It was testament to Matej Mohoric’s ability that, on the front cover of the sport pull-out for the weekend edition of Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, there was space for his face as part of one of the longest roll of favourites for the Tour of Flanders in recent years. Inside, however, they noted that the Bahrain-Merida rider often kills his own chances by racing like “a headless chicken”. By Sunday evening, they had been proved not far wide of the mark.
Mohoric, a rider who doesn’t seem to possess a back foot, repeated his aggressive Gent-Wevelgem display with another scatter of speculative attacks at De Ronde on Sunday.
He was up front when the peloton split on the Muur van Geraardsbergen with 100 kilometres to go and put in frequent accelerations as the race situation hung in the air. If that wasn’t necessarily so surprising, what he did next was. He left the group behind with 75 kilometres to go, embarking on a solo mission that would last 10 kilometres.
Having been caught, Mohoric was later dropped from the main group of contenders when the race ignited in the build-up to the final climbs of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. He crossed the line in 41st place.
“I think today I was too excited and I spent too much energy with those attacks,” Mohoric told Cyclingnews, summarising his day.
There were, however, mitigating circumstances. When he went solo, he initially thought the four-man breakaway was still up the road, whereas they had in fact been caught by his own group after the Muur.
“I tried to go on the attack after the Muur in order anticipate a bit, but I didn’t know the peloton caught the breakaway back. I didn’t know the peloton was getting back close to the front," he said. "That’ s why I tried on my own, because I thought there would be no cohesion in the back, and I thought some guys would come with me, but I was wrong.”
Aggression seems to be hardwired into Mohoric’s DNA, from which conservatism and calculation seem almost entirely absent. It’s great to watch, but the former junior and U23 world champion admitted he may need to tweak his approach in the future.
“I regret doing those attacks. I think it was too early. I spent too much energy and I didn’t have the legs to stay with the best guys in the finale. Everything counts in a race like this,” he said.
“For sure, I need to rein it in in the future. I have to learn all those things and use this experience to my advantage.”
Nevertheless, there has been more than enough encouragement for Mohoric over the past couple of weeks in what has been his first crack at the cobbled Classics. While the decision making will improve over time, he showed he has the raw strength and ability on this kind of terrain to be competitive in the future.
“I think I will be back next year,” he said. “It would be a dream to win this race one day.”