E3 Classic: Catching up after a defect
27.03.2021 | (rsn) – As Wout Van Aert (Jumbo – Visma) on Tiegemberg, the last climb of the E3 Saxo Bank Classic (1st UWT) almost 20 kilometers from the finish, to hunt the escaped Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) blew, the Belgian suddenly burst the engine. Partly responsible for this and for eleventh place in Harelbeke 90 seconds behind the outstanding Asgreen was a defect almost 80 kilometers from the finish.
“By catching up I probably used up the grains that I missed in the final,” explained Van Aert, who noticed a creeping flat tire shortly before the Taaienberg. However, because Deceuninck – Quick-Step went on the offensive here, the jumbo captain delayed changing the wheel “as long as possible,” he added. With the help of his team, Van Aert actually made it back to the group of favorites after a long chase, but the price was high: Van Aert’s helpers were exhausted early and the captain himself was hit.
But Van Aert did not have time to rest. First he attacked on Paterberg 40 kilometers from the finish in order to bring back a group around Oliver Naesen (AG2R Citroen) and to reduce the gap to Asgreen. After that he was the only one besides Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin – Fenix) who took part in the follow-up work in order to capture the Danish master.
If the two top favorites took short breaks, such as on the Valent cobblestone piece 23 kilometers from the finish, Asgreens teammates Florian Senechal and Zdenek Stybar immediately took the lead and slowed down.
Van Aert only had one chance to win the race after all: to attack on Tiegemberg, to drive up to Asgreen as a soloist and then either hang out or defeat him in a sprint duel. Van Aert put everything on this card, but his legs no longer played along after the exhausting day.
“I look back on the race with mixed feelings. Actually, I belong at the very front here, but that wasn’t possible today. All of a sudden, the lights went out at Tiegemberg and Deceuninck was just too strong,” said the 26-year-old, who is now is hoping for Sunday: “How the race went is bitter. Fortunately, Gent-Wevelgem is coming soon,” said Van Aert.