Klaas Vantornout, shown here at Hoogstraten, rode perfectly today for the win at Middelkerke © Bart Hazen

Klaas Vantornout, shown here at Hoogstraten, rode to a win at Belgian Nationals. © Bart Hazen

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

1Klaas VANTORNOUT331:10:53
2Tom MEEUSEN271:11:04
3Wout VAN AERT211:11:11
4Sven NYS391:11:15
5Kevin PAUWELS311:11:24
6Rob PEETERS301:11:42
7Tim MERLIER231:12:45
8Jan DENUWELAERE271:12:49
9Vincent BAESTAENS261:12:51
10Patrick GAUDY381:13:22
11Gianni VERMEERSCH231:13:41
12Bart WELLENS371:13:59
13Jim AERNOUTS261:14:26
14Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLE271:16:00
15Jens ADAMS231:16:32
16Sven VANTHOURENHOUT341:16:45
17Vinnie BRAET241:18:15
18Angelo DE CLERCQ241:18:55
19Bart HOFMAN301:19:28
20Jelle BRACKMAN261:19:39
21Pieter VANSPEYBROUCK281:19:45
22Niels KOYEN241:20:24
23Tom VAN DEN BOSCH301:20:46
24Ruben VANDEVELDE271:21:10
25Dave DE CLEYN271:22:09
26Jelle WALLAYS261:23:58
28Joeri ADAMS26
29Stijn PENNE32
30Kevin CANT27
32Mathieu WILLEMYNS25
33Quincy VENS29
34Jelle VAN DE WALLE27
36Wouter GOOSEN29
37Pascal COLAERT26
38Hendrik SWEECK23
39Kevin REYNAERT32
40Kevin NEIRYNCK24
43Edwin DE WIT32
44Jochem DANCKAERS39
45Robin STENUIT25