Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) crossed the line in eighth place at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday but it could have been a different story had he not flatted in the final 20 kilometres.
One of the leading protagonists in the 210 kilometre Classic, the Dane made the final selection of riders on the day’s final climb, and with a strong sprint he stood a good chance of picking up his second victory in a week, after he won Dwars door Vlaanderen.
“It’s shit but that’s what happens in cycling,” he told Cyclingnews. “It’s part of the game.”
Breschel skipped yesterday’s E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke and showed his freshness and form throughout today’s race. He was the first rider to breach the gap to Daniel Oss and Maxim Iglinskyi (Astana) with around 50 kilometres to go. He then dropped everyone on the final ascent of the Kemmelberg, and although he carved out a small gap, he sat up and waited for the rest of the favourites.
He was joined by Daniel Oss (Liquigas), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia), Sep Vanmarke (Topsport-Vlaanderen), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Maxim Iglinskyi (Astana), Alexandr Kuchynski (Liquigas) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank).
The leaders sped towards Wevelgem but disaster struck when Breschel punctured. The Dane was forced to wait for a new wheel and but as the leaders disappeared from view, so did his chances of clinching victory.
He was joined by another group including team-mate Baden Cooke, Christian Knees (Milram), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) and Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone) but despite Cooke’s heroic efforts to close the gap it was all for nothing.
“I still felt I had some power left and we tried to close the gap but after I had a puncture they went flat out at the front so I couldn’t get back on,” he said. “Cooke did great for me and tried to close the gap.”
Despite the disappointment, Breschel will still head into Flanders and Roubaix as one of the favourites.
“I felt good today so it’s a pity but anyway I’m good and I’ll be there for next week,” he said. “I’m confident ahead of next week. I feel better and better and I feel I have some power on the cobbles.”
Breschel will also need to balance his own ambitions with those of team-mate and winner of E3, Fabian Cancellara, who has repeatedly said he wants to win Flanders for the first time year. “We have to see, be honest, talk together and stay loyal,” he said.