Preview: Ethias Cross Leuven 2020

On Saturday we are ready for the fourth Ethias Cross. In the military domain of Heverlee, part of Leuven, the gentlemen and ladies are looking for succession for Toon Aerts and Denise Betsema. Cycling Flash previews this tenth edition of the Stellacross.

History

The cyclocross in Leuven originated from the so-called Chicory cross from Tervuren. After three organizations, the Agency for Nature and Forest (ANB) gave a negative advice about the cyclocross in the Park of Tervuren, after which organizer Golazo went looking for a new location and found it in the Leuven sub-municipality of Heverlee.

The first edition in the military domain ‘de Hemptinne’ took place on December 30, 2011 and immediately attracted 7,000 spectators. With Sven Nys and Marianne Vos they also got a winner with name and fame in Leuven. It was then a trial for the Fidea Cyclocross Classics, which would change into the Soudal Classics a year later.

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The Leuven Soudal Cross quickly developed into a fixed value in the cyclocross circuit, although it kept looking every year for an ideal date in an already crammed calendar. In its ten years of existence, the cross is now on its sixth date. From the end of December it went to mid-December, then respectively to mid-January (season ’13 -’14), at the beginning of January and also for a few years at the end of February, which was occasionally at the expense of the quality of the field.

Marianne Vos has already been the best in Leuven twice – Photo: Cor Vos © 2014

With the 10th edition, Golazo has succeeded in having Leuven, for the first time an Ethias Cross, take place on a top date. Mid-November is an attractive period anyway and due to the disappearance of a number of World Cup races, there will be no competition at all this weekend. Although that provides little advantage in corona times, because of course no spectators are allowed.

Record holders in Leuven are Toon Aerts (3x) for the men and Marianne Vos and Denise Betsema (2x each) for the ladies respectively. Provided there is a win, Betsema can only become the record holder on Saturday.

Latest winners:
Gentlemen
2020: flag-be Toon Aerts (feb)
2019: flag-be Toon Aerts (feb)
2018: flag-nl Corné van Kessel (Jan)
2017: flag-nl Mathieu van der Poel (Feb)
2016: flag-be Toon Aerts (Jan)
2015: flag-nl Mathieu van der Poel (Jan)
2014: flag-be Sven Nys (Jan)
2012: flag-nl Niels Albert (dec)
2011: flag-be Sven Nys (Dec)

Ladies
2020: flag-nl Denise Betsema (feb)
2019: flag-nl Denise Betsema (feb)
2018: flag-be Loes Sels (jan)
2017: flag-us Katie Compton (feb)
2016: flag-nl Sophie de Boer (Jan)
2015: flag-nl Severn Stultiens (Jan)
2014: flag-nl Marianne Vos (jan)
2012: flag-be Sanne Cant (dec)
2011: flag-nl Marianne Vos (dec)


Last year

Aerts becomes record holder
Last year, the cross in Leuven belonged to the Rectavit Series, the successor to the Soudal Cross, and was scheduled for the second half of February. As a result, many top riders had already closed their season. Extra sour for the course: Laurens Sweeck had an offday and Eli Iserbyt was already eliminated after a hundred meters after a fall.

Iserbyt was hindered in the first corner by his teammate and thus faced a long catch-up race. He would not finish the race in the end. That other favorite, Toon Aerts, had left well. In the opening lap he led the peloton, followed by David van der Poel and his younger brother Thijs Aerts.

Toon Aerts won for the third time in Leuven – photo: Cor Vos (Beringen)

After the first selection, a group formed with the brothers Aerts, Lars van der Haar, Michael Vanthourenhout, Niels Vandeputte and Wietse Bosmans. Six that were reduced halfway to a trio: Aerts, Vanthourenhout and Van der Haar. Niels Vandeputte just fell short. In the final phase, Van der Haar hung on the stretcher a few times, but there was still a sprint with three. Aerts made it with a sigh of the West Flemish and his Dutch teammate.

Results Men:
1. flag-be Show Aerts
2. flag-be Michael Vanthourenhout
3. flag-nl Lars van der Haar on 1 ″
4. flag-be Niels Vandeputte at 41 ″
5. flag-be Thijs Aerts at 43 ″
6. flag-nl David van der Poel
7. flag-be Jim Aernouts
8. flag-be Vincent Baestaens
9. flag-be Daan Soete at 1’18 ”
10. flag-nl Corné van Kessel at 1’19 ”

First victory for Betsema after her return
A motivated Denise Betsema got off to a good start and immediately took some lead over the assembled competition. Annemarie Worst and Loes Sels were the first chasers, but Betsema was getting further out. A round later, Worst broke away from Sels and still made the connection with her compatriot.

The two seemed well-matched, but apparently that was only apparent. With the next acceleration of Betsema, Worst had to give up permanently. The Texelse – also the best in Leuven a year earlier – was outstanding and eventually drove one minute away from Worst. It was her first win after she returned to competition in late January after being acquitted in a doping case.

Annemarie Worst remained second, while Sanne Cant beat Laura Verdonschot and Manon Bakker in the battle for the third podium place.

Profit for Denise Betsema – photo: Cor Vos

Results Women:
1. flag-nl Denise Betsema
2. flag-nl Annemarie Worst at 59 ″
3. flag-be Sanne Cant op 1’49 ”
4. flag-be Laura Verdonschot at 1’50 ”
5. flag-nl Manon Bakker
6. flag-be Ellen Van Loy at 2’03 ”
7. flag-be Loes Sels on 2’09 ”
8. flag-it Alice Maria Arzuffi at 2’32 ”
9. flag-be Alicia Franck at 2’54 ”
10. flag-be Joyce Vanderbeken at 3’01 ”


Route

The start and finish places are in the Hertogstraat in Heverlee, the course is drawn on the military domain ‘Kazerne de Hemptinne’ and the surface is a mix of forest and grass (meadow). It is known as fast and technical, but is mainly characterized by a particularly long stretch of asphalt at the finish, which can ensure that it becomes a tactical race.

Compared to last year, the circulation has undergone only a few minor changes. For example, there is an extra loop in the first hundreds of meters in the field and in the full finale there is one less loop, which makes it a bit more compact. “But of course nothing has changed in the essence of the cross”, says course designer Vervecken.


Programma & info

Program
13:40: Elite and youth ladies (Rectavit Ladies Cross)
3:00 pm: Elite and U23 men

Location and entrance:
Barracks de Hemptinne, Hertogstraat, Heverlee

Both matches can be followed live on VTM and HLN.be in Belgium and on Eurosport in the Netherlands

Practical information:
Website Ethias Cross
Participant list Ladies
List of participants Gentlemen

Twitter Ethias Cross
Instagram Ethias Cross
Ethias Cross


Favorites

Gentlemen
Pending the return to competition of five road cyclists (Van Aert, Van der Poel, Pidcock, Merlier and Vermeersch), almost every cross among the men remains a conflict between Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal and Telenet-Baloise for the time being. In fact, the eight previous TV races in these first two months have been won by riders of both teams.

Team Mettepenningen does it with Eli Iserbyt, Laurens Sweeck in Michael Vanthourenhout as leaders, while Sven Nys counts on Show Aerts in Lars van der Haar. The mutual score is five – three in favor of Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal. “That’s right”, Toon Aerts confirms. “But without that flat tire in Niel (Wednesday, ed.) It might have been four or four. That is something to hold on to for me. ”

Will we have the same three-way battle in Leuven as in Niel? – Photo: Cor Vos © 2020

Toon Aerts has already won three times in Leuven in recent years. A mental benefit from which he undoubtedly draws strength. And also our motivation to award Aerts the three stars, although the difference between these riders is very minimal. At the European Championship in Rosmalen, Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout stood out, in Niel Sweeck and Aerts were the better ones. “In Leuven too, I expect Laurens rather than Eli as the main opponent,” says Aerts. “To grab a title like that, it creeps into your body the following week,” he motivates his choice.

If we do hope for opposition for the two teams that dominate this phase of the season, that of the Tormans duo will Corné van KesselQuinten Hermans have to come. Van Kessel has a poor start this winter, but showed in Niel (fifth) that the condition is going crescendo. Quinten Hermans can also last a long time in a tactical cross.

Other names we look forward to are those of the Maes-Hens duo Daan Soete in Vincent Baestaens and of the promises Ryan Kamp, Show Vandebosch in Niels Vandeputte. The latter did more than excellently in Leuven last year.

Favorites according to WielerFlits
*** Show Aerts
** Eli Iserbyt, Laurens Sweeck
* Michael Vanthourenhout, Lars van der Haar, Corné van Kessel


Ladies

The women’s matches remain difficult to predict because five Dutch women are well matched. That was confirmed once again in Niel. Actually, both deserve Lucinda Brand, Denise Betsema, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Annemarie Worst in Yara Kastelijn each the maximum of the stars.

Denise Betsema may have the mental advantage of winning the past two editions in Leuven, but Lucinda Brand was the best in Niel on Wednesday, while Alvarado and Worst dominated the European Championship. In Leuven, the shape of the day is perhaps even more important than the nature of the trail.

Alvarado drove a fine final in Ruddervoorde – photo: Cor Vos © 2020

In addition to the aforementioned five, we can also expect an open battle for the better places of honor. True Cant, Laura Verdonschot, Aniek van Alphen, Manon Bakker, Blanka Kata Vas in Alicia franck here are the main candidates. Also look forward to the further advance of the young Fem van Empel (tenth in Niel) and the Frenchwoman Perrine Clauzel, who surprised with a fifth place at the European Championship.

Favorites according to WielerFlits
*** Annemarie Worst
** Denise Betsema, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado
* Lucinda Brand, Yara Kastelijn, Sanne Cant


Weather and TV

Both the women’s and men’s matches are covered by VTM and HLN.be in Belgium and on Eurosport in the Netherlands.

The weather forecast for Leuven according to Meteovista.be:

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