After a troubled 2011 season due to a knee and hand injuries Danish classics specialist Matti Breschel (Rabobank) is back in the peloton and riding the races he loves. Two years after making his breakthrough victory in semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen and being one of the protagonists in the Tour de Flanders he’s back in business.
After tackling the semi-classic E3-Prijs Harelbeke it is clear that the 27-year-old from Ballerup is back at a high level although it seems like he lacks the final edge to keep up with the best on the key obstacles. Nevertheless he’ll be a man to take into account for the upcoming Monuments, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
In the finale of the E3-Prijs Harelbeke there were three Rabobank riders present, Breschel, Lars Boom and Dennis van Winden. TV images showed that Breschel received a hand-swing from a teammate in the final kilometer which eventually only helped him up to eleventh place at the finish line in Harelbeke.
“I f*cked it up. I was too far behind,” Breschel said.
Much earlier on the Taaienberg where it is known that Tom Boonen tends to test his legs, Breschel wasn’t among the group of riders that joined the eventual Belgian winner.
“I didn’t fight enough for my position. I was just a few places too far behind. We closed the gap. In the beginning you think it’s over but you have to keep up the morale and let the race come to you,” Breschel said.
Eventually the Taaienberg didn’t prove to be decisive and a large peloton arrived at the foot of the Oude Kwaremont. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) set the pace in front at first with Boonen, Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan) and Breschel keeping things under control around fifth place.
“On the [Oude] Kwaremont I stayed in front and then Cancellara attacked.” The acceleration from Spartacus came halfway up the long cobbled climb in the village of Kwaremont. Boonen, Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda), Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia) followed swiftly while Van Avermaet and Breschel had to let go of the top guns. Even though things got back together eventually this wasn’t what Breschel hoped for one week ahead of the Ronde. Two years ago he was the man in the frontline hurting the others on a climb like the Koppenberg and now things are the other way around.
“Maybe I’m better than two years ago and the others guys are much, much better. There’s not much you can do right now. You’re not going to get an extra 10 to 15 per cent,” Breschel said.
Pointing out that there is not much else to do now other than rest, Breschel had one more factor that could turn in his favor and that was the weather.
“Mostly the problems with races in good weather is that everybody is more fresh. It makes it easier for most guys to come to the finale. If there’s a little more wind or if it’s colder, they would stay away for good then.”
“That’s cycling. You cannot change the weather. It’s the fifth time I do this race in such good weather. It’s nice but for racing I prefer a little bit more wind. It makes it easier for most of the favorites. It was sunny weather when I won Dwars door Vlaanderen [in 2010] but there was a lot of wind. It’s just easier to make the selection when there’s a little bit more wind. It’s also the reason why there were so many guys together for the sprint at the finish in Harelbeke.”