After a great duel with Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) in a rain-soaked Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 26-year-old Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) grabbed the biggest win of his career.
Before the race the likes of Tom Boonen (Quick-Step), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and the Sky-duo of Juan Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson Hagen were the big favourites. However with an aggressive attack on the Eikenberg climb, more than 50km from the finish line, Langeveld outshone everyone, showing his excellent form and pedigree in terrible conditions.
“It's one of the most beautiful days of my career. Tonight when things will have calmed down, I'll realize what I've done. I know that several people did a lot of hard work for me and that they are happy for me. It's great to know that,” Langeveld said.
“The team leaders usually wait until the Molenberg [climb] or the [cobbles from] in Paddestraat to attack. I didn't race with that tactic in mind. I wanted to race on whatever climb I wanted to and show that I would play my role in the Spring Classics this season. I wasn't thinking about the win but attacking to ride the finale,” Langeveld said.
Langeveld does not like to boast but a lacklustre season last year resulted in people asking questions about his ability.
“Despite a miserable season I did my work for the team. In terms of results and performances though it was one of the worst years in my career,” he admitted.
“I don't know why I underperformed. I knew this spring season would be crucial for my career and that it had to happen. Knowing that I had to get the results, I entered the winter with the desire to do better than ever. Last year my build-up was troubled by some bad-timed injuries and I couldn't even ride [the Omloop] Het Nieuwsblad because I had problems with my knee. This year nothing happened and I could completely focus on spring.”
“I worked unbelievably hard for this during the last few months and when the races for which you've worked finally arrives it's hard to hold back.”
The continuing rain and cold wind probably didn't help the motivation of many riders but for Langeveld that wasn't an issue.
“Some guys probably suffered more with the weather than me but it's also about how you deal with it. I saw the weather forecast this week and told myself to turn it into a positive thing; I started to hope it was as bad as possible. When it’s bad weather, you need to keep your moral high and take care of yourself by keeping warm.”
Race radio not a factor
In the final 30km of the race, Flecha closed a gap of more than a minute on Langeveld. When the gap was down to twenty seconds it seemed like Flecha was on the verge of cracking but then Langeveld choose to wait for the Spaniard. Obviously Langeveld wasn't informed through the race radio.
“You don't know how it would've been with the race radio. I was always kept informed of the race situation as there were many Rabobank people along the course. I think I took the right decision to wait. At first I didn't wait for Flecha but when he came back I saw that he didn't have much left in his tank. I knew that he would try to attack. If I could neutralize that attack I would be mentally at an advantage,” Langeveld said.
Being flanked by Matthew Hayman (Sky) and Flecha on the podium meant that Langeveld had two former team-mates with him. During the finale Flecha and Langeveld were spotted talking with each other but he played down the conversation.
“We rode together for three or four years. So it's obvious we’d talk with each other. We agreed to ride together to the finish but it was obvious that he would attack, just like it was obvious that he wanted me to lead out the sprint,” Langeveld said.
“I joined the team when Flecha was there. He was already top-class in these races and just by watching how he rode meant you pick up a lot. He was helpful with me and I learned a lot, especially about the way he lived during this time of the season.”
“When he attacked it hurt a lot in my legs. But during the reconnaissance on Thursday I found out that if I sprinted from right to left that I would be an advantage. Anyway, I don't think it was a fast sprint.”
Rabobank on fire
With yet another win the Rabobank team is on fire this season. The team has already won races with Theo Bos, Oscar Freire, Michael Matthews and Robert Gesink. Now Langeveld has added his name to the list.
“When I arrived at the hotel this week there was a positive vibe in the team, not only with the riders but also in the rest of the team,” he said.
“It's great to work in such an environment. It stimulates everyone. Oscar Freire has won a lot in his career but he probably thought it was about time to rack up another win too. It's better for the team as a whole when we win. We've got ten wins now and hopefully this wasn't the last one of the year.
Langeveld hopes to build on his Omloop win vai Tirreno-Adriatico to be at his very best for the big-name Belgian Classics in early April.
“I'm going to enjoy this victory and head to Tirreno-Adriatico with a great feeling. Over there I'll try to get in perfect shape for the true classics,” he said.
“I've worked very hard for this and it's great to know that I made the step towards the top level.”