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"I was hoping for his support. If he had worked, we would have got him back, but he did not cooperate because he rode for Kristoff. Then I knew it was over and we were swallowed up by the peloton."

Photo: Sirotti

GREG VAN AVERMAET

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ILJO KEISSE

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JENS KEUKELEIRE

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NIKOLAS MAES

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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SEP VANMARCKE

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WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

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28.09.2015 @ 12:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The Belgians rode all day in the spotlight, but in the end had to  admit defeat at the World Championships. A disappointed Greg Van Avermaet was frustrated by the lack of cooperation from Edvald Boasson Hagen while Philippe Gilbert cursed the cobblestones in the last kilometers.

 

Greg Van Avermaet entered the climb of 23rd Street first but saw Sagan pass him. The BMC rider gritted his teeth behind the Slovak, had to allow a gap of two, three, four give metres and did not return. "I was not far away with Edvald Boasson Hagen,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. "I was hoping for his support. If he had worked, we would have got him back, but he did not cooperate because he rode for Kristoff. Then I knew it was over and we were swallowed up by the peloton.

 

"I saw that Boasson Hagen was there, I hoped that he would directly work with me because he's pretty fast also in the sprint but he didn't want to work with me, he just wanted to wait for Kristoff. If Sagan is gone then the world title is also gone."

 

Van Avermaet rode an atypical race where he was only in front at the end. "I think I did the perfect race, it was a very hard race on a heavy course. You always had to ride in front. I started at the right time. I felt good. We rode very strongly as a team, but I came up short by a few metres. That is unfortunate and disappointing. Sagan was just that little bit stronger, but I did not miss much.”

 

"I think I was really good and I took the right moment to go but then Sagan came over me and on the cobbles it was not so easy. I was just one or two metres behind him over the top but then he had a few pedal strokes stronger than me.

 

"I tried to push with everything that I got but I just didn't have it. It was just a few seconds and I think if I was there I would have been able to sprint for a world title, but he was gone."

 

Philippe Gilbert: "Sagan is a beautiful world champion”

"We rode a strong race," Philippe Gilbert, best Belgian in tenth place, told Het Nieuwsblad, "but unfortunately we did not achieve a good result.

 

"I do not think we made mistakes. We consistently communicated well and we were always in front. We rode as a strong collective block, but unfortunately, in the end we got nothing. That is unfortunate and quite a bit disappointing. But the best rider won. Peter Sagan is a good winner. After his crashed in the Vuelta, he stayed out of the spotlight for a while. You know that he is strong, but we did not know if he would be good enough. Voilà, this is his answer.”

 

Gilbert himself was just a little too far behind when the decisive breakaway was made. "I felt good the whole race, but I was a little too far back on the last climb. I thought it was not too bad and that we could perhaps return with the peloton, but that didn’t happen. At the Worlds, only the result counts so it is unfortunate, but we should not regret our race."

 

Boonen: "The course was harder than I thought '

Tom Boonen praised the collective strength of the Belgian team and regretted that the team didn’t get a result. "With Peter Sagan, the rider with the best form won. Greg was very close, about five meters, but five meters is five meters and he did not get back. On this course it is all or nothing.”

 

Boonen himself tried an earlier move with six strong riders. "I did not participate in that attack to just be there. It was a good group. In the beginning the cooperation was not so good, but then it turned around quickly. When I looked around, I saw only one German rider chasing so I believed in it. If some riders had joined us on Libby Hill, we had had more chances, but it was the whole pack that brought us back. That's too bad.”

 

Boonen congratulated Sagan immediately afterwards. "He's a lovely winner, a rider who is always in front and he deserves the world title in his career. This year he mainly had to settle for many second places. Now he has come out on top. It is not a surprise that he wins here. I am happy for him. Peter went at the right time, we did not see him much and suddenly he was there. He rode away strongly and he is the deserved winner. Personally, I would have thought that we would finish with a smaller group because the big teams lost control of the race. It was a difficult race, harder than expected. That’s how it is, in Qatar I'll try again."

 

Tiesj Benoot: “My derailleur was broken”

Tiesj Benoot (21) was the youngest participant at the World Championships and three kilometers from the finish line, he was still right near the front. "I felt very good and if I had not had bad luck, I would maybe even have had a chance to become world champion," said Benoot. "This finish was for me, but on that last cobbled climb my derailleur broke. That was really the first time that it happened for me. Painful, but that’s racing. I will gradually get better and there may still be opportunities. Whether this was my last race of the season, I don’t know. I will call the team leader and may still do Lombardy and Paris-Tours.”

 

Iljo Keisse: “I did my job”

Iljo Keisse was the first Belgian to abandon. This made sense because he did the early work. 50 kilometers from the finish he had given u. "I think I've done my job," said Keisse. "It was difficult to keep everyone up front and ride as a unit and you were constantly passed by other teams. Then I was stopped by a crash and I returned. Moments later, I had to fight again to get back. At some point, the legs were empty." For Keisse, it was his first Worlds at the pro level. "I have certainly enjoyed it. It is a special atmosphere and there were a lot of people on the climbs.”

 

Jens Keukeleire: “It’s not easy to win”

Jens Keukeleire was part of a major break of 26 riders, "but we had the bad luck that the Germans were not there,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. "It looked good for us because Vanmarcke and Gilbert were there. With our broad core of riders, we made it a hard race together with the Netherlands. If it was easy to win, we would have won a gold medal three times in a row with such a collective performance, but today we were up against a super strong Peter Sagan. He was the man for that title. Sagan is known by everyone. Even the non-cycling fan has heard of him.”

 

Nikolas Maes: “The course was hard”

Nikolas Maes did his first Worlds with the pros. After all the work, a withdrawal was the logical consequence. "I've done my work," Maes said. "Together with Keisse we had to bring the leaders Boonen, Gilbert and Van Avermaet to the front in the run-up to the climbs. We also tried to keep the breakaway close and then I was instructed to make the race hard. This course should not be underestimated, it is rough. Boonen was in the attack because he realized that it would not turn into a sprint. Even though his effort did not pay off, it was good for the others.”

 

Vanmarcke disappointed with domestique role

Sep Vanmarcke had already looked ahead to the World Championships in Richmond for a year as the course was made for him. Eventually he had to accept a domestique role.

 

"I knew I would be good, but I did not get the role I wanted. I think I have fulfilled my role well. I did a final of 150 kilometers,” he told Sporza.

 

"I understand the choice of the coach, because there were three big names. But I could have gone far. Mentally it was tough. I have certainly proved that I have my place in the team and that they can give me trust in the coming years."

 

National coach: I cannot blame my team

"The result is not what we hoped for, but it would have been much worse if we had not been in the race," national coach Carlo Bomans told Sporza.

 

"Greg was two metres behind Sagan, two meters which determine whether we are on the the podium or not. It is a little bit sad that Boasson Hagen played the Kristoff cardand would not cooperate with Greg.

 

"I cannot blame the Belgians. Everyone did what they had to do. Tom (Boonen) not to gamble on the sprint, but to race aggressively.”

 

Sep Vanmarcke was disillusioned about the role he was assigned. "That's normal. I explained to him why he got the role. He has fulfilled his mission well."

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