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Belgian Wins are Here Again

Michael Vanthourenhout took under-23 victory from compatriot Laurens Sweeck in Tábor. That gust of wind you felt as he crossed the line? A sigh of relief from the country of Belgium.

Clement  Venturini was quickest off the startline, but was overtaken by home favourite Jakob Skala, who led for the majority of the first lap. No real selection was formed, but the lead swapped between Skala, Stan Godrie, and Joris Nieuwenhuis. Near the end of the lap, favourite Laurens Sweeck came to the front to set the tempo, but it was Nieuwenhuis, who I confess I'd never heard of, but has under-23 top 10s, led over the line.

Laurens Sweeck then moved to the front, and set a fast pace, taking immaculate lines through the corners which no one but Godrie could match, and they soon had a small gap of the rest of the field. It looked like they would continue to extend it, but Sweeck went down, and fell into the jaws of the chase group, led by Venturini. Godrie continued to lead, but he never had any more lead than a couple of seconds. By this point, a selection was finally made, containing favourites Sweeck and Vanthourenhout, Godrie and Nieuwenhaus of the Netherlands, French Clement Venturini and home rider Vojtech Nipl.

Godrie was finally caught at the steps, as Venturini put the pressure on, and Vanthourenhout, who'd looked like he'd been struggling, moved to the front.  He set a tough tempo, and made his move towards the end of the lap, leading by 3 seconds.

Sweeck took up the chase of his compatriot, but crashed again at the beginning of lap 4. As the commentators said, "it's hard as rock when you fall on it, but it's very slippery." Godrie then moved to the front, dropping Venturini as Sweeck caught up. Sweeck then gapped Godrie. Over the line, Vanthourenhout led by 5 seconds from Sweeck, 8 seconds from Godrie, and 12 seconds ahead of Venturini.

By the next lap, Vanthourenhout started to extend his lead, getting a number of seconds at the planks, where he could bunnyhop, and Sweeck could not. With 500 metres left of the penultimate lap, Sweeck went down for the third time, falling back to Godrie. Vanthourenhout led by 16 seconds. Sweeck recognized that it was over, and gestured for Godrie to do the work.

Godrie complied, but himself crashed, and Sweeck was alone again. Venturini, half a minute down, was chasing Godrie desperately, but that is how it would stay. Vanthourenhout 1st, Sweeck 2nd, Godrie third.

"For me it was a fantastic race," said the new under-23 world champion. "For the first two laps it was not so good, but halfway through I attacked. The conditions were very good for me." I am very glad for Belgium."

The Netherlands will be pinning their hopes for a gold medal on Van der Poel and Van der Haar, they have specialized in bronzes, with Godrie, Gulickx and Vos taking all three on offer. Belgium will be relieved; they have at least one gold medal, with Sweeck taking their third silver.