Wellens says blocking move by Lampaert cost him Tour of Belgium victory
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl rider disqualified for impeding Wellens in decisive Golden Kilometre
Only a fraction of a second separated Mauro Schmid (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), wearing the blue leader’s jersey, and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) as the duo headed into the fifth and final day of racing at the Baloise Belgium Tour to decide the overall winner. Pivotal across the 179.9km route from Gingelom to Beringen was the final Golden Kilometre sprint, but a controversial move by one of Schmid’s teammates, Yves Lampaert, disrupted the expected head-to-head matchup.
Wellens grabbed the first three seconds at the front, which gave him the provisional race lead. Schmid then followed with a pair of seconds at the next two sprints, putting him back in the lead. Behind, Wellens was shut out due to what appeared on television cameras to be Lampaert blocking his progress, not once but twice. On the third sprint point Lampaert could be seen leaning over and bumping Wellens on the shoulder.
The top points in the final two intermediate sprints went to QuickStep’s Florian Sénéchal, seen contesting for the valuable time with his teammate Schmid.
“Yeah, this cost me the victory at the Tour of Belgium. I’m disappointed, but I think we can say we did everything to try to win this,” Wellens said at the finish about being disappointed, and said the shoulder-barge by Lampaert was the difference in missing the win.
A little over two hours after the stage played out, UCI Commissaires confirmed in the communiqué that Lampaert was indeed disqualified from the race and fined 200 Swiss francs for “deviating from the chosen track and thereby hindering or endangering another rider and an irregular sprint”.
“There was quite a bit of pushing and pulling on both sides. I think everything went pretty fair,” Lampaert, who had won the stage 3 time trial and was in eighth overall, told Wielerflits.
“It may have looked a bit spectacular in the images, but that's the race. Before the first sprint, I myself got a few shoves from the Lotto Soudal riders.”
Wellens explained after the race that if a disqualification for Lampaert was made, it would not make a difference in the end. He said his Lotto Soudal team controlled the race the entire day, but “it is what it is” when his team did everything possible to win.
“As a team, we would fully go for the overall victory and we did everything we could to enter the Golden Kilometre in a perfect position, which we also did. Arnaud De Lie launched me perfectly towards the first sprint, where I took three seconds. The goal was to go full for the first sprint and then focus on the wheel of Schmid. It looked very good after the first sprint but it went wrong towards the second sprint. That move of Lampaert did cost me the overall victory but his disqualification does not change anything of course," he said in a team statement.
“You might also say that I lost the Belgium Tour in the time trial or the Ardennes stage… In any case, it was a really exciting battle and really entertaining to watch for the fans. Losing with such a small gap is never nice but as a team we can be proud of how we raced during the Belgium Tour and this gives confidence for what’s to come."
Schmid was 26 seconds off the GC lead heading into stage 4. After collecting three bonus seconds at the Golden Kilometre sprint, he added more bonus time for placing second on the stage and jumped from sixth place. He took over as the race leader based on the difference from the time trial between himself and Wellens, which worked out to hundreds of a second.
Race organisers had said the Golden Kilometre would “spice things up,” and it did just that. By the time the chaos around Wellens was taking place, Schmid was several bike lengths ahead and focused on his sprint.
“I didn’t see that. Of course I didn’t ask for something like that. I don’t know what happened, I didn’t see it. But I think both our teams gave everything we had to take the seconds,” the 22-year-old Schmid told EuroSport after the stage.
“I did a mistake in the first of the three sprints. I opened up a gap in a roundabout, I don’t know what happened. I was just not focused and then I had to jump. Then I was thinking, ‘shit, it’s over.’ I think I lost it [GC] now. We tried to stay calm.”
After taking the decisive seconds and 5km still to go to the finish line, QuickStep changed gears with Fabio Jakobsen battling for the stage win, crossing the line easily ahead of Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux). Schmid said it was a special day to have the team focus on his efforts in the GC, which was the first overall victory of his career, rather than sprinter Jacobsen.
“I felt today there was a bit of pressure on my shoulders, but I think everyone believed in me. And for me it’s even more beautiful that Fabio [Jakobsen] could also take the win in the end because he also sacrificed everything today. He basically said, ‘the most important is we win the GC.’ The full support was for me in the sprints so he was on his own and he could still win, it shows how strong he is.”
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Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp for several minor league teams. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road and gravel rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).