Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) claimed his second victory in the space of a week, getting the better of Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) to win the GP Leuven.
After mastering the sand to win the Jaarmarktcross on Wednesday, the Belgian champion relied on his sprint to get the better of Aerts, with whom he’d spent pretty much the whole race on the front.
Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) finished in third place after a long solo chase, with European champion Eli Iserbyt in fourth, making it three Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal riders in the top four.
The Belgian team used that numerical advantage to good effect, ultimately outmanoeuvring the rider who had won this race three times, and two of the three previous races in this year’s Ethias Cross series.
Aerts’ leading teammate, Lars van de Haar, only joined the main chase group towards the end of the race. Meanwhile, Sweeck was able to point to Vanthourenhout and Iserbyt as he sat on Aerts’ wheel almost the whole way round.
In fact, the complexion of the race was set from the very first lap. Sweeck was first out of the blocks, with Aerts on the wheel through the steep up-and-down wooded section before hitting the front on the grass and through the pump track section. There, the pair opened a gap and went on to cross the line together for the first of 10 times.
After forming part of an eight-man chase on the opening two laps, Vanthourenhout and Iserbyt moved clear in pursuit on the third lap, allowing Sweeck to force Aerts to set the pace.
On the fifth lap, Iserbyt made a mistake in the wooded section and Vanthourenhout was alone in the chase as the European champion dropped back to a group with teammate Ryan Kamp, Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin-Fenix), and the Hens-Maes duo of Vincent Baestens and Daan Soete. Kamp crashed on the following lap but it was soon clear none of those riders would come back into contention.
The real question was whether Vanthourenhout would come back to the front, and he did reduce a 19-second gap at the half-way mark to 12 seconds by the end of lap seven, but Aerts would not relent.
The gap went back up to 15 seconds ahead of the final lap, as Sweeck, who was able to shelter on the road section and on some of the grass, was in the perfect position. He was content to follow as the leading duo made no mistakes on the final lap. They emerged onto the road for the finishing straight and Aerts, still on the front, opened up the sprint, but Sweeck soon went way over to the left.
It was a long sprint, and despite there not being much between them at first, Aerts soon ran out of power and Sweeck took it all the way to the line to raise his arms.
Geen drie op een rij voor Toon Aerts in Leuven. Hij moet in de sprint de duimen leggen voor Laurens Sweeck.🥇 Laurens Sweeck🥈 Toon Aerts🥉 Michael Vanthourenhout #ethiascross #welovecyclocross#golazo pic.twitter.com/R5V2pff5prNovember 14, 2020
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal||0:56:31|
|2||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Baloise Lions||0:00:01|
|3||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Hens-Maes||0:00:24|
|4||Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal||0:00:33|
|5||Lars van der Haart (Ned) Telenet Baloise Lions||0:00:35|
|6||Daan Soete (Bel) Hens-Maes||0:00:39|
|7||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Hens-Maes||0:00:44|
|8||Niels Vandeputte (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:00:45|
|9||Ryan Kamp (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal||0:00:56|
|10||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Tormans||0:01:23|