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Campenaerts' teeth: One chipped and 58 on his chainring

Victor Campenaerts chips a tooth at Dwars door Vlaanderen
Victor Campenaerts chips a tooth at Dwars door Vlaanderen (Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)

'Tooth' was the word of the day for Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) at Dwars door Vlaanderen. He had 58 of them on his chainring and he broke one in his own mouth.

Campenaerts crossed the line in fourth place in Waregem on Wednesday, appearing in front of the media zone with a chipped front tooth.

He hadn't done all the damage out there in the Flemish Ardennes, revealing that he'd first broken the tooth in a crash six years ago. However, the cut and thrust of cobbled classics racing proved too much for a false tooth that was already out of date.

"In 2016, I had a crash in the Tour de Romandie and they did a repair," Campenaerts explained. "They said it would hold for five years. It held for six…"

As for the chainring, Campenaerts went big. He turned up to the start in Roeselare with as many as 58 teeth on the ring, with most riders using a 56 and Tom Pidcock - who beat him to the final spot on the podium - using a 53.

The chainring was non-sponsor compliant, made by Rotor and thrust into an otherwise Shimano Dura-Ace 12-speed groupset. It was attached to a Dura-Ace crank but the Rotor logos on the ring were taped over. He also had a heavily waxed chain and his customary narrow handlebar set-up.

"Mr Aero," was how Tom Pidcock referred to him after the race.

Pidcock and the winner Van der Poel both commented on Campenaerts' chainring, picking up on the fact that he had used the descents to attack.

While they found themselves spinning into high cadences on the descents, Campenaerts was still able to push power through the pedals and attacked repeatedly in the final 20km.

"I was going full gas and he was just riding away from me," Pidcock said, wondering if he had a slipstream from a motorbike before being told about the chainring. "Ah well, that's why. I was on a 53."

As for Van der Poel, he knew already. Having spent plenty of time training in the same corner of southeast Spain in recent weeks, he was familiar with Campenaerts' tech hacks and read his intentions.

"I already knew he was going to do it at that point. I was with him in Spain," Van der Poel said. "He's riding a 58, he always attacks in downhills and he did so again today."

Attacks

In the end, the chainring didn't take Campenaerts to victory. He made the critical selection on Berg Ten Houte with 70km to go but things simply didn't fall his way on a tactical run-in to Waregem.

The Belgian made his first attack on the way down from the Nokereberg, slipping away quietly but being dragged back 2km later. He tried again after the final climb of the Holstraat with 8km to go, sailing clear on the descent. After a couple of kilometres, he was joined by Pidcock and Benoot, and he went once again as soon as things had started to come back together, going clear with Benoot.

He was brought back again 2km from home, at which point Pidcock launched the final failed attack before Benoot went clear, Van der Poel followed and the pair went to the line together. Campenaerts produced a strong sprint but was just outkicked by Pidcock for the final podium spot.

"I had the legs to maybe win but you also need a bit of luck," Campenaerts told reporters. "I have to say I'm quite disappointed not to make it onto the podium. My sprint was just not good enough to beat Pidcock."

Campenaerts revealed that he'd ignored team orders in the finale, choosing to follow his instincts to attack rather than waiting for the prescribed moment.

"I am a bit against the tactics of sports director Nikolas Maes. He had told me that I was only allowed to attack after Van der Poel had gone twice. I felt good and couldn't wait," Campenaerts said.

Campenaerts had made a big target of races like Dwars door Vlaanderen, which was only 184km in length. Having spent most of his career as a time triallist, he is more pessimistic about his chances in a 250km Monument like Sunday's Tour of Flanders but, having been blighted by bad luck so far this spring, he finally got to test his legs to the full.

"I saw I have good legs. I have the shape to follow the best riders on the hills. Let's see what gives after 200km on Sunday."

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.