Ciao Cyclingnews readers. I’m at home now and it is recovery time after a busy weekend of racing that saw me pick up two top-ten results in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne for my Quick-Step Floors team.
The main focus for the next couple of days is rest and that’s given me the chance to look back at the Opening weekend and think about my performances.
Overall, I would say that I’m about 70 per cent happy with how things went. I took ninth in Omloop but it could have been better had I not been caught up near the back of the peloton at the wrong moment. It meant that I spent too long, and too much energy, trying to make it back to the lead group and once you’re on the back foot in the Classics it’s almost impossible to make it back and then leave an impression on the race. In the end, after a long chase, I made it back just before Peter Sagan attacked.
I couldn’t go with him and that was that. That’s the nature of a lot of these races. When you watch a race on television you see the front of the race but it’s so tough when you miss a move and you really, really pay for that, whether you make it back or not. You don’t always see the frantic chase, the efforts you need to make, and they can be just as brutal on your body as what’s going on at the front.
In Kuurne I came away with fifth and of course that could have been a better result but what I will say is that I tried to win that race. If you look at the composition of the break I was probably the fastest sprinter, on paper, after Sagan but when he opened his sprint it was ‘Ciao... see you later’. We were sprinting for another race by the time he crossed the line.
Coming into the finale I was actually pretty confident. On the radio I was being told to wait for the sprint but Sagan was just playing with us and I had the feeling that some of the riders were racing to finish second, rather than to win. So when we arrived into the final 2000 metres and no one was attacking I thought that if no one was willing to make a move it was because they didn’t have the legs. I thought that if I attacked then everyone would just watch Sagan and that I would get my chance if he didn’t chase me. It didn't work out but at least I tried.
If I’d waited for the sprint I probably held an 80 per cent probability of taking second. But it’s in my nature to try and my instinct always tells me that it’s better to try and end up with fifth than to not try and take second. For the team, maybe it would have better to have had a spot on the podium, but for me to be in the action for two days in a row, I’m happy with that, and I’ll take that confidence and form into my next races.
A dynamic team
As a team, we didn’t come away with the big win but I think that only shows one side of what happened over the weekend. What I saw was a Quick-Step Floors team that worked well together, that had some bad luck, but showed fight and character to bounce back and rally on Sunday.
I thought that we were really dynamic in Kuurne and we’re not far from being at our complete best. In Kuurne, we made the split, we made the group and we took our chances. In the end we were the only squad that tried to win as a team.
Hats off to both Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan for their victories. It must be said that they rode intelligently and the strongest guys won. It’s great for cycling that we have riders like them in our sport. Peter’s level is obviously incredible but he’s been at that peak for two years now. He and Greg are special because they can win everywhere. You can see them winning mountain stages one day and then the next day they’re winning at the Olympics or at the Euros, or on the cobbles. As a cycling fan - and I’m one of them too - that excellent to see.
At Quick-Step Floors we have great riders too and the Classics are a long campaign. Over the next couple of months we are going to fight all the way and next for me in the beautiful race: Strade Bianche. I’m already excited about racing on the dirt roads and giving my all with my teammates. For now though, it’s about rest and recovery.