Last week in Belgium I learned a lot. I was coming off a bad Tirreno, where I was severely affected by a virus, and then Sanremo, where I managed to hold on until the Poggio in spite of very few training hours in the previous days. Without a crash that broke the pack, I could have even finished in the top group, but I was very far from feeling at my best.
Last Wednesday at Dwars Van Vlaanderen, I finally felt my legs spinning good again. I wasn’t feeling great, so I put myself at the team’s disposal. It was a tough race, where I covered the attacks in the last 50 km, and then I got into a dangerous break attempt with some of the favorites at 20 km to go. At the end, a sixth place came out of the sprint, but I believe to have offered a valuable contribution even regardless of the result.
At Gent-Wevelgem, facing the strongest Northern Classics’ riders over 245 km of cobbles, crashes and crosswinds, I finally managed to prove myself that I can compete in this kind of races. I rode upfront for most of the race, giving everything I had for Fabian and the team. The 11th place in the sprint, after having put in a big effort like I did, actually gives me confidence in my potential as Classics’ rider.
Anyway, in order to try and develop it, I need to take part in these races, as much as I can. Technically speaking, there are three things that make the profile of a Northern Classics’ rider. The first is the knowledge of the roads, something you only learn by racing here: the Belgians know even potholes and manholes by heart, and you need to be prepared in order to compete. The second is pretty obvious: you must handle the cobbles, to ride them proficiently and feel confident in doing that. The third is being able to deliver that furious accelerations of 2/3 minutes at the maximum effort: it’s not something you only do in Belgium, but you can’t win here if you are unable to do that. In these days, I feel like I took some nice steps in the right direction, and I would have liked to stretch this momentum and feelings further. Too bad, but it’s not over: I will be back, Flanders.
Finally, I can’t close without spending a few lines on what happened in the last few days. First, the Dwars Van Vlaanderen raced in an indescribable atmosphere after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, and then the Gent-Wevelgem tragedy, and another one at Criterium International (in different circumstances). Antoine Demoitie’s fate makes us reflect. I could lie and say I knew him, and spending some nice words, but the truth is that even in a restricted World like pro cycling, there are a bunch of people we see around us, passing by us or even riding on our side, whose character and personal history we do not know. Antoine was, simply, one of us. And it could have been anyone of us under that wheels, too. The truth is that, after Sunday, all of us feel a little more at risk. And alone. Ciao Antoine. g