Neo pro Julien Vermote (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) earned the overall victory at the Three Days of West Flanders on Sunday after assuming the team captaincy when his teammate and stage 1 winner, Michal Kwiatkowski crashed, and fell out of contention.
Vermote sat only four seconds behind Kwiatkowski going into the final stage and initially was assigned to work to protect the lead of the Pole. But on a wind and rain-swept Flanders course, Kwiatkowski fell and crashed while cornering a roundabout, and Vermote was given a free role and ensured the overall title remained within Omega Pharma-Quickstep hands.
Vermote was up to the task, finishing with the peloton and sealing the overall title, but it was a bittersweet victory for the Belgian who acknowledged that it should've been Kwiatkowski standing in his place.
"I really didn't expect to win the race," Vermote said. "I'm really sad for Michal, he didn't win only because of bad luck - not through lack of strengths. But we are a fantastic team here. Everybody sacrificed themself for the team result. In any case I'm happy I can prove my skills."
Francesco Chicchi, who took out stage 2 in a field sprint also crashed on the wet roads, but testament to the depth of the Belgian outfit even undermanned were able to settle the overall title unperturbed.
Omega Pharma-Quickstep has taken an impressive 16 wins on the road this year with eight different riders.