Tour of Flanders: Rider Reactions

Tour of Flanders Rider chat – reactions from the riders at the sharp end  – Kasper Asgreen, Alexander Kristoff, Nils Politt, Michael Matthews, Alejandro Valverde, Tiesj Benoot, Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan, Wout van Aert, Dylan van Baarle, Matteo Trentin

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Tour of Flanders: Rider Reactions

Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) (2nd) “My job at the beginning of the race was to control the breakaway and get the team into position before the main hills of the day. Then, as the race progressed and the peloton got whittled down, I tried to go into some of the moves and keep an eye on things”, said an upbeat Kasper of the role he had at the start of his just second Monument since making the step to the World Tour.

“When Bettiol passed me, it was impossible to follow, so I just tried to hang in there with the main group. As we approached the finish and I still had something left in the legs, I decided to attack and pressed on seeing that there was some daylight between me and the others. Second is a huge result for my career, one that surprises me, but also a step in the right direction, which feeds my confidence ahead of the next races”.

Alexander Kristoff (3rd) (UAE Emirates): “It could seem that the race was very tactical but, as far as I’m concerned, it was a race that was always run on the limit. I came to the foot of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg for the last time with very tired legs and I was a bit surprised to see that I was able to stay with the main group, there I realised that they were all very tired. The situation worked better than I could have imagined and I tried to take advantage of it. The result makes me happy, I have a good shape, I have high morale after these races, I can count on a team that is racing well and I hope that these conditions will recur in a week in Paris-Roubaix“.

Nils Politt (Katusha Alpecin) (5th): “Last year I was 7th in Roubaix and now this time fifth in Flanders. This is really, really nice. Also the team did such a good job today. I messed up a bit on the Muur and the team had to chase but they did a great job. And we managed to come back and close the gap. The last time for the Paterberg I was totally empty but managed to recover in the last 10 kilometers and do a great sprint. It was a nice feeling.”

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) (6th): “It was definitely as fun as I had hoped, it was a beautiful race. The fans were amazing, especially on the Kwaremont. I couldn’t hear myself think at times and it was such a great race to be a part of. I was happy to be here and competing after the crash earlier in the Spring. The guys rode really strong to support me all day and keep me well positioned going into the climbs. I got a little trapped in the sprint but I had nothing left in the end. Sprinting for a podium in Flanders at my first shot is a good result and I think today showed that with the support of the team again, I can do well here in the future.”
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) (World Champion) (8th) “I’m really happy with today’s race. It was a very demanding one with all the nerves, the stress, having to find a good position all the time. But once the group became smaller and smaller, I started to feel great, climbed the hills further ahead into the group, and all in all, I leave really satisfied with my performance. I came way closer to the victory than I expected. As we approached the finish, our rivals were struggling and it was easier to come back, stay near the front – I was feeling really good. I don’t know if I’ll still have a chance to win this in the upcoming years, because knowing these roads well is key, but I did really well. I’m really looking forward to coming back, and finishing inside the favourites’ group today gives me loads of confidence.

“The team really did well today. They were so willing to keep me in a good position, they followed all dangerous moves, showing confidence. We started off calm but into the final loops near the end, we were always at the right moves, really solid. In my case, I don’t feel like I have really paid with that lack of experience, when it comes to how to react during the race. I’ve been a pro for such a long time, competed at so many different classics – even if not so many on cobblestones – and I knew that those experiences would help me.

“At the final Kwaremont, a rider ahead of me lost contact with the main group, and I had to wait until the final slopes to find a way to bridge back. It’s true that Bettiol really timed his attack well, and it was so difficult to come back. There were many fast riders, which made for a lack of cooperation into our group – despite being able to go on a counter-attack after the Paterberg, the four of us were caught by the others and it was impossible to cooperate. And I wasn’t willing to spend more energy than the others.

“I was surprised by the immense crowds all race long. How people live this race – just impressive. Thanks to all Belgian fans; I really enjoyed with such strong support, and it really feels like these races, also Roubaix, are ‘theirs’, which makes them become so special.”

Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal)(9th): “I felt good but not great today. As a team, we did really well. Tim Wellens tried to open the race various times. Maybe he was a bit too eager to do so, but that could only benefit Jens Keukeleire and myself. A big group escaped after the Muur, but as I was the only Lotto Soudal rider at the front, the team did everything to close that gap before the Kanarieberg, which also succeeded.”

“Bettiol had already proven to be in good shape as he got second behind Victor Campenaerts in the time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico. The Italian was the strongest on the Oude Kwaremont and still rode solo atop the Paterberg. The tailwind to Oudenaarde was also to his advantage. We did not take it slow in the chasing group, but it was difficult to cooperate. That way, Bettiol could hold on to his advantage. I tried to attack but Langeveld immediately jumped on my wheel. A lot of riders are on a high level, which makes it difficult to create some gaps. But if you solo away like him, it may seem like a surprise, but he certainly deserves it.”

Greg Van Avermaet (10th) (CCC): “I was quite good. I was quite happy with my form and I think you saw on the climbs that I was with the best in the race. I tried to make the difference and I did my best to make it as hard as possible but we didn’t have enough gaps, especially on the Paterberg, I was hoping to go after Bettiol with a strong group of riders to close the gap. But, then you know if you come on top with 15 riders, with fast riders, it’s really hard to work together to catch Bettiol back.”

“I knew if I went full gas I would bring a lot of fast guys with me who were not pulling the whole day. It was not my job to bring them to the finish line and let them win Flanders. I tried to do as good as possible and do a good race, but it was not for first place.”

“It broke up pretty fast after the Muur, and I thought it was a good thing for me because I was in the first group. But, I spent some energy and it was for nothing. A big group came back, and then from the second time up the Kwaremont it was really hard, like always. It was really hard to make a big gap on the other climbs. I think a lot of riders are on the same level and it was hard to make the difference. Maybe I would have saved some more energy after the Muur, if you knew how it would end up but in the end, I did the final how I wanted to do.”
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Peter Sagan: “It was a hard and exciting Tour of Flanders and it is always a pleasure racing here as the amazing crowds create an incredible atmosphere. I’d like to thank my teammates for their work today. They all gave 100% of themselves to control the race, protect me, keep me clear of trouble and help me save as much energy as I could. I was able to be in the front when it was needed in the final kilometres but I didn’t have the legs to counter the attack of Bettiol and challenge in the reduced sprint.”– Peter Sagan

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) “It was a really tough race. This was the best we could do. I didn’t have much left in the end”, Van Aert said. “Until the Kwaremont, I had the feeling that I could go for more. But when Bettiol attacked, I couldn’t follow him. Then, on the Paterberg, I was struggling. The strongest rider in the race attacked at the right time. From the Muur van Geraardsbergen onwards it was a tough race. I hoped and thought the peloton would split into groups much faster. That didn’t happen. I would have liked us to work together behind Bettiol, but it is always difficult to find good cooperation in such a large group with favourites.”

Dylan van Baarle (team Sky) “With the [injury] recovery in mind, it’s been a really good race. It’s only five weeks since breaking my hand at Opening Weekend, but I wasn’t off the bike for long so I knew that I was in good shape. I felt really good, and maybe I got a bit too excited out there, but the guys weren’t working with me, so I had to do it all on my own from the Taaienberg with a headwind – it’s a long way! I am a little bit disappointed, but maybe it’s a good sign for next week.”

Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton – Scott) “The only option is to try again next year. I was there and the whole team had done their job really well but I just didn’t have the legs and on the Kruisberg I was a complete black out. From there my race was over. The split was made and I could have tried to attack my group but the race was gone by then.”


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