Trek-Segafredo finished E3 Harelbeke with John Degenkolb 13th and Fabio Felline just ahead in 11th however both riders described it was a day to forget. With the team lacking a presence in the front group that formed on the Taaienberg with 70km to race, Degenkolb explained from thereon in Trek-Segafredo were on the back foot and fighting for the minor places.
The duo finished in the first major chase group, led home by Michael Valgren Andersen (Astana) 52 seconds down on winner Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).
"The race was super hard as expected; it was the hardest race of the season for me personally. We did a good job approaching Taaienberg, the fist key point of the race, but we lost a lot of guys there already. From this moment on, the race was full-on," Degenkolb explained. "Unfortunately, we were unable to manage to have someone in the front group. I don't know – it was just super hard from this moment on, and I had some difficulties, I was actually really fighting. The legs were getting a little bit better towards the end, on the Kwaremont it was already much better, but then the gap was over a minute."
Degenkolb, seventh last weekend at Milano-San Remo, added that he is already looking ahead to Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem and adding to his 2014 victory.
"Fabio was super, super strong and it was a shame that he was not in the group in the front, if he's there, then everything is possible. Yes, I should have been there too. Judging the situation [at that moment] a lot of big names were also in the back, and it was hard to decide to go or not.
"It's a day to forget. We should concentrate on the next races. Sunday we have a big chance, and I am looking forward to that."
Felline was equally disappointed with the outcome of the race, explaining that he is still learning the roads of the spring classics and a lack of co-operation in the group worked against him and Trek-Segafredo.
"The last 40kms I pulled, not all the time, but at least 90% of the time. When the race was over to catch the riders in the front, I gave the maximum for John. The problem was that the riders with us did not want to work. Yes, I was strong, but it was for nothing.
"It's frustrating because I missed the first group for nothing. It's not an excuse. But if you miss one second, 50 guys pass you. For me, in the Belgian races, this is my problem. I miss a lot of experience: in these races, you need the luck, you need the experience, you need a lot of things. It's not only about the legs," said Felline, who was fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
"The only positives I can take away from today is I am happy about my sensations - I am beginning to feel like the real Fabio again - and the team was good in positioning. When we needed to be in the front, we were in the front. But for sure it is not the result we wanted."
It was also a disappointing day for Jasper Stuyven with the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne runner-up forced to retire from the race.
"I had an off day today but one bad day doesn't ruin my spring campaign," Stuyven said.
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