Remco Evenepoel continued to write history, as he became the youngest rider to take multiple GC wins at the Belgium Tour, the second-oldest stage race in the world. The Belgian youngster laid down the foundation of his victory on the very first day of the race, when a long-range attack in the Flemish Ardennes blew the peloton to pieces, and cemented it twenty-four hours later, courtesy of a flawless ride in the race’s short individual time trial.
From then on, the 21-year-old defended his position atop the leaderboard. He did so backed up by a strong Deceuninck – Quick-Step squad, which worked tirelessly at the front of the peloton in the remaining three days and made sure nothing would spoil Evenepoel’s sixth GC success since turning pro.
The final day of the race was one for the sprinters, and having in its ranks one of the fastest men of this season in Cavendish. Our team took the matter into its own hands, and not only protected Remco on the undulating roads to Beringen, but also made sure Cavendish was at the front when it came to crunch time. A huge pull by Yves Lampaert with one and a half kilometers to go brought the Deceuninck – Quick-Step into position, before Davide Ballerini took over the reins, paving the way for another superb lead-out of Michael Mørkøv.
The Dane did what he does best and left the Manxman in an ideal position and Cavendish measured his sprint perfectly, coming along the barriers in an incredible rush towards the line, and defeated by a wheel Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) for his 151st career victory.
“It’s a big relief. After a long injury and a long way back it’s very special to win again, to know that you’re back where you were before. It’s a confirmation of the fact that we worked hard to return to this level and of the support I got from the team, which is something I am very grateful for. Winning the Belgium Tour again and especially that ITT is also a mental boost ahead of the National Championships and shows it was a good decision to do this race, as it showed the progress I have made”, said Remco, before sharing his thoughts on Mark Cavendish’s great day.
“Today we saw again the team’s Wolfpack mentality, this incredible spirit that has carried us and continue to carry us to so many amazing victories. We fought hard and we worked hard, and at the end of the day Cav showed why he is the best sprinter in history. He is an amazing athlete and a real champion, and you could see that not just today, when he took the win, but also on the previous stages, when he worked for me.”
A delighted Mark Cavendish was equally happy and echoed Remco’s thoughts after the stage that brought him his 49th victory in the Deceuninck – Quick-Step jersey: “Quite a hectic finale today, which was normal, as every team wanted to be there and fight for positioning and for the win, but I had a superb team around me, with the boys doing everything to keep me at the front. We knew what we had to do and we did it, and I couldn’t have asked for more. When you have these guys in front of you – Styby, Remco, Iljo, Lampy, Davide, Michael – it’s… What more could I say? It’s my first time in the Belgium Tour and to win here, against so many sprinters who will be at the Tour de France in two weeks, makes this victory even more beautiful. I’m incredibly happy!”
Last but not least, Yves Lampaert sealed an impressive 1-2 for Deceuninck – Quick-Step in the general classification, a result that bodes well for the Belgian ahead of the National Championships, which will be held in his home town of Ingelmunster: “Today was fast and a but messy in the closing part, but I did my best and made sure the team was where it had to be going under the flamme rouge. I feel good after this race, had a solid week and now I look forward to the Nationals. It will be special to race for a good result in Ingelmunster.”