was followed by Nys, Pauwels, and an exhausted Peeters.
Jan Denuwelaere crossed the line in 8th to win the non pro-contract race, with Patrick Gaudy coming across in 10th to take second in that category.
See also: The 2015 Belgian National Championships women’s report: Sanne Cant Defends National Championships over Ellen Van Loy.
2015 Belgian National Cyclo-cross Championships, Men's Elite Race
|3||Wout VAN AERT||21||1:11:11|
|14||Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLE||27||1:16:00|
|18||Angelo DE CLERCQ||24||1:18:55|
|23||Tom VAN DEN BOSCH||30||1:20:46|
|25||Dave DE CLEYN||27||1:22:09|
|34||Jelle VAN DE WALLE||27|
|35||Bert DE WISPELAERE||33|
|43||Edwin DE WIT||32|