A surprising name on the Hansgrohe Superprestige podium in Gavere was Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea). The former top gun of the cyclo-cross scene doesn't fire that often nowadays, especially after his life-threatening health problems from last year. Finding a muddy technical course that suited him well the 34 year-old Belgian rider rode the best race of his season so far, capturing his first podium result in a race that's part of the major series.
"Finishing on the podium is a surprise to me too. It's beyond all expectations. Especially in a classic race like this one. If you see how old this race is. There have always been nice duels here. In the past I've been good over here but also bad. During the race I could hear the crowd go mad, realizing there was something going on in front. Before the race I regretted having good legs on Saturday on a course that doesn't suit me well. But once the race got underway I felt things were good again. After going this deep I shouldn't try to race tomorrow," Wellens said.
During the first two laps Wellens rode prominently near the front, showing off his running skills on the slippery uphill sections.
"My mechanics and dad were shouting that I had to keep calm but I was comfortable," Wellens said.
Wellens didn't react on Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) his acceleration in the third lap, explaining it was part of his tactical plan.
"I waited until Sven [Nys] attacked. I was ideally positioned but didn't get past Bart Aernouts [who was overtaken by Nys, Kevin Pauwels and Wellens] and lost a lot of metres. From there I decided to ride at my own pace. I felt that I was able to bridge up with Pauwels but not too fast. Once I caught up with him I decided to try to shake him off in the running sections. First that almost brought me down when I collided with enthusiast fans but little later I got away," Wellens told Cyclingnews.
The Belgian rider, still quite popular among the thick cyclo-cross crowds, doesn't have a clear goal in this season but when asked on Sunday after his strong performance he talked about the long term projects.
"Actually my season is pretty good so far and I'm quite proud of that. Most result were really good although there were a few pretty bad ones too. Every week I want to have fun. Most of all I'm looking forward to the three week training camp in Majorca after the next weekend. I'm only returning for the races during the weekend in Roubaix and Antwerp."
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