An exhausted Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) entered the mixed zone in Wevelgem after capturing his first-ever podium in Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday afternoon. The Italian rider featured in the decisive move but got beaten in the sprint by Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), the same rider who somewhat surprisingly beat him at the 2019 road world championships.
"It's kind of a nightmare for me, although now I got third. He deserved it," an always laughingly Trentin said. "Everybody in the lead group was fast. You could not pick one guy of which you could say: I'm going to beat this one; they were all good. There were a lot of attacks. A group was gone and I could get into that attack at 1.5km to go. Then Mads beat me and that was it."
Trentin hasn't often been the sole leader of a team in the northern Classics but this time around is different. Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet is out injured after a Liège-Bastogne-Liège crash. He received full support from his teammates and lived up to the expectations with a strong performance. After tackling the Plugstreets gravel sections with 70km to go Trentin started firing attacks.
Trentin ended up riding away in a strong lead group that also featured eventual winner Mads Pedersen. The group managed to stay ahead of pre-race favourites Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) until the top of the final Kemmelberg climb. From there, Trentin featured in the lead group of 15 riders that rode a thrilling tactical finale in which he once again made it into the decisive four-man sprint for the victory.
"I'm tired. It was a really hard race today. The result could be better but I'm quite happy. The team did a really good job in the first part of the race until the first time up the Kemmelberg. I was there feeling fresh and enjoying good legs. I spent a lot of energy as I tried to attack a lot of times, trying to get a little group away. If that move gets away with a few good riders and you need to chase that down, then it's another story.
"Obviously, Mathieu and Wout were watching each other and I knew that if you could get away and reach the Kemmelberg with a bit of an advantage it would be good, knowing that they are going so well on those climbs. In the end, I was going well on the climbs, too, because I reached the top with more or less the same gap as at the bottom. The legs were good and I'm happy about it," Trentin said.
Trentin seems to have a nose to get into the right breakaway. He explained that it was mostly a matter of having the legs in Gent-Wevelgem. "Everybody was marking everybody. Every attack could be a good one. There was an attack with four riders that was closed down by Mathieu and myself. At that point, my legs were exploding. Still, everybody wants to win and I knew that if I did a little extra effort that I could get away. With every attack, there were a few guys in trouble at the back. In the end, I got away but with others. It was a good race. The rider with the best legs would win and Mads won."
In the final kilometres, it was clear that Van der Poel and Van Aert were racing against each other and Trentin was asked if he noticed something of this rivalry during the race. "I didn't feel they raced against each other. Wout needs to understand that with the amount of wins he's gotten this season it is putting him in a place where nobody wants to see him go. The more you win, the more difficult it gets and he basically won everything so far. Of course, he's the most-watched guy. I'm also watching him but not only him. He's been going super since San Remo. He needs to live with his status," Trentin said.
"Nobody was really looking at them. Everybody was looking at each other. Bettiol and Küng made the best attacks in the final 10 kilometres. It was not only Van Aert and Van der Poel. Everybody was doing their part of the job. In the end, I got into the right move and get on the podium. That's OK."
Next week, Trentin will be the race leader again for the CCC Team, although Greg Van Avermaet might receive the green light to race from the doctor. "There's still one more race to go next week. I feel good. It would be good to finish with a win. I was going well on the climbs, so next week I can go well, too. Everybody was super strong.
"The racing was on from the first ascent of the Kemmelberg. If I would've been on the sofa with a beer I would've enjoyed it. Also in the Brabantse Pijl, there was pure racing from 100km to go. I hope Greg will be there in the Ronde. Riding with the two of us is better than alone. Even if he's not 100 per cent, then he's still Greg Van Avermaet. I hope that he can make it. The crash was really bad so his health comes first."
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