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"If anyone should be happy with this route, it is Lars van der Haar. For me he is the big favorite, but there are some stumbling blocks for him."

Photo: John de Jong

EM - CROSS

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LARS VAN DER HAAR

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TOM MEEUSEN

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05.11.2015 @ 11:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

On Saturday Tom Meeusen will ride the European championship in the Dutch city of Huijbergen which is almost like a home race. The Belgian lives less than ten kilometers from the circuit and knows what awaits him and the other riders. "If anyone should be happy with this route, it is Lars van der Haar. For me he is the big favorite, but there are some stumbling blocks for him," the home rider who is aiming at a podium spot, tells Wielerflits.

 

The home advantage in a championship race is a rare chance. 27-year-old Tom Meeusen is fortunate to be allowed to do the first European Championship for the pros on one of his regular training routes, but he acknowledges that it is not only advantageous. "It will be a special race for me. The biggest advantage by riding in your home region is that you do not have to travel which makes it extra quiet compared to the other riders. If you add the thrill of the many fans from my own village, it makes it quite fun. But there is another side of the coin. Many people come just for you, and that makes for some extra stress. They really live for the races in their region and if you fail, there will be talked a lot more about it than if yoy race poorly in, for example, Koksijde."

 

Meeusen will be at the start with eleven other Belgians - an unusually large number for a championship race which could be a disadvantage for the Dutch favorite Lars van der Haar. "I do not know if coach Rudy De Bie intends to make a big group because I have not heard anything from him. But if that happens, then it will be an additional disadvantage for Lars van der Haar. He will be missing the help of Mathieu van der Poel, though I think Lars is smart enough to make the race hard. In that way, he will get rid of some less strong Belgians and he does not run the risk of being up against Belgian aggression. The course is made for him. Wout van Aert is maybe sticking out, but on days like this Lars is very close to him. For me he remains the big favorite."

 

Yet Meeusen also sees opportunities for himself, despite its poor performance in recent weeks. "I realize that I have not had the start of the season that I should have had. I just had too much training in between the races and so I was not fresh enough during the race itself. Gradually that has been solved, otherwise I would not be fourth on the Koppenberg. But at a championship race, everyone starts from scratch. What has happened in the previous weeks does not count anymore. In the first place, the shape of the day will determine who will occupy the first three places. That is completely different than in the other races. I seem to often have good legs on such a special day but I've never been extremely good. Therefore, I think a podium is a nice goal."

 

But does every top rider go full gas  in this first edition of the European Championships for the pros? Former rider Richard Groenendaal has doubts but Meeusen diasgrees. "It is a strange statement from Richard because if he had got the chance to become European champion, he would let it go. I think there are a lot of riders, including myself, who would be very proud to become the first champion. It is true that riders vying for a spot outside the top 10 will perhaps go faster in the upcoming races because they still have not received starting money or can earn for a ranking. But the riders who can really win or be on the podium, will go all out for the medals. I am one hundred percent sure."

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