Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) paid the price of the fight back from a puncture in the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, coming up empty on the Tiegemberg and delivering his first one-day road race result outside the top ten in more than a year.
The 26 year old attacked from a group of chasers with about 20 kilometres to go in the Flemish race but firstly he couldn’t shake constant rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) from his wheel and then when the Dutch cyclist went on with it, Van Aert quickly went from being at the front of the group on the Tiegemberg – also known as Vossenhol – to out the back.
“I have a double feeling about this race. My place would be in the front group, but that wasn’t possible today,” said Van Aert. “On the Vossenhol, I had to give in. After my attack I felt that there was no more left. After that it was a give-and-take until the end, but at the front they didn’t sit still, of course.”
Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) went onto to win, with a five kilometre solo to the line while teammate Florian Sénéchal led the chasing group to the line and Van der Poel came third. Van Aert came through in 11th, wearing the impact of the puncture that forced him to stop just after the race broke up on the Taaienberg, 80 kilometres from the finish, and he had joined a lead group of 19. Van Aert’s puncture saw him dropping back to the much larger chasing peloton, with Jumbo-Visma then committing fully to close down the 18 seconds to the leaders.
“Before the Taaienberg I already felt that the tyre was deflating a bit. That was a very bad moment to change, so I waited until I really had to swap wheels. That’s where I lost the power I needed in the final,” said Van Aert.
It was also an effort the sapped the strength of his team, while there were still many kilometres, cobbles, climbs and attacks to contend with.
“It’s logical that at some point I ended up alone,” said Van Aert. “After my puncture I had to sacrifice all my teammates to quickly rectify the situation. The guys were there when they needed to be there. Those efforts obviously took a lot of strength.”
While things didn't turn out for Jumbo-Visma it was the team of Asgreen and Sénéchal that ruled the day and the top steps of the podium.
“Deceuninck-QuickStep showed themselves a very strong block. They deservedly won the race,” said Van Aert. “It’s a shame about today, but fortunately Gent-Wevelgem is coming up soon.”
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