Race recap – 27/2.
98 km left: INEOS increase the speed in the tailwind.
In the span of 8 kilometers, INEOS Grenadiers really try and open the race with a fierce tempo at the front. They almost bring the breakaway back which had 2’08 before INEOS started to pace. They tried to use Hameau de Papins as their launchpad. They stretched the peloton out and some damage is done. The attack stops with 90 km left and the peloton becomes whole again.
80.4 km left: Mont Saint-Laurent, acceleration in the peloton.
It said on GCN, it could easily be a mix of the Oude Kwaremont and the Taaienberg. Asgreen is the one leading the peloton. He has Pidcock in his wheel and behind the rider in yellow, we have Mohoric, Narvaez, Naesen, Pidcock, Sagan, Küng and Colbrelli. Just out of the picture, we have Benoot as well. A bit surprisingly, Trentin was drifting back. We see a split after the climb and some damage is done, but not enough to open the race.
71.5 km left: Kruisberg.
Shortly after Mont Saint-Laurent we have the Kruisberg. We do not see an attack but the pace is very high. It creates splits again. It was surprising to see Caleb Ewan in fourth position most of the way up. We see attacks over the top, riders trying to get a gap before Côte du Trieu.
62 km left: Côte du Trieu.
This is were things really blow to pieces. Van Hooydonck attacked before the climb started making the teams chase him down. As soon as he was brought back, Benoot attacked. The only problem was, no one could follow or would follow him. The group of riders trying to fend off the peloton for the rest of the day can be seen below.
It is a good idea to remember the mechanicals Lampaert, Stybar and Valgren had as that can be a potential answer to why they are not in front and Durbridge and Taco van der Hoorn was caught from the breakaway. No Stuyven, and only one Bahrain-Victorious rider. It is also Touzé from AG2R in the front group and not Naesen or GvA. In the peloton it is Israel – Premier Tech who does most of the work for Nizzolo. I wonder if Jenthe Biermans and Tom van Asbroek could have made the front group but might have been ordered to stay with Nizzolo. From here on out, we have a cat and mouse situation in the peloton and Lotto-Soudal and Alpecin-Fenix soon join the chase.
The problem, it is flat all they way home.
One problem is the work in the front group. We keep seeing a large group who is not willing to work together. Most likely because some riders are not taking their turns. In the end, Taco van der Horn, Narvaez and Laporte try to keep it together but are caught in the sprint.
What to take from the race?
I was one of the few who thought the group would make it to the line. A few more riders up there and I might had been the case. I think it is clear that Benoot is doing very, very well. It is good news with Strade Bianche just around the corner. Caleb Ewan is keeping his good climbing form but Jakobsen looks to be the fastest man on earth at the moment.
INEOS were once again very active which I like to see. It was not just a good spring for Narvaez last year, now with Pidcock and potentially Hayter they have a very strong team. Bahrain-Victorious must be the one team, who fell off after Omloop. If Colbrelli and Mohoric had made the front group, it would have been a different outcome.
Matteo Trentin is doing well too, and it was a bit surprising neither GvA or Naesen made the split. Stuyven is flying under the radar, for now, it is only natural to think he will peak at the right time. To me, it was great to see Asgreen this weekend. None expected much from him, but he has been the strongest rider for Quick-Step who almost had no impact in the opening weekend due to poor form and mechanicals.