For the second year in a row Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) finished on the podium in Gent-Wevelgem. Last year he was beaten in the sprint for victory by Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck-QuickStep), this time around it was Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos).
The former European champion was left to regret being over-geared when launching the sprint from the wheel of Van Aert. “The moment I retake the sprint it was too late. Wout is already fast enough to win without me making stupid moves,” Trentin said.
In the final metres he passed Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and compatriot Sony Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) but Nizzolo and Van Aert were long gone.
“The second part of the sprint was good. In the first part I made some mistakes. That’s for sure,” said Trentin. “The third place in the sprint always leaves a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth, I would have liked to win, but getting on the podium together with the strongest is still a good result.”
The 31-year-old Italian rider is going strong at the one-day races this season. He placed seventh in the French opener of the season, the GP la Marseillaise. He twice sprinted for the victory during the Belgian opening weekend, finishing eighth in the Omloop and fourth in Kuurne. During last week’s Milan-San Remo he moved along with the best over the Poggio and landed at 12th place in the sprint behind solo winner Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo). At Friday’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic he featured in the Deceuninck-QuickStep dominated lead group that hit the gas at the Taaienberg, before puncturing away.
This time around Trentin rode near the front of the peloton when a crash was said to have caused the bunch to split after only 70 kilometres of racing. That’s where the Gent-Wevelgem course takes a turn at the city of Veurne and is about to blast through De Moeren, the famous echelon-heaven.
“It was super nervous once we passed Ypres because of the crosswinds,” said Trentin. “One moment I pass the group on the side and find myself in front with the whole BikeExchange team. I accelerate and they take over after me and in one moment it was split up.
“That was the hardest pull or the best moment. Everybody in the group was super committed. Nobody really tried to save energy and sit at the back. Everybody did his part, from start to finish. It was really hard. I think I raced good all day. All the time I had Sven Bystrom with me. Together with the other guys in front we worked well, pushing hard and making sure to not allow the pursuers to close the gap,” Trentin said.
One sprinter down
Surprisingly enough, the Deceuninck-QuickStep team only featured their sprinter Sam Bennett in the lead group.
“Friday they were so strong and now it was BikeExchange who had four guys. Once you’re on the backfoot, it’s hard to recover,” Trentin said.
When hitting the hill zone with the triple ascent of the Kemmelberg, Trentin always rode in the top-3 and during the final ascent he even tried to bring the group down even further by setting the pace himself.
“In the end it was so hard that it just came down to a natural selection. There was an attack from Wout [van Aert] and Nathan [Van Hooydonck] during the second time on the Kemmel[berg]. It was just speeding up. Then there were just nine guys. I tried to force it a little to put Bennett and the other sprinters in difficulty,” said Trentin.
Trentin easily made the cut to feature in the group that would sprint for the victory.
“You needed good legs to get to the finale. It was still 30km to get to Wevelgem,” Trentin said.
That proved true when Bennett suddenly threw up and eventually lost contact from the lead group.
“I saw him actually and moved myself to the side. I say chapeau to him. If a guy can push himself so deep, pass the climb and then have to vomit, that means that you really push yourself over the limit. Not many sprinters can do that in the classics. A good job. I always stop before that moment,” Trentin laughed.
He sure wasn’t the only one to notice that the group of nine riders was stacked with top notch sprinters. A third place isn’t a victory but in this group it’s a top result.
“It wasn’t possible to do a proper sprint. It was just pushing as hard as you can,” Trentin said.
The three Italian riders in the group all lined up behind Van Aert, with Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) leading out the sprint ahead of Küng and Matthews. When the sprint kicked off with an acceleration from Küng at 300 metres from the finish, Trentin lost the wheel of Van Aert.
“After a race like this it’s not always the fastest who prevails but the guys with the best legs, and today also the guy with the best position. Wout got the best position. I was on his wheel but over-geared and Colbrelli snatched in between. It was a remix of the cards. At that moment it was over,” Trentin said.
There were no hard feelings towards Colbrelli.
“No, not at all. There were three Italians in a group of seven. That was good but maybe it was better if one had won. If you ask the others, they’ll want to be the one and I also want to be the one. That’s how it is,” Trentin laughed.
On Wednesday, Trentin is scheduled to take part in Dwars door Vlaanderen and on Easter Sunday it’s all about the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Surprisingly enough, he never managed a top-10 in the Ronde, with a 13th place in 2017 being his best result so far.
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