What a difference a year makes. Last season, Chris Lawless (Team Sky) had been delighted to make the podium at Scheldeprijs, but on Wednesday he finished frustrated with his third place. Another podium finish, after a tough race against some strong sprinters, was something to be happy about, but the Briton was disappointed he had not been able to convert better form into a better result.
"It's always nice to be on the podium and third two years in a row sounds good but after getting third last year I wanted a bit more," Lawless told Cyclingnews after visiting the podium in Schoten.
"Unfortunately, it was the same result. I'm going better than I was last year and I think I rode it technically a bit better than last year, and that's just the way of the sport. Sometimes you can do everything better in the race and finish last, but it's just one of them things."
Though he had been on the podium last season, Lawless was due to be looking after the team's new signing Kristoffer Halvorsen, who had finished second to Pascal Ackermann at the Bredene Koksijde Classic at the end of last month. However, the plans had to change when the Norwegian crashed in the echelons that batted most of the race. Lawless was ready to pick up the mantle as soon as he'd heard that his teammate had left the race.
"Originally, at the start of the day, we were going for Halvorsen and when he crashed, and we heard on the radio that he'd pulled out I slotted back into ‘let's look towards the finish now and let's try to do one or two better than last year'," he explained. "My mindset for the start of the race this year was pretty much the same compared to last year. You've got to ride in the wind to save energy because you've got to be in that front echelon the whole time.
"The lads rode really well and kept me out of trouble. I think we didn't have as many guys as some teams in the front but it's just one of them things. Sometimes you don't have the guys there, even if they've done their race perfectly it only takes a cross drop in front of you and you lose quite a few places and then you're out of that front echelon and it could be day over. We were a bit unlucky that we only had me and Gianni [Moscon], [Ian] Stannard and [Owain] Doull coming into the circuits."
Stannard guided the team around the first of two local laps before Doull took over on the cobbles at the start of the second. Moscon was the last man standing for the team, and he put in a big effort on the front as they approached the final kilometre. It looked like it might have been a late attack from the Italian, but Lawless explained that he had been trying to move him into the best position for the sprint.
"He was moving up to try and help me, but as he was doing it I just got a bit squeezed off the wheel," said Lawless. "That was it for him, that was his day done after that effort. He did a really good job. It's just a shame I couldn't go two better for the lads."