“You weren’t the Frenchman we expected and you weren’t the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider we expected, but you got that victory,” the Vuelta a España commentator observed to stage 13 winner Florian Sénéchal, after the 28-year-old snatched a unexpected but utterly well-deserved victory in Friday’s chaotic bunch sprint.
Best known as a Classics rider, Sénéchal is currently building for the World Championships and Paris-Roubaix at the Vuelta a España this year.
Sénéchal revealed to reporters after his stage victory that he is also the Belgian team’s Plan B for Vuelta bunch sprints when double stage winner Fabio Jakobsen is not feeling on top of his game, or as may have been the case on Friday, has a mechanical or flat tyre.
“He radioed through to me with two kilometres to go to say he wasn’t going to be able to go for it, and that I had my chance,” Sénéchal said minutes after adding his first-ever Grand Tour stage win to the two northern semi-Classics already in his palmares. "He said on the radio he had a flat tyre or something and said 'Florian you can sprint'.
“So, I eased back as best I could and then went for it at about 200 metres from the line.”
Second in the E3 Harelbeke Classic this spring, Sénéchal said he had done a lot of sprint training over the summer to try and be in form “for the Vuelta and from there for the Worlds and Roubaix," he said.
“I’m also surprised I won, we were all expecting Fabio to be there. But this is my reward for all my hard work.”
Sénéchal explained that although there are a large number of sprinters in the Deceuninck-QuickStep roster, he still has his options when it comes down to a mass dash for the line.
“Fabio is maybe the fastest of us all, then [Mark] Cavendish and [Sam] Bennett, Davide Ballerini … I’m maybe the fourth or fifth. In terms of pure numbers I’m less strong than a Fabio or Ballerini or Alvaro Hodeg, for example.
“But it all depends on how the race plays out and in a Classic I can be fast,” he concluded. And to judge from Friday’s finish, in the Vuelta a España as well.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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