After some great teamwork, Wout van Aert won the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. He crossed the line with Christophe Laporte, making it an excellent one-two for Team Jumbo-Visma.
The Taaienberg was indicated as a crucial point in the race, which proved to be right. On that slope, Wout van Aert attacked together with Christophe Laporte and Tiesj Benoot. They rode to the early breakaway with four other riders and ended up in the leading group. On the Eikenberg, they regrouped and Mike Teunissen joined in, so Team Jumbo-Visma occupied a quarter of the leading group.
On the Paterberg, the Belgian champion attacked and only Laporte could follow him. The two of them began a 42-kilometre journey to the finish in Harelbeke. The duo grabbed a nice lead and Benoot was in the chasing group. Van Aert and Laporte crossed the finish line hand in hand.
Van Aert praised his teammates. “I want to thank everyone on the team. It was an impressive team performance. The plan was that Christophe and I could keep calm until the Paterberg. We succeeded thanks to the hard work of the other guys. They helped us a lot.”
The collaboration with the Frenchman was perfect. “Only at the top of the Paterberg I realised that Christophe and I had a gap. We got into an easy situation. We didn’t have to hesitate and could ride full speed. At first, we had to fight to get a lead, but when we started the Karnemelkbeekstraat with a lead, I knew the chasers would have a hard time. And we also had Tiesj in the group. There was no discussion about who was going to win. I thank Christophe for giving me this victory. It means a lot to me. I am proud of the team because this is how we want to win. By racing like this, we create the best chance for everyone to win.”
Van Aert was delighted with the crowd’s support that turned out in droves. “From the Karnemelkbeekstraat, I tried to enjoy it, but there was also hard pedalling. I had goosebumps on the podium with so many supporters. They had been absent for so long. It was extraordinary being able to experience this again.”
Laporte felt the Belgian champion was a more than deserved winner. “The team worked very well all day. It’s a pity we lost Tosh, but I hope he still watched us on television with some satisfaction. We had a plan to be in front on the Taaienberg, which worked out well with Tiesj, Wout and me. A second important point was the Paterberg. Wout went full steam ahead and I was on the limit. I couldn’t follow, but he waited at the top. It was still far, so we had to ride well together. Wout gave me the victory in Paris-Nice, but he was the strongest today. He deserved to win here. It is incredible to experience this. The people along the route were fantastic. Especially with Wout as Belgian champion, the crowd supported us everywhere. I tried to enjoy the last kilometre, but I was exhausted. I’m looking forward to watching the TV footage.”
For Van Aert, it is his third win of the season after being successful in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the time trial in Paris-Nice. Team Jumbo-Visma has eight victories this year so far.