After spending most of this season playing catch-up, Zico Waeytens (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloisel) bounced back with a noticeable performance in the inaugural Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
The 21-year-old, who has struggled with health problems this year, helped form part of the early break in the race, and looked to be one of the strongest riders present in the seven-man move as the race unfolded.
As the WorldTour teams swooped for the catch inside the final 30 kilometres, Waeytens and Yoann Offredo forged clear once again, although they were to be both thwarted as Arnaud Démare (FDJ) sprinted to the win.
"I'm really tired and that was a really hard day. It was a great race though, with some really fantastic fans. I'm happy that I was racing again because I've had a number of setbacks already in my career," Waeytens told Cyclingnews as he clambered off the Topsport team bus.
"I had seven months out over the new year after an operation, and then I crashed and was out for another month. It's only my fifth of sixth race back so I've got to be happy with how my legs were today," he said.
"It was a major surgery on the veins in my right leg and hip, with the surgery lasting three hours. At Christmas I was in hospital and then had two months without riding. Then I had to come back and just do small efforts in training, so I've come along way."
Waeytens was marked as a promising rider when he joined Topsport in 2011, finishing inside the top 10 in the Tour of Denmark in his first season. A former junior time trial national champion, he has also added cyclo-cross to skill set during the winters. However the ride in the English capital was all about an opportunist's roll of the dice as six-man teams took on a course vaguely similar to the Olympic road race from 2012.
"The plan was to go in the break and it was just fantastic racing in London. I wanted to be in the break and when Offredo attacked I was the only one who could go with him. In the end, he was just too strong for me though. I couldn't pass him, or take many turns, and he was easily the strongest between us."
Waeytens now heads to Norway for another inaugural event, the Arctic Race. Although he has not officially signed a contract for next year, the indications are that he will remain with Topsport for 2014.
"I'll ride in Norway and then race three times in Italy. There are a few races, but I'll also maybe go to the Worlds for the U23s. That will be my fifth Worlds."
"I don't have a contract yet but at the end of August I'll probably sign on and stay with the team."
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