Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) took an aggressive approach at his first Tour of Flanders, jumping into a move with around 50 kilometres to go that swelled to include the key contenders, but the British rider ultimately ran out of steam to stay near the front of the race once it had entered the final 20 kilometres.
The 21-year-old rider, who is in his first year as a fully-fledged road professional, finished in 41st, hanging in with a chase group behind Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and eventual winner Kasper Asgreen (Elegant-QuickStep) until inside the final 20 kilometres.
Then the impact of the preceding 230 kilometres of racing and lack of fuel started to take a toll on the cyclo-cross racer. Pidcock had no regrets that he didn’t take a more conservative approach.
"I had fun,” said Pidcock in a team statement. “It was a good race and it wasn’t perfect, of course. I forgot the basics of eating well and fuelling well but I enjoyed racing and I’m excited to come back next year.”
It wasn’t a result to match some of those from the young rider so far this season – he was third at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and fifth at Strade Bianche – but his ability to go with a number of those crucial moves bode well for the future.
"I’ve got to take the positives and today, that was just who I am - I’m a racer, I like racing," said Pidcock. "Going on the move probably wasn’t the best thing to do if I wanted to get a result today but I’d rather do that and try then get dropped at the end, rather than roll round and finish in the top 20."
Pidcock, who took fourth at the cyclo-cross Worlds and then came almost straight out of the cyclo-cross season and onto the road, didn’t initially have the Tour of Flanders on his radar, but his programme was changed after the way he handled the cobbles on Opening Weekend. Not that the pressure was on to deliver a result, with his coach Kurt Bogaerts characterising this season as a “continuous adventure” that will be used for reconnaissance at different races.
The leadership role at Ineos Grenadiers was one for Dylan van Baarle, who stepped up as a pre-race favourite for the team after delivering victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen with a 52-kilometre solo. The very front of the race, however, was out of reach for Van Baarle this time.
"I didn’t have the best day. I could feel it a little in the beginning, fighting for position was a bit hard, and I was too far back the second time up the Kwaremont,” said Van Baarle.
“Then a crash happened in front of me and from then on I was chasing all the time. I came back a few times but never really recovered from it and if you don’t have the best legs then you try to follow and wait for your moment. It didn’t happen today.”
Van Baarle came over the line in 10th, in a group of seven that finished 47 seconds behind Asgreen and Van der Poel.
"It’s another chance gone. I know I can be better and that’s a bit frustrating but for the feeling I had today I gave 100%.”
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