The Scheldeprijs is an odd race. The midweek semi-classic has a special spot on the racing calendar between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Every year several top sprinters head over to Antwerp to contest the predicted bunch sprint. For a team like Etixx-QuickStep, the race comes at a bad moment as they’re fully focusing on the two bigger classics, and a crash in the build-up to the bunch sprint at Scheldeprijs could take out one of their top riders.
On Wednesday, the team failed to beat Katusha's Alexander Kristoff with their fast man Matteo Trentin, who finished sixth, but they came away unscathed and that, according to director sportif Wilfried Peeters, was the most important conclusion of the day.
“You know it’ll be difficult to beat him [Kristoff] in such a sprint. We came a bit too early to the front but in hindsight I’m happy about that because nobody was on the ground, especially for Zdenek [Stybar],” Peeters said, referring to his Czech rider who crashed hard during last year’s Eneco Tour bunch sprint in Ardooie.
He also explained why it was a tricky race for his team. “Sabatini and Renshaw don’t race this weekend but Trentin does,” Peeters said, highlighting one of the riders he certainly didn’t want to lose for Paris-Roubaix. “This morning we said Trentin would do the sprint. The guys said during the race that it was already nervous. I told them to wait but they were too quickly in the front, hoping that other teams would come. In hindsight it was the best decision.”
Peeters explained that Trentin was his only option for the bunch sprint, as Renshaw told him that he wasn’t prepared to ride a bunch sprint. “Today in the meeting it was decided I would be doing the sprint. Mark [Renshaw] is the best lead-out man. He delivered me where I had to be,” Trentin said.
The 25-year-old Italian rider was on Kristoff’s wheel – level with Danny van Poppel - inside the last kilometre when behind him a huge amount of riders hit the deck. Shortly after, Mickael Delage (FDJ) dropped back after leading out Marc Sarreau (FDJ), just when Trentin launched his sprint. While escaping the big crash Trentin explained he was lucky not to ride into the French rider.
“I tried to surprise Kristoff by going early. I’m happy because I didn’t crash. I had to push him away. I had to stop pedalling, even brake. I lost everything there. Ciao,” Trentin said. “It’s always like this over here. It’s an easy race. Most riders just use the race to roll the legs ahead of Roubaix.
"During the race everybody thinks they’re going to be good for the sprint. It’s always like this. Even in a stage race there’s always a crash near the finish line on an easy stage. I don’t think it’s was a dangerous finish. When you go easy the whole day, you have more and more contenders for the sprint. Maybe some riders are there who are not used to sprinting at that speed and it gets more nervous too.”