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“Fabian’s in good shape but he did maybe a little bit of a mistake. He didn’t come in our breakaway, but it was a surprise. It went very well for me. On the Kwaremont, I had 20 seconds on him and on the Paterberg, I had so...

Photo: Bettini Photo

FABIAN CANCELLARA

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PETER SAGAN

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RONDE VAN VLAANDEREN

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SEP VANMARCKE

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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03.04.2016 @ 23:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) finally got the elusive monument victory that he has been desperately chasing for five years when he rode to an impressive solo win in the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders. Having attacked with Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) with 30km to go, he dropped his companions on the final climbs of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg and then held off a furious chase from Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Vanmarcke to take the victory. Cancellara beat Vanmarcke in the sprint while Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was the best of the rest.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Peter Sagan: Cancellara made a bit of a mistake

Peter Sagan won Ronde van Vlaanderen in style today, taking the win after a solo breakaway 15km from the finish on the Paterberg climb. The UCI World Champion took his first Monument victory, finishing an exceptionally tough race twenty-five seconds ahead of his rivals.

 

Seven sectors of pave cobblestones, eighteen climbs and all this over a 255.9km course. Combine that with a fast and furious pace, where the slightest mistake or crash could change the outcome of the race in a moment, the 2016 Ronde van Vlaanderen was never going to be easy.

 

The UCI World Champion dedicated his win to Antoine Demoitié and Daan Myngheer, the Belgian riders who sadly lost their lives in Gent-Wevelgem and the Criterium International respectively, and to Maciej Bodnar, his teammate, who was unable to join him at today’s race due to an injury sustained while training this week.

 

“You have to think about the two riders who died last week – it was very sad. I want to dedicate my win to them and to Maciej Bodnar who had a crash in training. I want to wish him well and see him back in the group soon.”

 

From the start, there were attempts to break away from the peloton, but after almost two hours of racing, nothing had stuck. Shortly before the climbs and cobblestones began at the 100km mark however, a break finally went away, but at such an early stage of the race, the peloton seemed untroubled. As so many of these breaks fell apart all by themselves with no need from the peloton to reel them in, the difficulty of the course became all the more apparent.

 

With 40km to go, the attacks from the favourites began. With a small group further up the road, at 32km to go, a trio that included Peter Sagan went on the attack, bridging the gap with 23km remaining, leaving the chasing group more than 30 seconds behind them.

 

Then, on the Kwaremont, the chasers caught Sagan’s group, but instead of being reeled in, Sagan attacked, taking Vanmarcke of LottoNL-Jumbo with him, quickly creating a gap. The Paterberg came and Sagan, looking calm and composed, made the decisive move, leaving the Belgian Vanmarcke behind him. With less than 15km to go, Sagan was alone at the front, quickly putting time into the chasers and creating a significant gap.

 

Of his solo breakaway, Sagan explained from the finish.

 

“The race was very hard today and it’s hard to work with the other guys because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody.”

 

As Sagan passed under the Flamme Rouge, it was clear that the UCI World Champion’s break was going to be successful, crossing the line in Oudenaarde twenty-five seconds ahead of Trek-Segafredo’s Fabian Cancellara. In spite of the gap, Peter was clear that the race was a hard one.

 

“It was a super hard race from the start until the finish, we were always going full gas and I had a bit of a problem after 100km, having to change both wheels. There were a lot of crashes – thank you to all the team they did a great job.”

 

Sagan was quick to praise team owner, Oleg Tinkov, for his continued support for the team.

 

“Kwiatkowski did a very smart attack. We attacked early, but behind everybody was tired. There were four or five Sky riders in the group behind, so it was very good to go in a breakaway with somebody from Sky.

“It was a very strange race. I’ve done the Tour of Flanders six times but it’s never been as hard as this. It was very different from the last years, because it was full gas from start to finish. We maybe just stopped a little bit for 10 minutes, but it was a very hard race.

“Fabian’s in good shape but he did maybe a little bit of a mistake. He didn’t come in our breakaway, but it was a surprise. It went very well for me. On the Kwaremont, I had 20 seconds on him and on the Paterberg, I had some advantage on him too.

“He was pulling very hard. I don’t want to say I had that under control but I thought if I go full gas, then he also has to go full gas. He also had Vanmarcke on the wheel, and I was hoping they would be trying to recover for the sprint. And it was like that. He got some seconds but then I started to have an advantage again, and in the last two or three kilometres it was good.”

“I changed the preparation a little bit. I think it was a help. For sure, what I did must have helped, because if not, I’d be tired now, like I was last year or two years ago. I’m very happy for this year, because what I did was good. For sure, the preparation is the base, it’s what you do in the winter to prepare.”

“It’s another big victory. I won first the World Championships and now it’s something special, because I was able to win Flanders with the rainbow jersey. This was my biggest objective from the start of the year, Flanders and Roubaix. Now it’s good.”

 

Sport Director, Lars Michaelsen, praised Sagan’s huge effort, as well as the rest of the team, after today’s race.

 

"Going into the race our strategy was quite clear - focused on one lone leader and the whole team believed in Peter and the plan. We spoke in our performance plan for the race about who should do what at what time today and everyone really contributed as they could to the victory, so it was a strong display from the whole team today.”

 

He continued.

 

"It was great to see his brother Juraj do a great race as well, giving his everything, and Oscar was there late on for the climbs and for the finale to prepare the move for Peter. The boys kept him out of trouble even though there were a lot of crashes. We had Nikolay Trusov come down and he had to change bike, and when Peter had had to change wheels the team stayed calm and professional. Then when the move came it was from a long way out again, at 35km to go, like we saw in Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, but he's just a champion in his own right and we of course back him in his decision to go that early. At the end when it was really time to dig in we just kept telling him from behind to believe and that they were cracking behind too. An another amazing ride."

 

With Paris-Roubaix a week away, Sagan felt it was too early after his win in Oudenaarde to talk about his chances.

 

“I’m very happy for this win. Now I want to have fun after this victory, and next week we’ll think about next week, but not now.”

 

Fabian Cancellara: I was aiming for history but I am not superman

Over the Paterberg, the 18th and final helling of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, the mightiest were all that remained: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) just ahead of Fabian Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) - a magnificent pursuit to the finish line to determine the victor of the 100th edition of Flanders' Finest.

 

Sagan held a slim lead of 14 seconds, but with an exhausted Vanmarcke unable to contribute much to the chase, plus Cancellara waning after making two huge efforts over the Kwaremont and Paterberg, it was all he needed.

 

Sagan increased his advantage to 24 seconds with just over three kilometers remaining, and under the flamme rouge had enough time to savor his first Monument win while behind a gracious and classy Sep Vanmarcke did not even contest the minor places.

 

Cancellara rolled across the line for second and saluted the crowd in his final Flanders. 

 

It was not the result he wanted, and he will not go into the history books as the only four-time winner of the prestigious cobbled Classic, but it was vintage Cancellara, vying for the win to the bitter end.

 

"When I think about it, second is not first. First is history," said Cancellara.  "I didn't win but…yeah."  

 

He paused to reflect on his race, then continued:

 

"Today I tried to deliver a great race, but we did not have the best luck on our side. In the beginning, we had a lot of mechanical problems, we were involved in crashes, and I think Jasper changed like three times the bike. But in the end, everyone did their maximum; I did the maximum.

 

"Second is still a big thing. I was quite emotional this morning, and still now, after so may tries to still finish second I think is not bad. Let me sleep over it and I will be happy. But still I was aiming for history. But I think Peter showed today that he managed everything well and is the deserved winner."

 

The crucial and ultimately winning move came with 32 kilometers to go. Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) accelerated and Sagan quickly followed, and when seconds later Vanmarcke joined them, it was here that perhaps Cancellara made a costly hesitation.

 

"I think I was just missing this one second there when Kwiatkowski with Sagan went, and Sep went as well," pointed out Cancellara.  "I was trusting on Stijn (Devolder) and the collaboration from the others. But in the end, we saw that the race was really, really tough today; from the beginning until to the end it was almost full gas, and with all the crashes.

 

"I am super happy with the work Stijn did at the end. Also Jasper. We lost Gregy (Rast) too early to a mechanical when Dirk (Demol, director) was helping Jasper. With all the problems we had we never had the chance to dictate the race today. I was running behind you could say instead of dictating the race."

 

The dangerous trio soon caught the breakaway leaders ahead of the final dual punch of the Kwaremont-Paterberg, with Devolder leading the chase for Cancellara behind.

 

Everything shattered over the last hellingen and the strongest legs emerged as Sagan, now on his own, was followed 14 seconds later by Cancellara and Vanmarcke.

 

"I collaborated good with Sep, and yeah we tried to come as close as possible," added Cancellara. "But like I say as always, I am not Superman. You have to push and give everything, and that is what I did."

 

Director Dirk Demol echoed the words of Cancellara:

 

"When the moment Sagan, Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke went, if Fabian had the legs we knew he should react. That was the moment: you either go immediately or you choose to wait, and Fabian chose to wait. Stijn gave the best of himself [in the chase], but it was not possible to close."

 

Trek-Segafredo entered the race with only one thing on its agenda: win with Cancellara.

 

But with numerous mechanicals early on the team was forced into a defensive role, and despite the massive work by Stijn Devolder – the last teammate remaining –  ahead of the final climbs, the final gap proved one too many.

 

"When you go back earlier in the race Markel (Irizar), and Marco (Coledan) did an amazing job from the start, and they were still there after 170 kilometers," continued Demol. "It's a pity that Jasper had so much bad luck and had to change the bike three times, and he had to chase back all the time, and I think he paid for that; he might have been there with Stijn at the end, and we would have more to play with. But we have to be honest - I think the best rider of the peloton of the moment won the Tour of Flanders."

 

"I had a broken front wheel, then someone hit my rear derailleur, and I could not shift anymore," explained Stuyven about his day dealing with mechanicals."I had to wait for the team car. Then I rode Edward's (Theuns) bike waiting for my bike to be fixed. It was a messy day, not ideal.

 

"I had good legs. I never had the feeling I was pushing; I felt really, really good even when I was for a while on Markel's bike. But with another bike, then another bike, it was a little bit too much."

 

Such is racing.

 

And Cancellara, upon completing his final Flanders, possibly summed it up best:

 

“Second is not first and first is not history. I didn’t win. Second is still a big thing. I was quite emotional this morning and still am now. After so many tries to be second is not bad but I was aiming for history. Peter showed that he managed everything well and he was the deserved winner.

 

“To chase is not always nice but I managed to come to Sep and we did the maximum that we could to be there because Peter was just too strong.

 

“I was not giving up because Peter showed in the past that in the final kilometres he didn’t always have the capacity to get to the finish. In the end, I knew that if Sep didn’t pull then I would give up but I said to him ‘we need to work the maximum that we have because we might even lose the podium’. We managed well and we all did the maximum after such a tough race.”

 

“I knew that everything was the last time. Even this morning in Bruges was special but as soon as the race started I was focused on what I wanted to achieve what we had for a plan. I went to sleep at 1:30, I woke up at 6 o’clock. It was already hard this morning when you come onto the bus and think ‘damn it wasn’t a good night’.

 

“Today, I didn’t have the same feeling at the start compared to other races. I was a devil in Harelbeke, and I was an amateur in Gent-Wevelgem. Today I managed everything I could but now Flanders is done.

 

“Flanders is in my heart. I did everything for today, and what is next week? We will see first. Tomorrow I come back to the centre of De Ronde, the fan club is there from Belgium and then Scheldeprijs and then slowly moving up to Paris-Roubaix. Right now, I don’t think about Roubaix.

 

"The one thing is, I missed that one second, and maybe there I can find a little disappointment, but in the end, it is how it is. There are no excuses. There are no excuses. Sep and I could not catch Peter, he was the strongest. Thank you Flanders."

 

Sep Vanmarcke: I thought I could follow Sagan but then I felt the cramps
Sep Vanmarcke finished third in the Tour of Flanders. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man jumped to Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) after they attacked just before the final climb of the Oude Kwaremont. Sagan, however, dropped Vanmarcke on the Paterberg and left the Belgian to claim third behind Fabian Cancellara (Trek).
 
The 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders didn’t run completely smooth for Sep Vanmarcke. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man crashed in the descent to Kortekeer after 120 kilometres of racing. 
 
“I returned in the peloton, but I noticed the damage of my crash, Vanmarcke said. “My bike broke and it took a while before I was back in the race. I had changed the position of my saddle on purpose, just before the race, and I didn’t have the chance to do that with my second bike as well. After 170 kilometres, I suffered.”
 
“My team-mates gave it all to bring me back in the race. Maarten Wynants did a lot of work in the beginning of the final,” he added. “I was still feeling good on the climbs. When Sagan and Kwiatkowski attacked, I felt that it was going to be the decisive moment in the race. I had to close the gap to them immediately. Behind me, there was a moment of doubt and that was a perfect situation for me.
 
“I never had better legs at the start of the race. Two years ago my legs were feeling better deep into the finale though.
 
“I suffered a lot on the Oude Kwaremont to keep up with him. On the Paterberg I was thinking, ‘I can keep this up until the top’, but when I stood on the pedals at the steepest section I completely cramped. I was happy to make it to the top. I knew that if I would reach the top ahead of Cancellara then maybe we would be able to come back. Having cramps at that moment said enough.
 
“Today a lot of things were going wrong in the middle of the race. For 60 or 70 kilometres I was wasting energy due to crashes and because I rode out of position. Ahead of the race I adapted my saddle position on my first bike but it wasn’t done on my second bike. There was never time to do that. Only at about 70 kilometres from the finish it was possible to drop it. For a long time I was in an awkward position. My team-mates managed to get me back in position while I managed to make a switch in my head. Physically I suffered a lot though and that’s why I’m happy to get on the podium.
 
“Once I was back in the race I did everything right. Their move was identical to Harelbeke. They were the strongest riders too and went the same way. I thought to myself, ‘I have to close this in one effort’. Peter saw it happening and accelerated. I knew I had to go until the limit but I had to get there. I sensed that it was the decisive moment in the race. Behind us they were hesitating.”
 
When Kwiatkowski was distanced by Sagan on the final climb of the Oude Kwaremont, Vanmarcke followed. Afterwards, though, the world champion dropped him on the Paterberg and left him to battle with Cancellara who chased from behind. 
 
"This is a great performance by Sep,” Sports Director Jan Boven said. “When you look at the problems we faced during the race and the way we got over it, you have to say that Sep did a great job. It was a hectic race and many big teams were facing problems. Sep was sharp when Sagan and Kwiatkowski attacked and he was the only one who was able to follow Sagan on the Oude Kwaremont. We are satisfied with this third place.”

 

Alexander Kristoff bounces back with fourth place: Now I aim for the podium in Roubaix

As last year’s reigning champion, Team KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff was determined to defend his title to the best of his ability and did just that with a strong fourth place finish in the 100th Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Tour of Flanders at 255,9 km was held Sunday over 18 climbs between Brugge and Oudenaarde.  

 

”I’m pretty happy with my race. The team rode very well today and always put me in a good position. But at the end I knew it would be hard to follow Cancellara and Sagan when they went on the climb. I was anticipating their move, but my legs just did not have it, so I was dropped a little bit on the Kwaremont. Me and Luke Rowe managed to bridge up on the Paterberg so at the end I could sprint for a good result, and I managed a fourth place,” said team leaderAlexander Kristoff.

 

Over the Paterberg for the second and final time, world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) attacked from his lead group and quickly distanced Fabian Cancellara of Trek-Segafredo and Sep Vanmarcke (Team LottoNL-Jumbo). Forming up behind the duo of chasers was the Kristoff group. With 5 km to go Sagan held 14 seconds to Cancellara and Vanmarcke and 38-seconds to the group with Alexander Kristoff. The Slovakian rider held his advantage and took a strong solo win with a time of 6:10.37, holding 25- and 28-seconds to Cancellara and Vanmarcke to mark the first time his country has won a monument in cycling. Kristoff sprinted in from the group for fourth place at 49-seconds. Kristoff’s strong results make him number 10 in the UCI world rankings as of today.

 

”Coming into today, I knew it would be hard to be among the best in the climbs, as I have not been feeling super in the last few days even though I had some good results in De Panne. It’s not bad to finish fourth – it tells me I am in OK shape and hopefully will continue to get better for next week and I can see the podium in Roubaix. I’ve never liked Roubaix as much as I like Flanders as I’ve never felt as good there, but hopefully that will change this year,”continuedKristoff.

 

Earlier in the race Team KATUSHA’s Nils Politt was part of the breakaway that stayed clear until the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. Even then Politt, age 22, stayed with the group that included Kristoff and Michael Mørkøv and did his part to bring the race back under control for the final.

 

”Initially in the last 15 km it did not look so good really. I counted 11 riders away on the Paterberg, but with 9 km to go we were back in business. Of course, Sagan was the strongest, but to be fourth place is really great for us. All day today the team was in the right spot. Nils Politt did an amazing job for himself and for the team. I think it was a fantastic day for the team. Nils lives close to me. I’ve known his father for a long time – we raced together on the track when I was an amateur. Nils has a lot of passion for cycling and that was a key factor in bringing him to the team. He has a huge talent as we’ve seen in the past few years in his under 23 races. He really likes these races and is a guy for the future,” said team director Torsten Schmidt.

 

Some bad luck came for Team KATUSHA with Alexey Tsatevich and Viacheslav Kuznetsov both unable to finish due to crashes.

 

”We had a few crashes today. First Kuznetsov crashed around Molenberg. He had to change his bike but teams were not allowed to come forward at that time - he fell in the ditch so it was not so nice for him to have to leave the race this way. Then Tsatevich crashed in the descent of the Koppenberg. He was left with a broken bike but there were no cars allowed to follow on that section. So it was the end of his race. It’s unusual to lose two riders in Flanders so that was bad luck. But now we now have Scheldeprijs on Wednesday which is a full sprinter’s race and Alex won there last year. And then Paris-Roubaix. I think we should go with the goal to win this race,” concluded Torsten Schmidt. 

 

Top 5 in Flanders big step up for strong Luke Rowe

Luke Rowe rode to a hard-fought fifth place at the Tour of Flanders after an exciting 100th edition.

 

The Welshman was part of a committed performance in the Flemish cycling heartland, sprinting home to pick up Team Sky's best result in the Belgian Monument to date.

 

The team were represented well with numbers to the fore during much of the epic 255-kilometre Classic, providing a great tactical platform for attacks.

 

The most significant of which came from Michal Kwiatkowski, who launched a long-range move with 32km to go - a powerful acceleration that drew a reaction from Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke.

 

Once again the final one-two punch of the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg proved to be decisive, with Sagan (Tinkoff) pushing clear on the former, distancing Kwiatkowski before ramming home his advantage on the final climb of the day. The end result was a superb solo victory for the world champion, 25 seconds ahead of Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo).

 

Rowe and Geraint Thomas were able to haul their way into the third group on the road, ultimately contesting the sprint for fourth as Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) rounded out the podium positions.

 

Thomas battled back from an early crash to finish 12th, but neither he nor anyone else was able to hold the wheel of Cancellara on the Kwaremont as the  lead group disintegrated.

 

Ian Stannard also made his way up the road ahead of the infamous Koppenberg, before attacking again to go solo on Steenbeekdries. That bid to bridge to the day's early break proved a bridge too far during a day of attrition.

 

Strong work from Gianni Moscon in his Flanders pro debut, along with Salvatore Puccio, Michal Golas and Christian Knees ensured Team Sky were never far from the front as the climbs arrived thick and fast.

 

"As a team we rode pretty well today," Rowe told TeamSky.com after the race. "We were always at the front and we said we'd try and put a man in every move after the Koppenberg and I think we did that. On a personal level I'm obviously pretty chuffed with that. We didn't win the race but it's another step forward. I've got to be happy with that.

 

"That last (climb of the) Paterberg is just an absolute slog. It's just whoever has anything left in the legs, but I still felt relatively alright. I attacked on there with (Alexander) Kristoff and we got across to G's group. But it was just too little too late to catch the guys in front. Especially with a decent tailwind it was always going to be tough. It seems like 10 seconds over here is like a minute anywhere else. It's so hard to close the smallest of gaps.

 

“We had numbers in the front. Tactically we were really good, we didn’t miss any moves, but the three strongest guys who were away in the end were the three strongest guys in the race. There’s nothing you can do about that.”

 

 “Kristoff and I only went across late, on the Paterberg, and as soon as we got there, everybody worked pretty well.

 

 “It was always going to be hard and coming into the last two or three kilometres, we knew we weren’t going to catch them. I said to G that I was just going to go for the sprint and focus on that because we weren’t going to catch them.

“I think I finished fifth and we had G up there. We didn’t win but we’re certainly not too disappointed. And for me personally that was a pretty big ride. That was massive for me. So yeah, I’m happy.

“Kwiatkowski said to us he didn’t feel top, top, so he wasn’t going to wait for the Kwaremont, he was going to go earlier. Tactically, it was a great move and then it just came down to who had the best legs and Sagan obviously did, so there’s not much you can do when someone has better legs.”

 

The big races keep coming for Rowe and the team, with attention turning to Paris-Roubaix in a week's time, with a stop off at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday.

 

"We're doing a recon of Roubaix on Tuesday and then we'll ride Scheldeprijs on Wednesday," he added. "Then it's just a case of feet up, rest, recover, and focus on Roubaix."

 

Bad legs force Kwiatkowski to attack from afar in Flanders

“I’m disappointed,” Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews and Velopro.net. “Flanders is one of the most beautiful races to win. For sure, in the future I’ll try to be back on this course. Now I’m focused on the Ardennes. That was the main goal for the first part of the season. I think I can say that I’m on the schedule for that, even with bad legs today.

 

“Being in this move was really good. We had everything under control. First we had Ian up front and then G and also Luke in this group. I got in front with Peter who went on to win the race and also Sep.

 

“I no longer felt 100 per cent on the Taaienberg where Sagan and Cancellara accelerated. I was unable to hold their wheel. I decided to go in the move before the Kwaremont and Paterberg. Fabian would be the strongest on the Kwaremont. We learned from previous editions that he could go there on his own. It was a smart move.

 

“I was done. I was unable to hold Peter’s wheel and later on Cancellara’s wheel. I couldn’t do anything more today than this. It was the maximum with the legs I had today. It’s disappointing that it wasn’t my day. We tried to go for the win with Team Sky. G, Luke, me and Ian, we were all trying to win this race. The others were just stronger. That’s sport.”

 

Geraint Thomas: I could have been racing for podium

“I should have been in that move that Kawasaki (Kwiatkowski) was in,” Thomas told Cycling Weekly.

“When he went, it was a case of sitting behind and waiting, I should have probably been there and am pretty confident I could have stayed with Sep, maybe not Sagan, but definitely Sep and then suddenly you’re riding for the podium. It’s such fine margins.

 

“I had four days ill off the bike last week but I knew I was riding well and was strong after winning Paris-Nice. I knew I’d be there or thereabouts.

 

“I felt strong, I can be happy with how the legs were, but I just didn’t quite have that real top end, that punch. “I was following Fabian on the Kwaremont but I lost his wheel just after that and that was it, he was away.

 

“Once you are in that chase group and there’s one or two guys up the road, it’s so hard and nobody wants to pull properly. You’re racing for fourth.

 

Dylan Van Baarle saves Flemish campaign for Cannondale

”He passed me like a whirlwind,” Dylan van Baarle told De Telegraaf, regerring to Cancellara. “It is a good result, especially after a tough week. "

 

His Cannondale team has struggled with a virus in the squad.

 

“I had trained hard last winter, so I was disappointed that the results had not been there. Today was fortunately a lot better.

 

“Sometimes you have to have a little luck that the right men go clear. But we agreed that we would skip it if there would be someone Etixx-QuickStep. I felt good and took the risk

 

”I knew we could go far, but the others were simply stronger. Still, I had something left to sprint to sixth place. "

 

"Stijn Vandenbergh went before and that was super. Here, you hope, but it is a dream. I only saw the big names around me. I tried to save as much as possible, but not too much. Then you get disagreement.”

 

Amazing Imanol Erviti makes history for Movistar and Spain in Flanders

The truth is, Eusebio Unzué's men were looking forward today's Tour of Flanders more in hope than expectation. That was until one of the great team players in Spanish cycling over recent years, Imanol Erviti, turned the pre-race forecasts upside down with 7th place at the race finish in Oudenaarde. It made him only the second Spaniard in history, after Juan Antonio Flecha, to achieve a top ten finish in the Ronde. 

 

A colossal performance started more than 180km from the finish, when Erviti made the early breakaway. He attacked out of that first, 6-man group with Van Hoecke (TSV). They were then joined by Greipel (LTS) and others. On the second ascent of the Kwaremont and Paterberg, Erviti stood his ground, before crossing the fearsome Koppenberg in fourth place. Sagan (TNK), Kwiatkowski (SKY) and Vanmarcke (TLJ) bridged across soon after the Kruisberg. At that point, with little more than 20km to go, Erviti began to contemplate a possibility that had seemed unthinkable at the start: disputing the race finish among the very best. 

 

On the final Kwaremont-Paterberg crossing, nerves and legs of steel allowed him to cross in Cancellara's esteemed company. Soon afterwards, a second chasing group formed behind Sagan and Vanmarcke. Erviti crossed the final Muur in fifth position. Then, caught by the elite group destined to fight for fourth place, he summoned his remaining reserves for the final sprint. His seventh place was the finest ever finish for the Movistar Team in the greatest of the Flemish classics, and crowned a day that Imanol and his team-mates will never forget.

 

He said: "How do I feel? Tired! [He laughs] Today has been like a testimonial for me, riding at the front on the Muurs, with so many people at the roadside enjoying the atmosphere... it was incredible. A great feeling, wonderful. I enjoyed myself. But it was a maximum effort.

 

”When Sagan, Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke bridged across to us from the rear, they were going very fast and I could only try to stay with them and ride my own race intelligently. Until the last moment, I didn't think it feasible to be fighting for a top-ten place or achieving a good result in general. It was an ambition, but until the top of the Paterberg I wasn't confident, not because I wasn't capable of it, but because I had used up so much energy, and behind they were coming up very fast and it is always difficult. In Flanders, the race always comes from behind, and I thought it would be unlikely. 

 

"After that last climb, where I was with Terpstra and the group including Kristoff caught us, I began to hope. In the sprint, I gave it everything. I thought I could get past Van Baarle for 6th place, but I had pretty bad cramp and I could barely turn the pedals.

 

”I have a long journey home now and I want to get back to my family, hug my wife and son, and thank all the people who help and support me, who have made it possible for me to achieve this result: team-mates, the race director, everyone. It is wonderful to have experienced this. Now it is time to rest, savour the result, and turn my thoughts to the Ardennes with Alejandro [Valverde]. They are important races for us and I want to do my job well."

 

Zdenek Stybar: We missed that extra to win

Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra finished 8th, respectively 10th, while Stijn Vandenbergh lit up the race by attacking inside the final 60 kilometers.

 

After the break was established, things chilled down, but not for long, as the first ascent of the day – Oude Kwaremont – came at kilometer 103 and saw Etixx – Quick-Step and Sky push a hard pace in order to stretch the peloton and take the pulse of their opponents. As it's always the case, the crashes played their part in making the selection, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) being the most notable names which were forced to retire. Also Tom Boonen was involved in the pile-up, but he returned to his bike and continued the race, although the aftermath of the crash eventually took its toll on him.

 

With 100 kilometers left, Etixx – Quick-Step was still driving the bunch and it was Tony Martin the one who put the hammer down on Leberg, splitting the peloton. Then, Dimitri Claeys (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana) and Nils Politt (Katusha) attacked and soon joined the escapees, while the mini-pelotons scathered on the road were regrouping. The real race was due to start in the final 60 kilometers, with Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg and Koppenberg expected to play a key role in the outcome, and the team moved with Stijn Vandenbergh, who surged away and had only Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale) take his wheel.

 

Vandenbergh, who was riding his seventh De Ronde, put on a tremendous effort to make contact with the day's escapees and after doing that, he was still very active at the front by doing some strong pulls and helping the group stay away, thus forcing other teams to take responsibility in the chase. On Taaienberg, a group formed, as the pre-race favourites sent their lieutenants at the front before joining them, in a move which contained around 20 men.

 

In the end a bigger group came 49 seconds adrift, and in it there where Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra, who used their last ounce of energy to sprint and notch a top 10 each, the Czech coming 8th, two places ahead of his teammate.

 

Best placed Etixx – Quick-Step rider at the finish, Zdenek Stybar talked about his sensations during the race and of what happened in the key moments: "We gave it all, but unfortunately we missed that extra something we needed to win. When Sagan and Kwiatkowski attacked, you could see that not even Cancellara could close the gap, so that shows how strong the ones at the front were. Everyone could see that we really wanted the win, but we didn't pull it off, although we gave our best.”

 

Niki Terpstra: I was just as good as last year when I was second

His feelings were echoed by Niki Terpstra, last year's second place, who was once again up there, among the protagonists, despite having cramps on the Paterberg: "The race was hard. Iljo, Nikolas and Tony were really great in the first part, so hats off to them. After Cancellara attacked on the Kwaremont, we closed the gap with the help of Stijn, but after Fabian took off on Paterberg there was nothing more to do, especially as the unusual high temperatures led to cramps. We are happy with the fact that the team was strong, as this gives us confidence for next week's Paris-Roubaix.

 

"I'm disappointed because I wanted to win but I think we did our best and could not have done better. We had three leading riders but we all came up short. I am now tenth but the shape is similar to last year when I finished second.”

 

Stijn Vandenbergh: We need to accept that 3-4 riders are better than us

One of the most hard-working riders in the peloton, always ready to sacrifice himself for the team's leaders, Stijn Vandenbergh went into one of the day's main moves before being reeled in. Even after that, he kept pulling hard and helped Terpstra stay in contention: "I attacked early, before the Paterberg, as that was the plan. Van Baarle joined me and we were really strong together. Then, once I got caught, I pulled for Niki and even tried to go alone in the last two kilometers, but the other didn't let me. Still, I am satisfied with the race I did.

 

"The three strongest rode away today. It seemed like a good time to go before the Kwaremont, but I did not have super legs. I felt I got cramps in the last thirty kilometers. The race is not lying.

 

”Indeed, we did a good race. Unfortunately, we miss a few percent. We need us to accept that there are three-four riders who are simply better at the moment.”

 

Tom Boonen: Paris-Roubaix will be a completely different race

“I think the World champion anticipated perfectly, as so many riders wanted to do,” Boonen told Cyclingnews and Sporza “He was really strong today. He was anticipating to win the race. It’s a moment where they often go there. We all expected something to happen there so we were attentive but they just rode away. The best riders were up front.

 

“If you look at the wider picture we can’t complain. We tried to make the race go our way. We weren’t hiding away. The other option was to keep waiting, trying to reach the finale with eight riders but what does it deliver. Everybody wants to anticipate but you have to make the race hard because you can’t ride away just like that. The peloton was split into six or seven groups. That was the moment to do something but we lacked the numbers to keep doing it.

 

"Obviously we were riding ourselves to pieces as well and we ran out of numbers. It was a bit too far to go myself. The race completely stopped and all groups came together. It was all to restart again as it usually does in the penultimate loop. Then it was a matter of waiting for the final Kwaremont.”

 

“It was a spectacular race today. The downside is that you also make it hard for the other teams and in the finale you face in-form riders like Sagan. The way he rode up the Paterberg was a good showcase on how to ride a bike.”

 

“I hurt myself quite a lot [in Demare’s crash], whole day long it bothered me on my wrist, my arm. That was playing in my head. I’m not saying that otherwise I would’ve been able to follow them. Then again, it wasn’t easy. Hopefully I’m not bothered too much by my crash so the build-up towards Paris-Roubaix goes smooth.

 

“That’s a completely different race. We don’t have to race differently. We’ve got to keep doing what we do. We’re doing it well. One day an apple will fall of the tree and if it doesn’t happen then that’s that, at least we tried. It’s a race where team tactics can play out the most, our team especially. We’re not worried.”

 

Etixx-QuickStep: Boonen was better than we thought

Also Tom Steels made an analysis of the 100th Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Spring's second Monument, and even though the team missed on the win, he was satisfied of the way it rode: "Nikolas and Iljo made sure a break will not go in the first 70 kilometers, before finally allowing six riders to jump clear. Tony was another rider to do a fantastic job, which came as proof of how much he has improved since kicking-off his Classics campaign. He attacked, he forced a selection and he set the pace, and that says a lot about his quality on this terrain. We tried to make the race hard, we had a good tactic to which we tried to stick, but others were too strong today in those final kilometers, so that's that."

 

"Yes, I'm disappointed," said manager Patrick Lefevere. "But the strongest wins. We've tried everything but we could not do better. I can live with the result.

 

”Boonen was better than I thought. Hopefully it's even better in Roubaix. We especially hope for better weather."

 

Dimitri Claeys riders to a top 10 on an emotional day for Wanty

After a very hard week Wanty-Groupe Gobert lined up for the Tour of Flanders with Frederik Backaert, Dimitri Claeys, Björn Thurau, Tom Devriendt, Marco Marcato, Jérôme Baugnies, Kenny Dehaes and Kévin Van Melsen.

After an impressive minute of silence and an applause on a packed Bruges Market Square for Antoine Demoitié, Wanty-Groupe Gobert reacted with a fitting salute to Antoine via Dimitri Claeys's ninth place.

“I was very motivated to do something for Antoine and for Daan (Myngheer). We missed the early break but made up for that in the final of the race. Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke were just too strong so I couldn't follow them but then I wanted to sprint as well as I could to get a good result," Claeys declared. 


“Our goal today was to anticipate and Dimitri did just that by riding to the front with Gruzdev when the gap of the breakaway was down to a minute. On the Koppenberg a group gained ground on the leaders fast but we had Marco Marcato well-positioned in that group so that was reassuring," sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren explains the plan of the day. 

“I had hoped Claeys could follow on the Kwaremont but when that isn't possible, I absolutely can't blame him. I am really happy with the entire team, not just with Dimitri. This is a fantastic result after a really tough week." 

Marco Marcato was the team's second rider in the top 25 of the Tour of Flanders. 

“In the final, on Koppenberg, I tried something but it was Peter Sagan himself who closed the gap," Marcato tells his story of the day. 

“Then I waited until Oude Kwaremont. The legs were better than I had anticipated but on Paterberg it was just too much. However, I am happy with today's result. I leave a lot of good riders behind me." 

Wanty-Groupe Gobert's next cycling monument is just around the corner. In seven days the team starts in Paris-Roubaix. 

“Today's race gives me confidence for Paris-Roubaix. I know I can be there in the first 20. Paris-Roubaix is very special. We have a very strong team which is really motivated after a top ten in one of cycling's monuments. We are all a bit more relaxed now, have more confidence and we will improve with every race," Marcato concludes.

 

Four punctures mar the Tour of Flanders for Lars Boom

"I was in the breakaway,” said Astana’s Dmitriy Gruzdev, “to make sure that the other teams were working and my teammates could rest easy in the group"

 

"La Ronde is a unique race in which anything can happen in a very short time. It has great charm and I realized that I can do better in the future.”

 

"The team was good,” explained sports director Stefano Zanini, ”so much that four riders arrived with the best group. We were unlucky with the crash of Andrei Grivko which fortunately had no consequences and Lars Boom also has a puncture in a decisive moment of the race.

 

"I have to thank De Vreese, Gruzdev, Fuglsang and Smukulis for their great work in favor of the team as it allowed us to stay in the top positions of the group over the last 50 km.”

 

"I gave everything I had,” said Belgian Laurens De Vreese, “and I'm glad I had a good race."

 

Boom had four punctures

"But you'd rather use that energy in the finals to follow the best. Now I screwed up my sprint because I no longer had good legs,” he told DeTelegraaf.

 

"I was in good shape. The first three times were not a problem, but the last flat happened in the finale.

 

“If I hadn’t done those efforts, I might have been there on the Oude Kwaremont. Now I missed that gear, because I had closed that gap. So yes, I am frustrated that it happened four times."

 

Greg Van Avermaet and BMC reflect on disastrous Touf of Flanders

The 100th edition of Ronda van Vlaanderen was one that BMC Racing Team had its sights set on from the beginning of the year. A brutal crash brought those hopes crashing down, forcing Greg Van Avermaet, Michael Schaer, Marcus Burghardt and Manuel Quinziato to abandon. Unfortunately that's cycling but there's always another side to the story and  Daniel Oss, Jempy Drucker, Stefan Kueng and Taylor Phinney battled to the end and fly the BMC Racing Team flag. The below updates concern the four riders who crashed out of Ronde van Vlaanderen.

 

Greg Van Avermaet:

Dr Testa: "Greg has a displaced fracture of the right collarbone and otherwise just bruises and bumps all over the body. He didn't have a concussion so he is in decent spirits considering the situation. Greg will have surgery as soon as possible to secure the fracture and speed up his recovery. With surgery done quickly, Greg could plan to be back on the bike in one week and then racing again in six weeks."

 

Van Avermaet: "It's been a bad day for us. I'm really disappointed. What can I say, it was really hard for me to be on the ground. I tried to stand up but when you have something broken it is not possible. I think I need some days to think about it and hopefully I'll come back stronger but for me it's a big disappointment because for me Flanders, Roubaix, Amstel are the most important races of the season and I can't be there. It's not a good situation but I have to handle it and hopefully I'll come back stronger."

 

Michael Schaer:

Dr Testa: "A CT scan has showed that Michael was not seriously injured in the crash. He wasn't concussed but he has a stiff neck caused by whiplash which is causing him pain and he has a knee contusion with a hematoma, as well as general bruises and cuts. He was lucky to escape without any serious injuries. We'll have to wait another 24 to 48 hours before we decide on his recovery and race plan."

 

Schaer: "My knee is pretty swollen and I'm quite sore and stiff in the neck. I was really worried for a while so I'm lucky to be relatively ok. I'll stay in the hotel another day or two and then we'll drain my knee. Paris-Roubaix is my favorite race of the whole season so I hope to be there but at this stage I'm taking things one day at a time."

 

Marcus Burghardt: 

Dr Testa: "Marcus has a contusion on his left knee with a superficial bursitis and a soft tissue hematoma. We will evaluate him in 24 hours to decide the plan of attack but we have some hope that he will recover for Paris-Roubaix."

 

Burghardt: "Im really disappointed as I had the legs and a good feeling today and I couldn't really test myself. I'm not in too much pain but I'm more frustrated about the fact that it was caused by a flying bottle. On cobbles there shouldn't be bottles flying around. If everyone had bottle cages which are tight enough to hold the bottle, we would have avoided the crash altogether. So more than anything I'm disappointed and frustrated but I hope to be back on Sunday."

 

Manuel Quinziato:

Dr Testa: "Manuel has multiple abrasions on his right shoulder, his right elbow and the right thigh. He should be on track to recovery within a week, and hopefully he'll be ready for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday."

 

Quinziato: "I feel really disappointed because when you crash yourself it is bad enough but to bring down the whole team, it feels like one of the worst days in my professional career. I don't feel like it was my fault because it felt like someone knocked my handle bars and that caused me to crash. In terms of my injuries, I'm not in too much pain so I hope I'm going to recover fairly quickly." 

 

Fabio Baldato on Ronde van Vlaanderen:

"After the crash we were lost, in the car and for the four remaining riders. We were all confused but the four riders managed to do a good race. Jempy Drucker and Daniel Oss were supposed to be in the final part with Greg and they showed they could be without Greg, the captain. They tried to fight into the final and I'm satisfied with their performance. For sure we are not happy with how today went but it is like it is, it's cycling. We are without Greg for Paris-Roubaix but we will still have a strong team and I hope that Manuel, Michael and Marcus will be back next Sunday. We'll see what we can do."

 

Four surviving BMC riders reflect on tough Tour of Flanders

It’s pretty cliché to say that out of tragedy comes triumph but the crash that took out half of BMC isn’t the only story.

 

Daniel Oss, Jempy Drucker, Taylor Phinney and Stefan Küng all battled on to cross the finish line in Oudenaarde and each of these four riders has a story to tell. Oss and Drucker showed, as they did at E3 Harelbeke, that they can step up as leaders when they least expect it, coming home to finish in the top 20. Küng raced Ronde van Vlaanderen for the first time and finished, an achievement in itself, particularly when you look at the fact that he raced for the first time this year less than two weeks ago. And for Phinney, Ronde van Vlaanderen marks a personal milestone; his first Monument in two years that even he doubted he could race if you’d asked him last month. All four riders share their Ronde van Vlaanderen experience after the crash that shook things up for BMC Racing Team.

 

Daniel Oss

 

“Of course when you see something like that happen, you feel terrible. It’s the worst possible thing for a team to lose their leader. Before the crash we were feeling good, we had the race under control, but after the crash we still had to focus on the race. 

 

“When Taylor was bringing me back into the bunch after the crash, I was just thinking in my head that we have to organize a new race, a new goal. We were left with only half a team but Jempy and I were going to be the last guys for Greg. So our goal was to try and arrive at the finish in the best place possible. We had to try and conserve more energy because suddenly you are not thinking about working for your leader, but trying to be the leader.

 

“We tried to anticipate what the other big riders would do and then on the last time on the Kwaremont, the race really exploded. It was a disappointing end to the race but in the end we made it to the finish and Jempy and I were still in a good position. We’ll be back for Paris-Roubaix and hopefully we can be aggressive.”

 

Jempy Drucker

"You could see that it was a serious crash and then I was listening to the radio to get some information but it was quite for a long time but then we got the bad news that a lot of the guys were out, and that Daniel and Taylor were on their way back.

 

"Fabio said to Daniel and I that we should try in the final. Honestly I found it difficult to transition from being a big helper for Greg to racing for my own result. To do that switch and think about getting a result during the race after already using a lot of energy isn’t easy. When we got to the Kwaremont for the second time I said now it’s the moment and you have to flick the switch and go for it or help Daniel and fight for a good result.

 

"The plan was for Daniel and I to be with Greg as long as possible to support him in the final, so for Daniel and I to be up there in the final is good for the team. I think if Greg had been there we could have raced more aggressively. It gives me confidence that I can show that I can still be up there when they team needs me.

 

" Paris-Roubaix is a special race and without Greg now it will be different but it’s a race where anything can happen."

 

 

Stefan Küng

"Where the crash happened it was a bit of an easy phase and that’s why we were towards the back of the bunch. Jempy and I were just off to the left of the other guys so we weren’t caught up in it. It is a real shock when your leader and other teammates go down so hard. I saw the crash straight away and saw them flying over their bikes.

 

"We only had a plan A. We didn’t have a plan B. We were all focused on giving everything for Greg and then the crash happened and we heard that the four guys were out. We were only four guys left so we tried to position Daniel and Jempy as best as possible, but it all fell to pieces from there.

 

"It was my second big Classic and my first time racing Ronde van Vlaanderen. It’s pretty special racing 260km. You can’t really kind of train for this, you just need to get it done over and over again but you get stronger. For sure, I’m looking forward to Paris-Roubaix, it’s my favourite race. With Greg out and maybe some of the other guys who crashed, we will see what the plan will be. But now the focus is on recovery and licking any wounds that we have. We will be back on the start line fully motivated for Paris-Roubaix."

 

 

Taylor Phinney

"I picked my bike up and looked at Greg and Michi who were clearly not in the best of shape and I put my bike together and was just waiting in case Greg was going to get back up. Fabio sensed the difficulty of the situation so told me to get back on my bike and go back into the group. I did a big effort to bring Daniel back through the cars into the bunch. I was definitely struggling after the first half of the race and then with the crash and the chase back, I was spent.

 

"It was so intense with the crash and then losing your leader that you’re not really in the frame of mind or capable of thinking about your next move. I was just trying to save as much energy as I could so that I could help Daniel and Jempy.

 

"It rattled everybody from the team. I was thankful that I didn’t hurt myself and that I was able to finish. It’s such a brutal race and not something that I thought I was capable of doing a few weeks ago. For me personally, it was a big milestone, just the fact that I could even finish a race like that. Yesterday I obviously went into it thinking that I was not only going into it to finish but to play a role in helping Greg in the final.

 

"We have Paris-Roubaix this weekend and I think Ronde van Vlaanderen was a good effort to bump me up another level for that and hopefully we can still be up there. Paris-Roubaix is a totally different race but right now I’m just trying to recover from the Ronde van Vlaanderen hangover."

 

Tiesj Benoot in doubt for Roubaix after bad day for Lotto Soudal in Flanders

The one hundredth Ronde van Vlaanderen wasn’t a success for Lotto Soudal. Tiesj Benoot had to abandon the race after a crash. A strong André Greipel moved up to the front, but at the end he couldn’t play the role he wanted. Jürgen Roelandts was the first rider of the team at the finish, he was seventeenth

 

Bad luck for Lotto Soudal just before the race was halfway, in between the Eikenberg and Molenberg. A water bottle fell out of the bottle cage of another rider and Tiesj Benoot couldn’t avoid it. The chances of another strong result for Benoot, who was fifth in his first Ronde last year, were gone. The young Belgian hit his face on the ground. He also has many abrasions on his hands, arms and legs. He had a deep cut on his left elbow which needed to be stitched and his left shoulder is bruised. How long he will be out isn’t sure yet. Next week will be decided if racing is still an option this spring.

 

Lotto Soudal could animate the race thanks to a strong André Greipel who attacked on the Leberg, the sixth of eighteen hills. Together with Nils Politt he bridged to some riders that were left of a break that had been formed after two hours of racing. Greipel remained at the front until the last ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. On that climb Sagan and Vanmarcke – who had joined the front group together with Kwiatkowski – created a decisive gap.

 

More than a minute after Sagan Jürgen Roelandts reached the finish as the first rider of a chasing group of nine riders.

 

Marc Sergeant, sports manager Lotto Soudal said:

 

“This isn’t the result we had hoped for. Ideally Jürgen Roelandts would have been part of the group that sprinted for the fourth place 49 seconds after Sagan. The three strongest men in the race were gone, let that be clear. The last time over the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg it became too much for Jürgen and he lost several positions on those climbs.

 

“The crash of Tiesj Benoot was very bad news for the team. We have to wait what the consequences will be for him.

 

”In the beginning of the race we were really attentive to make sure none of the big teams would have a rider in the breakaway. Lars Bak, Pim Ligthart, Marcel Sieberg and Jelle Wallays took care of that.

 

”Just like in other races this season we wanted to anticipate and hoped that would get us a good result. That’s why André Greipel attacked on the Leberg. He did all he could for the team, just as we know him. It was intended that in the finale he would be able to help a teammate. André was strong, but unfortunately in the last twenty kilometres we had nobody left to get a top result.

 

”It’s a pity how today turned out, but we have to look ahead to the next races: Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. Within the next few days we’ll decide which riders are still fresh enough to start.”

 

Scott Thwaites: I felt I missed an opportunity

The 100th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen did not work out as planned for BORA – ARGON 18. The tactics that André Schulze, the sports director, gave out this morning, was to get in an early breakaway to never get caught on the back foot in the opening stages of the race. But opposite to most races so far, this time it took a very long time until some riders managed to get clear from the peloton. The young Austrian Lukas Pöstlberger was the one to make his move after 80 kilometres of racing. He could open a gap on a very narrow part of the race and was joined shortly afterwards by another 5 riders.

 

So far so good, a well deserved situation for BORA – ARGON 18 after a lot of hard work already done in the first 80 kilometres. But on the Wolvenberg Pöstlberger, who did his first Tour of Flanders, had a puncture and lost all his chances. Really bad luck for him and the team, which therefore had to reorganise tactics afterwards.

 

After some other punctures and crashes, it was just Zak Dempster, Jan Bárta and Andreas Schillinger who were in the peloton and able to support the team leader Scott Thwaites in the last 50 kilometres.

 

After the Taaienberg Peter Sagan and Michal Kwiatkowski made there move, this time joined by Sep Vanmarcke. They bridged the gap to the leading group of 5 men with 24k to go. Again BORA – ARGON 18 had bad luck at this decisive stage of the race. This time Scott Thaites had a puncture. With the help from Andreas Schillinger he was able to get back to the 2nd group of the race including Fabian Cancellara, but had to spend a lot of energy there.

 

Scott Thwaites crossed the line in 20th place - a very strong ride from Thwaites after his puncture in the final, but also from the team with 4 riders finishing the race in Oudenaarde.  

 

“I had good legs today, but it was a hard and frantic race with a lot of crashes. I thought about making a move a little earlier, but was not confident enough to just give it a go. Then when I had the puncture it took some time until I could change the wheel. I had to spend a lot of energy to get back into the group then. 20th place in the Tour of Flanders is a good result. But I feel a little bit like I missed a chance today,” Scott Thwaites said.

 

“I saw that there was another very narrow road ahead and Lotto already positioned themselves. I just could pass them and decided to give it everything I had left in the tank. It was unbelievably hard today until we managed to get clear from the peloton. When we were on the front, everyone was working well together. But when I had the puncture on the Wolvenberg, I lost too much time and my race was more or less over,” said Lukas Pöstlberger.

 

“Today wasn’t really our day. First we had Lukas (Pöstlberger) in the group after a long and hard fight, which was really great. But then he lost all chances after his puncture on the Wolvenberg. I think Scott had really the legs today to score a top 15 result, but after he also had a puncture in the final, he had to spend too much energy to get back into the group. He and Schilli (A. Schillinger), who helped him to get back, really showed strength there. A top 20 result in one of the Monuments is always a good result. But I am sure Scott could have been at least one group further up today,” said Ralph Denk, team manager

 

Jens Keukeleire fights hard for Orica-GreeEDGE in Flanders

Jens Keukeleire has finished 21st in place for ORICA-GreenEDGE in an action packed centenary edition of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

 

The Tour of Flanders certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the hardest races of the season today. Peppered with crashes and attacks, the high average speed gave the race an aggressive edge that did not relent all the way to the finish. The race was won eventually won by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) after a series of repeated attacks in the final 20kilometres.

 

Sports director Laurenzo Lapage was pleased with how the team performed over the course of the long race.

 

“It was such a hard race today, from the beginning it was so fast,” said Lapage. “The boys did a a great job maintaining good positions at the crucial points of the race, everybody knew their roles and stuck to the plan very well.

 

“We had a little bit of bad luck after the Taaienberg when the late breakaway group that Jens (Keukeleire) was in got brought back, but overall I’m happy with how the team performed.

 

“In the end Jens came close to making it into the group that contested the sprint for fourth place but didn’t quite make it.”

 

“The race did not let up for one moment today,” continued Lapage. “Nobody had a chance to relax for 255kilometres, it’s part of what makes it a hard and iconic race.”

 

Oliver Naesen takes over as IAM lose both leaders in Flanders

"I'm happy with this 22nd place,” Oliver Naesen admitted after finishing this year’s Tour of Flanders.  In this famous race that takes place practically in his backyard, the young Naesen found the reserves to stay with the strongest riders and finished as the best placed IAM Cycling member in the monument, which was won impressively by Peter Sagan.  “I am still missing a percentage or two in order to compete with Sagan, Cancellara, and company on those intense final accelerations.  But I’m not really hanging on the ropes.  Considering the crashes and the accelerations required afterward, I paid the price for all those efforts.”

 

“We have not really been rewarded for our efforts, but there is no room for pity at the Tour of Flanders,” Thierry Marich, one of the directeurs sportifs for IAM Cycling at the race, philosophically explained.   “Dries Devenyns had not yet really recovered from his illness. Martin Elmiger crashed hard when he was well-placed at the front of the peloton.  However, I did see that Oliver Naesen is indeed very promising.  He no doubt has a great future at this race ahead of him in the coming years.”

 

“This has really been a festival for cycling purists as I have never seen before at a bicycle race,” enthused Michel Thétaz, CEO of IAM, accompanied by his two sports managers, Rik Verbrugghe and Serge Beucherie.  “You have to relish these moments.  I had already appreciated the beauty of Paris-Roubaix, but the Tour of Flanders is just incomparable.”

 

“I had already lost too much of my strength during the week to hope to be able to produce something special today,” Dries Devenyns regretfully explained.  “In a race of this level, you have to be 100%.  After three hours of racing, I had no strength to follow the moves; my tank was empty.  It did not make sense to continue flogging myself.  I will try to recover and be ready for La Flèche Brabançonne.”

 

Victim of a crash on account of a loose water bottle rolling in his way, Elmiger had to abandon the race after about 120 kilometers with an injured left wrist.  After having had an inconclusive x-ray at the hospital in Oudenaarde, the road captain of IAM Cycling returned to Geneva to undergo further tests at the University Hospitals in Geneva, HUG.  

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen: There is more to come from me

Once again the Tour of Flanders lived up to the pre-race hype, being a nonstop drama filled race. From the gun the pace was on and the pressure in the peloton showed through numerous crashes throughout the day. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders, Mark Renshaw, Nic Dougall and Matt Brammeier all saw their races come to an abrupt end due to crashes.

 

Brammeier's race ended after he gave his bike to Edvald Boasson Hagen, who had broken his in crash out on the small roads of Oudenaarde. With still 130km to go, the peloton only consisted of about 80 riders as the others were trying to pick get back into contention after picking themselves up off the tarmac. The African Team were left with just Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg remaining when they reached the business end of the race.

 

With 75km to go, the race situation had 7 riders up the road by 1'45" with all the favourites in the peloton, Boasson Hagen, Farrar and Janse van Rensburg included. A natural selection took place as the race went over the Oude-Kwaremont first and then the Paterberg for the penultimate time. Boasson Hagen had the South African strongman for company after the Paterberg and there were now just 50 riders left in the race. When the race went over the Koppenberg a small crash forced Janse van Rensburg to get off his bike and run while Boasson Hagen was left chasing the favourites from a smaller group.

 

Boasson Hagen came home with the 3rd select group of the day, in 23rd position and just over a minute down on Sagan. Janse van Rensburg finished with the peloton and Farrar also crossed the line after an extremely difficult edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. 

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen said:
 

“It went okay today but we had a lot of misfortune in a short space of time with a number of crashes and punctures. I had to change bikes and we lost a number of teammates in that moment. I was in a good position for most of the day but I just didn't have the legs for the Kwaremont and Paterberg the final time and that is where I lost the group. More is coming from me so I look forward to the next races. ”

 

Sports directot Jean Pierre Heynderickx said:
 

“It was a really hard Tour of Flanders. There was a big fight to get into the breakaway to start with and then when we came to the middle sector of the race we had to change 3 bikes in the space of 500 meters. So we lost 3 riders there and then we had 3 riders involved in another crash so that was more than 60% of our team out. It is a bit disheartening to have our race affected like this but we will stay motivated for Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix next week.”

 

Arnaud Demare ready for Roubaix after crashing out in Flanders

"As he took a bottle, his front wheel fell into a hole and he could not react. He crashed and was hit by a lot of riders,” FDJ sports director Martkal Gayant told Velopro.net after Arnaud Demare had crashed out of the race.

 

"His parents went to the hospital to recover. Arnaud is disappointed of course but he is not devastated. His participation in Paris-Roubaix is not compromised because he has not broken anything. We have to wait to see how the next two days will go because he may sleep poorly.”

 

Roompot tick off all the boxes in Flanders

Join the early break, play a role in the final and have many riders at the finish in Oudenaarde: Those were the goals for Roompot - Orange Peloton. They reached all of them to some extent.

 

Weslet Kreder was in the break.

 

"We could only get clear after almost two hours at a very high average speed,” he said. “Howmany times did I try? At some point I stopped counting, but it will certainly have been ten attempts." 

 

There was bad luck for Kreder, with a puncture on the cobblestones of the Paddestraat which took him out of the break.

 

“It’s a shame after all the work in those early stages. I could certainly have been there longer.” 

 

Pieter Weening was the most important rider in the next phase. In his debut in this "monument" the veteran attacked after the Koppenberg. 

 

"I felt good and wanted to build up some margin for the moment the big favorites would go full gas," Weening said. "When Sagan, Cancellara and Vanmarcke came, I had to let them go. All that attacking in the first two hours of the race broke on me." 

 

Asked whether Weening had enjoyed his first appearance in the Tour of Flanders, he said: "Not really, I've never really been a fan of all those cobblestones. Amstel and Liège are my races."

 

Weening managed to reach the finish which is important for the classics which follow later this month. He finished 92th. Sjoerd van Ginneken (47th) was the first rider from the team of Erik Breukink and Michel Cornelisse.

 

“On the Koppenberg I had to step off the bike because someone crashed in front of Berden de Vries and me. We were still well in the race until that moment. I am happy to see that. It went well. It requires less effort to be there in the deep finales and that is a sign that I am getting better. It’s good, because this is the race that I am doing it all for." 

 

Berden de Vries finished, despite great pain from his injuries sustained in a crash at the Three Days of De Panne, as 59th.  Jesper Asselman (106th) and Michel Kreder (115th) also reached the finish.

 

Difficult day for Giant-Alpecin in Flanders

The first rider to finish for Team Giant-Alpecin in a group 7’19” minutes behind the leader, was Roy Curvers in 65th place, closely followed by Bert de Backer, Zico Waeytens and Ramon Sinkeldam in 67th, 87th & 93th respectively.

Roy Curvers gave his thoughts after the race: “It was an extremely hard race today. We went for our chances but we weren’t particularly lucky in that. Overall the result is a bit disappointing but the team kept on fighting which was good.”

 

Zico Waeytens said: “I am quite satisfied today with my performance. I ended being behind three crashes and I had to spend a lot of energy in chasing back to the main bunch. After that, the team’s tactics had to change slightly and I went on the attack before the Koppenberg, which provided me with good position for the finale in the decisive part of the race. At the Taaienberg the favourites attacked and I wasn’t able to follow them. I switched my focus towards a best possible result at that moment. Now I will recover and I look forward to racing at my first Paris-Roubaix next weekend.”

 

Ramon Sinkeldam gave his verdict on the race: “Until the Eikenberg, the race was going very well. Zico and Koen were caught up and delayed by a crash and we had to work hard to catch up with the peloton. I did my best to protect Zico for as long as possible until the Kwaremont and I think it worked out in a good way.

 

“Overall, I am quite pleased with my fitness level at the moment and I think I am well prepared for next week with races on Wednesday and Sunday coming up.”

 

Koen de Kort explained how the race went for him: “I was feeling good today. From the start, I was very focused on having a good performance and I had strong legs during the race. After 120km, I crashed and landed on my head but I managed to continue despite having a headache. However, during the feed zone, it wasn’t a good idea to continue anymore and we took the safe option for me to abandon the race.

 

“I was examined by the doctor, and I don’t have a concussion which is positive news. I expect I will recover in time for Paris-Roubaix next weekend.”

 

Only debutant makes it to the finish for Lampre-Merida in Flanders

The determination of Federico Zurlo represented the whole LAMPRE-MERIDA's performance in the Tour of Flanders.

The twenty-two years old, who was participating for the first time in the Belgian Classic, honoured the blue-fuchsia-green jersey in the first part of the race. The situation in the early kilometers was open since no breakaway attempts succeeded for a long time.
 

Finally, after 80km of the race, Zurlo succeeded in escaping from the peloton. Zurlo was dropped with 100km to go and he tried hard to stay in the main group as long as he could but had to surrender with 50km to go.
 

Despite his tiredness and cramps, Zurlo managed to finish his first Tour of Flanders, crossing the finish line in 104th place at 12'48".
 

No other LAMPRE-MERIDA riders finished the race: Xu Gang and Chun Kai Feng (first Chinese and first Taiwanese to participate in the Tour of Flanders) honored the race by trying to join the breakaway attempts in the early part of the race; Pibernik crashed after 120km (bruises and contusions).

"I always dreamt of participating in the Tour of Flanders, so the feelings I had when I was at the start in the Market Square in Bruges for the start were unbelievable,” Zurlo explained. “I succeeded in turning these feelings into energy, which allowed me to battle in the early kilometers and to be in the main breakaway when, finally, we could escape from the peloton. It was such a great feeling when I realized I was in the leading group!
 

”The course did not reserve moments to recover energy. When the peloton raised the rhythm, my presence in the front of the race was over, but my race was not over: my goal was to reach the finish.
 

”Thanks to the backing from the sports directors, I could go beyond cramps and the lack of energy and I completed the race.

 

”I'm so tired, but to have these emotions is a unique experience ahead of Paris-Roubaix.”

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