The Belgian 'Opening Weekend' for the UAE Team Emirates squad wasn’t very fortunate. On Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, they featured team leaders Matteo Trentin and Alexander Kristoff in the peloton that stormed towards Ninove for the sprint, however, both were victims of a late crash, and Trentin went on to finish eighth despite a broken derailleur.
On Sunday, Kristoff missed the cut in the hill zone but Trentin was part of the final sprint in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, and although he narrowly missed a podium result, he heads home in good spirits.
“I’m really happy. Everyone was coming here with very few races in the legs, maybe none. Nobody knows how the condition is. It ended up being a terrific opening weekend for me, although I’m still pissed about yesterday. I was arriving with a broken rear derailleur and Alex broke his wheel. Yesterday, we would have been close to the victory but that’s bike racing," Trentin told Cyclingnews shortly after the sprint at the open-air mixed zone in Kuurne.
"Look at Trek-Segafredo. Yesterday they were nowhere and today they won. It’s one of the best Opening Weekends I did in terms of performances. That’s for sure. I even scored two top-10 results but that’s not what I came for. I can go home being about 60 per cent happy.”
While Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was occupied with yet another spectacular exploit – a long range attack – Trentin was one of the strong men in the peloton. On the Oude Kwaremont, he marked the early move from Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal) and ended up in a strong chase group of 20 riders.
Trentin explained that he tweaked his training schedules in order to include more cyclo-cross interval efforts. Trentin competed in the youth and men's U23 categories of cyclo-cross. Seeing van der Poel and Wout van Aert go so well in the Classics got him to move back to cyclo-cross a little bit.
“My training has gone pretty well, even though I had some stomach sickness after the Tour de la Provence. I changed my training a bit. They are more cyclo-cross orientated. They are more specific for short and really hard intervals. That was probably the key in the climbs today, although I suffered a bit on the Kwaremont, but that was most likely because I pumped my wheel quite a lot today since there was only one cobbled climb today. I ride good. It’s a good point to start from here.”
After cresting the Oude Kwaremont, the peloton ended up being split in multiple groups, and Trentin featured in the first group of about 20 riders. Teammate Kristoff was in one of the next groups.
“The collaboration there was almost zero. I was alone and Alex was still behind. I could gamble until the finish and maybe the group with Alex could come back but that wasn’t the case. I decided to try and split the group. I took it easy for some minutes. On the cobbled climb [Beerbosstraat] I tried to go as fast as I could,” Trentin said.
He was joined by strong men like Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), Kasper Asgreen and Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R-Citroën) and their deficit on the lead group was suddenly down to half a minute.
“It didn’t work. The Bora guys and a few others were closing everything down. It was a pity for the finale because I had to close a couple of gaps,” Trentin said.
In the sprint, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) was leading out teammate Mads Pedersen to the victory and multiple riders were targeting that wheel. Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) ended up being the one who won that battle. Anthony Turgis (Total-Direct Energie) passed the young British rider but Trentin fell just short.
“I made a little mistake when I saw Pedersen passing and I tried to jump on his wheel. I was boxed in so I had to go around Pidcock. I didn’t manage to pass Pidcock. At the end, Mads and Turgis were faster. I could maybe beat Pidcock but I was too late. By the time I found open space it was too late.”
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