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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

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Le Samyn team race reports

We posted the report from 3rd-place Andrea Pasqualon's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team with the results.

Here's the report from Victor Campenaerts' Qhubeka-Assos team:

A thrilling display of attacking racing saw Team Qhubeka-Assos draw widespread praise for their overall performance at Le Samyn on Tuesday, with Victor Campenaerts winning the prize for most attacking rider of the day for Africa’s UCI WorldTour team.

Even so, there was some disappointment at the prospect of missing out on an even better result as sprinter Carlos Barbero was desperately unlucky, with a flat tyre with just over 5km to go on the high speed run in to the final.

After the team played their part in reeling in the day’s early breakaway, they breathed fire into the race through a series of relentless attacks from Campenaerts, the World Hour Record holder, including a final effort within a few hundred metres of the finish.

His efforts, through the support of the entire team, together with a late surge from Lukasz Wisniowski and the the support of Dimtri Claeys, saw the team fall agonisingly short of a podium spot but ultimately declare themselves very satisfied with the day's overall performance.

The race was won in a sprint by Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) with Claeys finishing eighth, Wisniowski 13th and Campenaerts 16th overall.

Tim Merlier

Tim Merlier wins Le Samyn. Sirotti photo

Victor Campenaerts:
" We executed a very offensive race (today); in a race on cobblestones to have three riders in the top 16 is a really strong performance.

Of course we want to win but I think it’s a very good result. I was awarded prize for the most attractive rider too, so it was a really good day for the team, and we can be proud of our fight and effort out there.

Dimitri Claeys:
We had a really good day with the whole team, and are happy. We rode really offensively and we were able to deliver a good collective result. That said, I think this shows that in the coming races we can still be, and get, better. We still aim to go even higher, and step by step we’ll do so.

Here's what Deceuninck-Quick Step had to say about the race:

A race of two halves, with a completely flat and mostly quiet first part followed by a combination of cobblestone and hills in the last 100 kilometers, Le Samyn didn’t disappoint again Tuesday afternoon, when former World Champion Mark Cavendish and 2019 Florian Sénéchal spearheaded the Wolfpack which sported a special jersey that supported Maes’ “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign.

The former was prominent at the front with more than 50 kilometers to go, after Rue de Belle Vue, when a gap opened and he found himself together with Bert Van Lerberghe at the right end of the split. Both Deceuninck – Quick-Step delegates brought their share of work in the small group, helping it establish a one-minute gap over the large bunch. A series of attacks narrowed down the margin and eventually brought back the leaders, but Cavendish continued to be in the thick of the action, delivering a remarkable effort as another group was slipping away with 25 kilometers to go.

Another regrouping happened, and when it did, Deceuninck – Quick-Step moved en masse to the head of the peloton. One rider tried his luck and opened a 15-second gap, but Tim Declercq produced the big watts at a faster rate than when he builds units in Age of Empires ll and overhauled the lone attacker. Then, on the last cobblestone stretch of the race, Florian took off and pushed hard, only four riders being able to jump on his wheel and join him.

Deceuninck-Quick step

I don't know which Deceuninck-Quick Step rider this is enjoying the gentle pleasures of Belgium's cobbles. Siortti photo

Despite having a significant buffer at one point and their chances of making it all the way to the line looking good at one point, the action came to nothing as the others weren’t willing to cooperate, and the bunch came back on terms under the flamme rouge. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) took the victory in the sprint, while Declercq finished as the best-placed rider of our team in Dour.

“Le Samyn is a race that suits one, but the weather wasn’t on our side, with no wind that could have helped us break the peloton. But we kept attacking and being there when it mattered, and Mark and Bert ended up being on the front. It looked good, but the others chased hard and it was back together. We continued to try and make it an aggressive race, even in the final kilometers, but unusually it came down to a bunch sprint and that was that. We didn’t get a result today, but the confidence is still there and we’re already looking to the next races”, explained sports director Rik Van Slycke.

Israel Start-Up Nation posted this Le Samyn report:

Israel Start-Up Nation came close to another podium spot as Sep Vanmarcke finished fourth in Le Samyn – just in front of Hugo Hofstetter, who won the race last year.

Israel Start-Up Nation

Israel Start-Up Nation is presented during the race's opening ceremonies. Sirotti photo

Unlike in the recent Belgian one-day races, it took quite a while before a breakaway managed to get clear of the peloton. This meant that the gap never grew too big, and with 60 km to go the pack split up as a rather large group got off the front.

Vanmarcke was quick to join the move, which allowed his teammates to sit back and let the other teams do the chasing. As the two big groups were about to merge, Vanmarcke launched another attack. This time, however, the peloton reacted right away, bringing back our strong Belgian who was clearly on a good day today.

Unfortunately, with just under 15 km to go, Vanmarcke suffered a puncture and had to stop and change bikes. It seemed like the end of his race, but after furious chase he managed to re-join the front group as the race entered the final five kilometers.

In a hectic final, several riders tried to break away and when two of the pre-race favorites moved clear on the last pave section, Vanmarcke – once again – accelerated to join the dangerous move.

However, with just one kilometer left to go, it all came back together again. Vanmarcke was still near the front and despite running empty after his previous enormous efforts, he managed to hold on for fourth place. Hofstetter finished right behind him, making it two ISN riders in top-5 on the day. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) took the win.

Sep Vanmarcke: “On the last lap, I wanted to attack on one of the cobbles sections but unfortunately, I punctured and had to change bikes. I managed to get back to the group and in the deep final, I saw Senechal and Van der Poel attacking on the last cobbles section. It took a little while before I could pass everybody and bridge across but I got up there.

Then, I gambled a little bit on the last two kilometers and unfortunately, the peloton came back. I started sprinting from far out just to get the maximum out of it and at the end, that was a fourth place today. It was a good result but I’m also disappointed as I feel that I could have done a better result if everything had gone my way.However, I’m happy that the level is a good again. In Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne my body wasn’t feeling good after the crash the day before. Our osteopath, Elvi, did a really good job the last two days and yesterday evening, he told me that I was ready again and that I should be going well today. He was right. The legs were good and that’s great for the confidence looking ahead”.

Here's the Team DSM report:

Our Development program got their season underway today at the notoriously testing Le Samyn, known for its tricky cobbled sections and exposed roads. Upon leaving the neutralised zone the race was on and the pace didn’t let up for more than the opening hour of racing, with attack after attack flying from the bunch. The team rode strongly as a unit, rotating as a unit to make it into the moves, before Enzo Leijnse made it into the five-rider group that went clear after over 65 kilometres of action.

Leijnse’s group worked well together and extended their gap to almost 3 minutes and 30 seconds, but the peloton ensured that it didn’t grow out any further. As the kilometres and cobbled sections ticked by, Leijnse continued to impress out front as the breakaway fell to only four riders, as the impetus started to increase.

With around 40 kilometres to go a large group attacked from the peloton, joining Leijnse and his erstwhile breakaway companions. Leijnse dug in deep to stay with the group for as long as possible but after a hard day out on the attack, he had to let go of the wheels with around 30 kilometres to go. Behind, the rest of the team did a good job to position Casper van Uden and Marius Mayrhofer to the fore of the peloton but unfortunately the duo just didn’t have the legs to follow the stinging pace over the final cobble section as the new group out front formed, which ultimately fought it out for the race win.

“From the beginning on, it was a long and big fight for the breakaway with lots of jumping and attacking,” explained Leijnse after the race. “We did a good job with jumping and covering the attacks, and I managed to get in the break of the day in the end. Overall, it was a good day with lots of learning points to take with us towards the other races.”

Team DSM coach Bennie Lambregts continued: “I think the guys did a really good job in the first race of the season, especially against some strong opposition and a tough parcours. One of the goals was to be in the breakaway and Enzo did a good job to be in there for us after a lot of attacks from the guys early on. Onto the first cobbled stone section the guys did a good lead out in the peloton to that point, which was something we spoke about before the race so it was good to see them do it well. After that, the racing got really tough but in general I think it was a good job from the guys. They stuck to the plan and did everything for each other, which was really nice to see.”

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