Yves Lampaert had to settle for second place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and while he conceded Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) was the stronger in the two-up sprint in Ninove, he was nevertheless frustrated and disappointed not to have won for his Deceuninck-QuickStep team.
In particular, he’d wanted to honour the work of his teammate Tim Declercq, who joined him in the seven-man move that went to the finale from all of 75 kilometres out.
Declercq’s usual role at QuickStep is to bash out kilometres on the front of the bunch in the early phases, hence the nickname 'El Tractor'. Here, however, he found himself with a ticket to the finale.
Not that any delusions of grandeur were allowed to sneak in. "Yves, this isn't your first time in the finale. Tim, you work for Yves," came the swift orders from the team car.
And so Declercq flogged himself all the way to the foot of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, where Lampaert went away with Stuyven and Soren Kragh Andersen. Remarkably, Declercq recovered to overhaul Mike Teunissen on the run-in to Ninove and take fifth place – his first top 10 finish in a Classic.
"I am particularly sorry after all the work that Tim did for me," Lampaert told the Flemish press in Ninove. "That guy rode a mighty mighty powerful race. Then you want to finish it off, don't you?”
As for Declercq, he was, naturally, thinking about his teammates rather than himself.
"It’s a pity that in the end there was one person that was just that little bit stronger, but we took the race in our hands again," he said in the Sporza studio.
"I thought the Muur would be the end of my race but still I tried to get as far as possible and that’s how I got a top 10 in a Classic for the first time."
A mistake in the sprint
When it came to the finale, Stuyven and Lampaert emerged as the strongest pair from that leading group on the Muur, but Kragh Andersen latched back on over the top. The trio had to cooperate to keep the chasing Matteo Trentin at bay, but then Lampaert launched the first big attack of the endgame with just over two kilometres to go.
"It’s not that I was scared of him in the sprint – I have beaten him before, like in the Deutschland Tour – but after such a tough race it’s difficult to predict who will win. I just wanted to come in alone, because then you are sure of victory. Hence my attack," Lampaert said.
"I hoped Jasper would watch Sören Kragh Andersen for a moment, but he did not. He said afterwards that he was also going to attack, so he was ready for it. I went all-in there, and I lost my bullet for the sprint."
The writing was, perhaps, on the wall when, Kragh Andersen having been dropped by Lampaert’s attack, Stuyven launched an acceleration of his own. Lampaert was left scrambling to get back on terms.
"I had to go deep to get back on," he said. "For a moment, I even thought I’d be dropped."
When it came to the sprint, Stuyven shrewdly kept Lampaert on his hip as he moved slightly towards the barriers as he opened up the sprint.
"I think I raced well and didn't do much wrong. Only in the sprint did I allow myself to be pinched. That was perhaps my biggest mistake, but it was a small thing – Jasper was slightly better in the end.
"For the rest, I rode a very good race. Jasper and I made a nice race together, then you must also dare to be content afterwards. I think I'm fine for this spring and I can look forward to the rest with confidence."
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