The pavé specialists didn’t hold back at E3 Harelbeke. Nearly all top guns were fighting in the frontline for nearly 80 kilometres. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) proved to be the strongest of them all on Friday. Though unable to follow the former World champion’s decisive move young Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) showed he can lead the Belgian team at the Ronde van Vlaanderen next Sunday.
After finishing fifth in the sprint for third place at 11 seconds from the winner Benoot quickly freshened up in the red Lotto-Soudal team bus before sitting in the doorway to evaluate his performance on Friday.
“My form is good. I knew that on Wednesday [Dwars door Vlaanderen] already. I felt slightly better so that’s good, I’m improving. In the final of the race everybody was riding at their maximum, à bloc. In the sprint I should’ve been sixth but Boom just passed me before the line. Finishing seventh in a race where it was man to man, with all the best riders in the world except for Van Avermaet, that’s not bad. Especially knowing that it was a final of 80 kilometres where I wasn’t saving myself, making the race. I can’t complain”, Benoot said.
Though still only 22 years of age the Belgian rider has a certain cool over him. This talented young man is on the verge of merging into a classics star who might rule the cobbles in the next decade. If he does, he doesn’t seem to be a man who will be carried away by the fame that comes along with success. Instead he’s calmly analyzing the race and enjoying the fact that he managed to leave his mark in it.
“I’ve done my scouting well and I knew that from there it would be hard to organize a chase because the roads were so small from there. I’ve been delivered perfectly by the team. Roelandts struggled with his back. He told me that he wasn’t feeling great.”
It was a very nice race. It was really hard. It was a final of 80 kilometres and that showed off. To me, it was one of the most beautiful races of the last few years. All the favourites were up there in the final.”
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