The Classics can be a cruel mistress and Tony Gallopin took a beating when he crashed heavily during E3 Harelbeke last week. Several days on, the Frenchman is still feeling the after-effects but he hopes to overcome his injuries as he targets the Tour of Flanders for the first time in three years.
Gallopin came down after just 30 kilometres of racing at E3 Harelbeke last Friday, landing hard on his left side. There were immediate concerns about potential broken bones but fears were allayed after a trip to the hospital. While there was no serious injury, there were lingering effects of such a heavy meeting with the tarmac.
"I really paid for my crash at Harelbeke. I was blocked everywhere. The body was fucked, the legs were fucked, the back, everything was," Gallopin told Cyclingnews during the Three days of De Panne.
"At first, after my crash, I was caring about my knee and my wrist, but after a couple of days, I felt better. Then it was more about the body because my back was completely blocked. It's something that I didn't expect. This can happen after a crash. You think that you're okay but then the race is different. I don't think that it is anything too bad, there are still some days until Flanders."
A Classic change
Gallopin has been targeting the Ardennes Classics since his tenure with the Lotto Soudal team began back in 2014. Some promising results came, such as sixth at the following year's Amstel Gold race but he believes that he lacked the punch that he needed to truly succeed in the Ardennes and that the cobbles would be a better place to put his efforts.
"I really liked it when I did it before with RadioShack in my first year," said Gallopin. "I also did some good results in the climbers Classics like San Sebastian and the World Championships, so I spoke with the team and the team for Flanders was really strong, so I said why not try the Ardennes Classics for one or two years.
"I tried my best and I did some good results, but I know that I'm missing something for the climbs compared to the best. Now I'm back in Flanders, I think that the racing is more open, more riders can go for the victory. I really like it with this team and the big motivation that we have and the good riders. It's much better."
During his career, Gallopin has ridden the Tour of Flanders three times, scoring a 24th, 23rd and a DNF during his appearances. He will, however, go in as one of three potential leaders for Lotto Soudal, with Tiesj Benoot and Jurgen Roelandts in the line-up for the Belgian team. Gallopin admits that he will have to be on the top of his game if he has any chance of making the podium at the weekend.
"I'm not a big favourite, so I have to be 100 per cent to go for the victory or the podium. I will see now. I hope to be 100 per cent for Sunday," he said.
"As a team, we don't have a big favourite, but I think that we have a couple of guys who can do a good result. I think that tactically we have to be up there and then we will see if it is an open race. It's a long, hard race, so we have to be lucky like we haven't been in the last few races, where we've had punctures, crashes and all sorts of problems. I hope that everything goes well on Sunday and that everybody has a chance to be good."