Maarten Wynants from the Quick Step team was a happy man at the finish of stage one in Brussels, even though he rode all day in a breakaway only to be caught nine kilometres away from the finish line by a raging peloton.
Wynants was part of a three-rider escape which got off as soon as the start flag was waved. The 28-year-old followed when Dutchman Lars Boom (Rabobank) jumped, accompanied by Alan Perez (Euskaltel). "It wasn't really planned to break away today, but Lars Boom came to me before the start and asked if I wanted to go on a breakaway with him. I said, 'Why not?'," Wynants recalled at the finish.
The Belgian had a great time racing in front, he said, as conditions on his home roads were perfect and the crowds had flocked to cheer them on. Moreover, Wynants' wife and daughter were at the border from the Netherlands to Belgium, in the town of Puttekappelle, waiting for him as he entered his home country.
"Of course, I knew that when the gap got to seven minutes and started coming down again that it would be very hard to hold off the bunch in the finale," he said. "But it was still a great feeling to ride through Belgium with so many spectators alongside the road."
The sprinters' teams were putting on a fast pace as the finish in Brussels was the first opportunity for them to organise a bunch sprint. Even though it was clear to Wynants his odds of remaining away weren't great, he didn't discount the possibility of winning the stage.
"You have to use every opportunity to go in an escape. Maybe in five days, you could also win in a break. Of course, it's not possible to try it every day. But today seemed a good moment."
On top of getting precious TV time for his Belgian team on home roads, Wynants attacked several times in the finale as he had a red back number on his mind. "In the end, I wanted to take a maximum advantage of my day out, and hoped to get the prize for the most combative rider by attacking once again. It worked!"