Etixx - Quick-Step riders Julian Alaphilippe and Pieter Serry made a 15-rider select group at 198km Classic Sud Ardèche, but it was Eduardo Sepulveda (Bretagne - Séché Environnement) who won the race, just a few seconds ahead of Julien Loubet (Team Marseille 13 KTM), and 10" ahead of Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing). Serry finished 7th out of the group including Felline.
Alaphilippe was aggressive earlier in the race, but eventually was unable to maintain contact. The peloton splintered into several groups and finished at different times.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to La Drome Classic on Sunday. La Drome Classic is a 201km race with 15 total climbs, including a final lap with four.more information
Etixx - Quick-Step took the race to the peloton with 202.2km Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. Three riders made it into the select group that decided the race thanks to an acceleration from Etixx - Quick-Step with 43km to go.
Despite a chase group forming behind including Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), Sep Vanmarcke (Team Lotto-NLJumbo), and Etixx - Quick-Step teammate Zdenek Stybar, a four-rider lead group including Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Ian Stannard (Team Sky) held their advantage all the way to the finish line.
Stannard was able to win out of the lead group in a two-up sprint with Terpstra. Boonen was 3rd, and Vandenbergh 4th. Stybar finished 7th.
Etixx - Quick-Step launched several attacks in the final 5km, including an initial accelration by Terpstra. Stannard was forced to work to catch back on to Terpstra, and then Boonen immediately countered. He was eventually caught. Terpstra tried attacking again, but to no avail. At 2.9km to go Stannard tried his own attack, which forced Vandenbergh — who worked tirelessly to maintain the gap for the lead group in the final kilometers — to use up what energy he had left to chase down Stannard.
Terpstra rejoined, but Boonen couldn't catch the two riders before the sprint.
Etixx - Quick-Step was also aggressive earlier in the race, with Boonen accelerating on the Taaienberg and riders always being present in actions. Team Sky, BMC Racing Team, and Etixx - Quick-Step worked on the front prior to these actions in order to chase down an original breakaway of seven, which was down to just a few before being caught with 46km to go.
The next race of the Classics opening weekend is Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday, with Mark Cavendish making the start for Etixx - Quick-Step in a race that can end in a breakaway or a bunch sprint.
"Today we made a mistake in the final," Boonen said. "We were in control of the race with three riders in the front group. In the final kilometers we attacked. Niki went first, Stannard reacted, and then I countered with my move. I was pretty sure at that time that it was the right moment to do it. But Stannard had the strategy to ride on the wheels of us three in the lead group, and save his energy until the final kilometers, so he was a bit fresher. He was also strong today. So, he caught me. The best thing to do at that point would have been to stay calm and wait for the sprint. But we had been full gas for the last hour, so really it was about instinct at that point. So, Niki attacked again, then Stannard, and then the final sprint was between those two guys. There is a thin line between a great race and a costly mistake and unfortunately we took the risk of not waiting for the sprint, and it didn't work out. It would have been great to win the race, but that's cycling. Congrats to Stannard. He rode a smart tactical race and his reactions to our attacks were impressive. His sprint was also strong. As a team we rode super strong today and while we unfortunately fell short of victory, we know what we are capable of for future races."
"When Tom accelerated on the Taiienberg and a small group went away, I was a little bit behind," Vandenbergh said. "I was with Vanmarcke in the second group. We came back together, and on the Haaghoek I accelerated a bit together with Tom and we were able to make the selection. We quickly gained a gap with four riders and we pushed full gas until we had enough of an advantage to decide the race. Unfortunately we didn't win, but we were strong collectively. The team will try again immediately tomorrow."
"It looked like it was going to be a nice day, everything went well, and then we came in front with three guys," Terpstra said. "All it took was a small acceleration on the Haaghoek. Stijn did it, and then Vanmarcke took over. We then saw some gaps in the front of the peloton. So I told Tom we would go full throttle at that moment. We went fast on the Leberg. The gap was there and we basically made it a team time trial with one guy on our wheel. It was a smart move by him, any of us would have done the same thing. In the final we attacked with the three of us in front. But after a few attacks he countered and then attacked. In the end I was alone with Stannard. I was in front for the sprint. I saw it was 300 meters and I decided not to go yet. Then I accelerated at 200 meters. Normally that is perfect for me, but I didn't have the perfect sprinting legs after the big effort all day. I thought I had him until 50 meters in front of the finish line. I had nothing left in my legs at that point. Looking back, maybe it would have been better to wait for the sprint with Tom and not attacking, but it's a question of moment and circumstances. Stannard was really strong in the end against our attacks, and deserved the win. Of course we wanted the win and this is disappointing. But it is also motivation for the upcoming races."
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck stopped on the Eikenberg and was forced to withdraw from the race due to stomach problems. He will be replaced by Iljo Keisse at Kuurne - Brussel - Kuurne tomorrow.
"I am a little bit disappointed," Van Keirsbulck said. "I had a good feeling this week and I love Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. But unfortunately today I had no power in the legs with these stomach cramps and I think it is best to recover and be 100 percent ready for the next races."more information
Etixx - Quick-Step has announced the selections that will participate in Classic Sud Ardèche and La Drome Classic, two French races taking place on Saturday, February 28th, and Sunday, March 1st.
The 15th Edition of Classic Sud Ardèche, 198km in total, includes a final circuit with a double ascension of Rocher de Sampzon (1.6km, average gradient 10%, max ramp 18%) and Cote de la Vignasse (700m, average gradient 8%, max ramp 15%) climbed three times. For the first time since 2007, the start and finish will be in Ruoms.
La Drome Classic, in its 3rd edition at 201km in total distance, features a more up-and-down parcours from start to finish. The riders will pass 15 climbs combined. The race is divided into a 3 lap circuit, and a finishing lap.
"These two races we have participated in for a few years now," Sport Director Davide Bramati said. "They are two good races with nice finishes. On Saturday we have a final circuit of 20 kilometers, which we repeat four times with short, but a couple steep climbs each lap. Last year we did well with Golas, who was 2nd. The second day at La Drome will be a little bit harder than the previous day. The parcours is undulating, and in the final there is another lap but with four small climbs. We have a nice team able to defend themselves on the climbs. Gianni Meersman, who showed good condition at Volta ao Algarve, can be one of the top riders of the race. We also have at the start Rigoberto Uran for his first races in Europe after his Colombian National ITT Championship victory. It will be an important step prior to Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico."
You can find the selection for Classic Sud Ardèche here
The selection for La Drome Classic is available by clicking the "More Information" button.
Etixx - Quick-Step took advantage of the good weather on Friday and performed last minute reconnaissance of the final 70 kilometers of 202.2k Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which included the hellingen of the race on Saturday. Riders who participated were Tom Boonen, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, and Matteo Trentin. Their comments about the race are listed below.
"It's always good to have it fresh in the mind," Boonen said about the parcours. "At the last minute I decided to participate in this recon and I think we had better weather than the other teams who did it on Wednesday. We took it easy and now have the afternoon to relax. As for the race, the parcours in the final is the same that we faced in the last years. I haven't checked the start list yet but I know about most of the top guys who will be here. Many of them were already at Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman. But to be honest I think it will be tomorrow at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad where the riders of the Classics will start to show themselves. The races we've done so far aren't really races where you can make comparisons. Qatar only had one day where it was really full gas to the finish line with only 15 guys left in the group for the final. At Oman, there was one mountain stage where you can't make judgments of Classics riders who are a little bigger in size on the climbs. We didn't really have any chances to show how good we were on hilly parcours that suited us. So I think Saturday we will know how it is with everybody. At this race I was two times 2nd and one time 3rd. Of course it's an objective. But you can never really predict these kinds of races. We are here with a strong team and I think we can do something for sure and honor the first Belgian race of the season."
"I think the key moment will be the Taaienberg," Stybar said. "Until that point it is always very hard. It's about positioning before that point, and the selections are starting to be made. From that point the race eases up a bit. Then you assert your position and form your strategy for the rest of the race. I think it is our advantage that our team is so well-rounded. Anyone can win and we can play a role in any scenario. I think for our team it is an open race and we just have to make sure that we always move at the right moment, and everyone supports the strongest rider with however the race evolves."
"Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman were of course good," Terpstra said. "With an overall and ITT win in Qatar I was of course happy. Oman was also a hard race with some mountain stages that can help the condition. This week it was about getting acclimated to the cold temperatures and recover a bit, and then get ready for tomorrow. Last year I was in the actions and I will try to do that again, but also try to get a good result. This will be the first of a long series of races. My shape is OK but there can still be improvements until the end of March. Tomorrow I want to be good, and then take it step-by-step. Even if I am not Belgian, I really feel these races and want to focus on Omloop Het Nieuwsblad tomorrow."
"The crash at Tour of Oman hurt, because I felt my skin taken off by the ground," Trentin said. "For the first half an hour it was really painful. I went home that evening and fortunately could train already a few days later on the rollers. Now I am here ready to race for this weekend. I still feel a little bit of pain in my back from the crash, but I hope once the adrenaline of the race hits, even that pain will disappear. Tomorrow is the first real test for the Classics, with cold temperatures and the right kind of parcours. I hope to be OK and will do my best, as I am always highly motivated for these kinds of races."
Etixx - Quick-Step has announced the selections that will participate in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, on Saturday, February 28th, and Sunday, March 1st.
The 70th edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad officially launches the start of the 2015 spring classics. The 200.2km race features 11 hellingen, including many of the climbs also featured, or formerly featured, in Ronde van Vlaanderen. The hellingen include the Muur, Kruisberg, Taaienberg, Mollenberg, and Leberg. There are also ten cobbled sections.
As for the 67th edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Tom Boonen won the 2014 edition of the race. This race can be more of an opportunity for a sprint, whether bunch or small group, than Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The final hellingen is 53km before the finish. There are nine total hellingen, with all but one being passed prior to the middle of the race. Notable hellingen include, but are not limited to, Kruisberg, Nokereberg, and Oude Kwaremont.
"The parcours hasn't changed much, so the final is the same," Sport Director Wilfried Peeters said. "For all the riders it's the first test to see where they are on this kind of parcours before the big Classics. The masks will fall off. We are at the start with a strong team, with riders in good condition that can be a part of the actions and play a part in the final. So we are pretty confident in our abilities to be a protagonist. The last time we won this race was 10 years ago with Nick Nuyens, but the finish was still in Lokeren. Tom Boonen was 2nd that day. Now we hope after 10 years that we can do a good race and try to get a win.
"The weekend will continue with Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, a race where we have a tradition of success including a victory last year with Tom," Peeters continued. "He's won this race three times. As usual Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne will be an open race, with a lot of attacks. We have riders for any solution, whether out of a breakaway or a group arrival. If there is a bunch sprint, Mark Cavendish will be there. He raced in 2012 for the first time and he won, so his success rate is high. We will try to do our best for a good result on Sunday as well."
To access the selection for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, click here
To find the selection for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, click the button for "More Information" below.more information