Schär was one of five riders that formed the day’s breakaway after multiple attempts to go clear in opening 20 kilometers, of the almost 200-kilometer long course, and the Swiss rider’s group was eventually given the freedom to open up a maximum advantage of six minutes.
Approaching the 70-kilometer to go mark, the gap to Schär and his fellow race leaders had fallen to two minutes 30 seconds as a handful of teams started to send riders on the attack and, this marked the start of what we would be a hard and fast finale.
Fresh out of the Vuelta a España, Van Hooydonck was part of a trio of riders that bridged across to Schär’s front group before, shortly after, the CCC Team duo went on the attack together while behind 2014 winner, Van Avermaet was following a strong move that saw the peloton explode all across the road.
Schär and Van Hooydonck were hovering around 40 seconds ahead of a regrouped, albeit reduced, peloton as the race reached the last of the day’s 15 typically Belgian punchy climbs with Van Avermaet sitting in the first half of the main field, which was being led by the pure sprinter’s teams.
After a strong and gutsy effort, the CCC Team leading duo was caught with just under eight kilometers remaining and, despite a predominantly flat run into Haacht, a couple of technical corners lent themselves nicely to a late attack and, in the end, it was Theuns who was able to take advantage of this and hold on to the line.
Mareczko and Van Avermaet were working well together as the bunch chased hard behind and after being brought into position in the wheel of Van Avermaet, CCC Team’s Italian sprinter claimed sixth on the line while the reigning Olympic champion crossed just behind in seventh place.
Quotes From The Finish Line
“We planned to have someone in the breakaway and in the end, it was me who slipped into the successful move which was good for our team. I was at first just riding along, my goal was not to waste too much energy before the real climbs and the finale started with around 50 kilometers to go. I was hoping that someone from the bunch would bridge across and Nathan made a nice move from the back to come across to me and we made an attack together on the steep cobbled climb, Moskensstraat, and immediately it was only the two of us out in front.”
“It was really fun to have a teammate and a good friend in front with me and also a tall guy as it meant that I could also get a little bit of a draft at times. We tried and we believed in the move and we gave it our all. You have to try to the end and that’s what we did but with the sprinters’ teams it’s not easy to make it like that.”
Nathan Van Hooydonck:
“I was very cool to be in the front with Michi because he is a guy who I really look up to on the team so to be leading the race with him, going full gas and not holding back was super cool. I really enjoyed it.”
“I was feeling good during training after the Vuelta so I already knew I was still in good shape before this race but to do an effort like that in a race is always a bit more difficult because everyone wants to do it and during training you can go fast whenever you like.”
“In the meeting, we said we should try to race a bit more aggressively and so I saw an opportunity on a climb to do something and, at that point, we were closing in on Michi’s group so I thought I would go when Pedersen went. Nobody really followed and as soon as Greg said on the radio that we had a nice gap, I knew we needed to go full gas to get across to Michi’s group. As soon as we were there, I moved straight up to the front on the cobbled climb and when I looked back it was only Michi on my wheel. I knew that Michi has a lot of experience so if it would have been better to wait, he would have for sure said something but he didn’t and from there on we just gave it everything we had to try to make it.”
“It was a really hard day of racing. We were going full gas right from the start of the race and there was a big fight at the beginning to make it into the breakaway. Luckily for us, we had Michi in there so, some of the pressure was gone and we didn’t have to help do any of the chasing. Going into the final 70 kilometers, the pace increased a lot again and at first, some splits opened up but, when Nathan joined Michi in front, the race settled down a bit and the main group came back together. I was happy that I could still be there in the end as it was really hard at times. In the final, Greg was helping guide me for the sprint and I am always thankful for that opportunity. It was a pity we couldn’t finish it off but I think, overall, we can be happy with the performance of the whole team today.”
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I think we raced well as a team. We had someone in the breakaway with Michi and then again in the counter-attack with Nathan. The two of them were then able to go out in front together and it was quite nice for me to see them there trying something. Behind, I was just trying to stick on the wheels of the best riders on the climbs and I was feeling good myself. It was good that we had two riders in front though and they tried really hard to stay away. The final was quite flat so I knew it would be hard for myself to stay away also so I was hoping they could make it. In the end, everything came back together and I tried to make as good a result as possible. I tried to launch Jakub from 500 meters to go and I also ended up in the top ten. It was a good result for this type of race and also a good training opportunity looking ahead.”
One-day race: Brakel > Haacht (197km)
Top 3: 1. Edward Theuns (Trek – Segafredo) 2. Pascal Ackermann (BORA – hansgrohe) 3. Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal)
CCC Team Top 3: 6. Jakub Mareczko 7. Greg Van Avermaet 55. Jonas Koch