By Brecht Decaluwé in Meerbeke
Three times runner-up and favourite Leif Hoste encountered bad luck during the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Belgian was riding in the lead group and in a strong position with a team-mate to help, but thanks to a mechanical, the 30-year-old Belgian was brought to a standstill at the foot of the Steenbeekdries, a critical point in the race with 64 kilometres to go. Hoste threw away his bike and couldn't be helped by team-mate Johan Van Summeren who waited for his leader.
"My derailleur came into my rear wheel," Hoste explained. "If you feel that you are still able to do something in the race, then such an incident is frustrating. I felt I had the legs to win today, but there were a lot of guys with legs to win the Ronde." There were a couple of occasions where Hoste seemed to be returning to the peloton behind the breakaway, but repeated accelerations in the group ahead lengthened the chase for Hoste.
Hoste, his nose buried in the task at hand, had no idea what was transpiring up ahead. "Afterwards I heard about that, but I didn't see it. I only saw the rear wheel of the guy in front of me," he explained. "The team was super strong, and thanks to them I could come back to the peloton."
By the time the Belgian made it back to the group, Devolder, Nuyens and Flecha were already battling for the victory. "And by then my best arrows had been fired away, I only had broken ones left," Hoste joked. Eventually the Silence-Lotto rider finished 19th in the group that sprinted for fourth place at 21" from winner Stijn Devolder. But the resilient rider took the setback in stride, and looked forward to the races ahead. "There's another chance next week," he concluded.