Lorena Wiebes was the pre-race favourite for the Classic Brugge-De Panne, but had to settle for second place. A quick glance at her bike behind the podium provided a hint as to why she might have missed out; a spoke was jutting out from the rear wheel.
After being doused in champagne by the winner and World Champion Elisa Balsamo, Wiebes confirmed that she’d sprinted with the damaged wheel, and indeed ridden the last 15 kilometres on it.
She explained that the damage was inflicted in the mass crash that split the field on the run-in to De Panne. She managed to avoid going down and stayed at the front of the race, but she could feel something wasn’t right.
“I was able to avoid to crash but someone crashed into my wheel, and I felt directly that my wheel was not straight anymore,” Wiebes told reporters in De Panne.
“But the car was not behind the peloton anymore, and there was too much going on to change bikes. So I had to go.”
Things became even more complicated after another crash with 2km to go that took out her lead-out woman, Charlotte Kool. Wiebes remained composed and was on Balsamo’s wheel when the sprint was launched, despite easing clear of the rest, she couldn’t get close to the world champion.
“It always helps to have the lead-out but sometimes you have to do it alone,” she said. “I came a bit too early in the wind, but it was either that or get boxed in.”
As for the spoke, it’s hard to say how much power it cost her in the final kick for the line.
“At the moment it happened, I didn’t realise how much it would affect me. I was more scared that I would break my wheel and crash, that it would get blocked or something.
“In the end I was able to sprint and that was the most important thing. You lose some power with it, but yeah, it was that or get a new bike and never come back to the peloton.”
Despite the misfortune, Wiebes declared herself happy with her first runner-up spot of the season, after picking up three straight wins. One of them, at the Ronde van Drenthe, saw her get the better of Balsamo, and the pair seem to be building a new sprinting rivalry.
“It was a really chaotic race, a lot of crashes, we had some bad luck with the team. In the end second place, it’s fine,” Wiebes said.
“It’s nice to battle with Elisa. I think it’s really good for the sport. I think we keep these battles in the next years. She showed she deserves the world champion’s jersey so it’s really nice.”
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.