Patrick Lefevere's Etixx-QuickStep team missed out on the podium in the first of the cobbled classics on Wednesday, Dwars door Vlaanderen. In a reaction after the race the talkative Belgian manager raged over the behaviour of the motorbikes late in the race. He also evaluated his own riders' performance in Waregem, Belgium.
The team was ever-present on Wednesday but that did not translate to a result. The breakaway move with their rider Nikolas Maes was caught by a small peloton at approximately 10 kilometres from the finish. Niki Terpstra worked hard to bring back a strong solo effort from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). The latter was caught in the final kilometre and a bunch sprint would decide the winner.
The Belgian team's dedicated sprinter Fernando Gaviria was present to bounce back from his late crash in Milan-San Remo but he started his sprint way too early into the headwind and only managed a 10th place, far behind winner Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal).
"Debusschere comes out of the slipstream. It's lack of experience from Gaviria and he also rode 300 kilometres last weekend. Next year this won't happen again," Lefevere said.
Gaviria showed a lot of promise in his recent one-day races. He was still present in the final kilometres of Milan-San Remo, and also very strong on the Taaienberg, a key climb in many Flemish one-day races.
Lefevere was convinced he had gold in his hands.
"He's a rider that others will have a lot of trouble with, I'm convinced about that," Lefevere said. "Having him in our team is my gain. These will become his races, I think. He really kicks on these races. He'll also race Wevelgem and then he'll take a break at home. Then the build-up to Rio starts. It's good for a track rider to ride on the road. The workouts are the same. He'll also do a stage race but I don't know which one."
When asked by Cyclingnews whether that would be the Tour of California, Lefevere confirmed. "He'll do California and before that maybe [4 jours de] Dunkerque."
Lefevere also gave Terpstra and Maes good points while Lukasz Wisniowski was excused due to a mechanical and lack of course knowledge. Tony Martin received no pardon and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck clearly needs to up his game.
"A few riders were not on the level where they were expected to be. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck really needs to be in the moves. Tony wasn't good. Wisniowski flatted at a very bad moment on the cobbles in Ename. He had to chase a very long time. He lacks course knowledge, too. You need to ride here a couple of times before you know it.
"Terpstra had a cold but he's getting over it. He rode well, bringing Gaviria to the front and pulling for one kilometre and a half. Gaviria should not have been in second position but in fourth or fifth. Tom Steels [team director sportif] was shouting to drop back but Tom's Spanish was probably not good and Gaviria's English is quite poor. On the bus he was sighing. I told him he was in front too early, especially if you see that Debusschere comes back from 10th position. He said he knew it. My Spanish is very well: más, más, más," Lefevere said, while laughing.
For Yves Lampaert the build-up to the Spring Classics is proving to be difficult. He had to call off his participation in the Belgian opening weekend due to a fracture in sternum from a crash in the Tour of Algarve. Wednesday he wasn't allowed to start in Dwars door Vlaanderen after a decision from the team's doctor, Yvan Vanmol.
Lampaert has an inflamed Achilles tendon after his girlfriend hit his heel with a supermarket cart on Monday.
"He had a Lidl accident," Lefevere joked, referring to the team's supermarket sponsor Lidl. "He shouldn't have been in the supermarket with his girlfriend on Monday but on his couch. His girlfriend ran into his heel. Vanmol said it wasn't possible to ride with it. It's a rider we're missing here. He asked not to ride in San Remo to be good here."
Before talking about his riders Lefevere was raging about what happened in the race during the final kilometres. In his opinion Van Avermaet was riding in the slipstream of the motorbikes from the TV and photographers.
"The final part of the race was falsified," Lefevere said shortly after the race at the Etixx-QuickStep team bus in Waregem. "The VRT [race broadcaster] is allowed to be a fan of Van Avermaet but at one point there's four or five motorbikes ahead of him. Niki was pushing more than 400 watts but still he was riding away. The gap was quickly growing. Our friend Tim De Waele too. Do they have to take photographs in the final kilometres?
"A camera has to drive behind the rider, not in front of him. That's always the case. Luckily he was caught back, otherwise I would've been more pissed. I've got nothing against Van Avermaet, not at all, he's a world-class rider and he doesn't ask for it but it was over the top. The motorbikes shouldn't have been there.
"The jury was there but didn't act. They're as stupid as they come. There should be a jury telling the motorbikes what to do, or a regulator. Then they'll say it's a big lens but I'm not cross-eyed. The riders were saying it too. Niki was screaming: 'man, I'm pushing 440 watts and he's riding away.'"
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