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"I knew I was on a good way but I saw Cavendish coming and I tried to shift down again but it didn’t work. So suddenly my legs got really, really soft and I just tried to hold it as good as possible to the finish line."

Photo: Etixx - Quick-Step / Tim de Waele


06.04.2016 @ 23:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) made history by becoming the first rider to win the oldest Flemish classic, Scheldeprijs, four times in a fantastic sprint battle between all the fastest riders. Having been delivered perfectly by Fabio Sabatini, he narrowly held off Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) in a photo finish while André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) had to settle for third.


We have gathered several reactions.


Marcel Kittel after record fourth win: I even sprinted in the wrong gear

With two kilometers left of the 104th edition of Scheldeprijs, Etixx – Quick-Step hit the front with three riders, who were working to bring Marcel Kittel in an ideal position for the bunch sprint. Up until that point, the race had two breakaways in the spotlight, but neither spelled trouble for the peloton who was controlled by the sprinters' teams. Another important factor was that unlike other seasons, this year's edition of the Belgian event was much calmer, without any incidents or crashes to take some riders out of the equation.


After his teammates formed a strong lead-out and escorted him up until the final 200 meters, Marcel Kittel – who has already enjoyed success this season in Belgium at Driedaagse De Panne – opened his powerful sprint and went down to the line against Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), winning for a tire's width and scoring his seventh victory since joining Etixx – Quick-Step, which makes him the most successful World Tour rider of 2016. Kittel, who made no secret of the fact that Scheldeprijs is one of the biggest goals of the season for him, has written history by finishing first in Schoten, after 208 kilometers, as he has now became the only rider to win the oldest Flemish race on four occasions.


It was the perfect scenario for Marcel Kittel – who was forced to miss last year's edition – but despite this historic achievement, he was quick to stress out that he's not racing for records, but for the pure joy cycling gives him: "I don't do this for numbers or for records. I just race because I love this and I love winning races. Of course, I'm glad to take the victory, just as having a team that supports me 100% and helps me get the most out of my talent makes me very happy."


The 27-year-old German also made an analysis of the last two kilometers, which saw things heat up in the peloton as the riders were fighting for a better position: "The new finale was good and this meant there were no more crashes, but it's also true that the race was more difficult than in the past, because of the wind which stretched out the peloton. We knew it would be tricky, so our goal was to come at the front with two kilometers to go and we did that. My teammates were excellent, and thanks to them, nobody could pass us. I started my sprint with around 200 meters to go and it wasn't easy, but I gave my all and when Cavendish came around, I managed to keep my advantage. It's my biggest win of the season and looking at the start list, which included almost all the top names of the game, it gives me even more confidence for my next races.


"It was a tough race today, especially in this weather. But the team worked well, they led me out perfectly. I am glad I won but in the end it was still very close with Mark Cavendish.


"I started my sprint and did a little mistake, sprinting in a gear which was firstly too big, so I had to shift up. Then when I started to accelerate I knew I was on a good way but I saw Cavendish coming and I tried to shift down again but it didn’t work. So suddenly my legs got really, really soft and I just tried to hold it as good as possible to the finish line.


"I'm really glad my girlfriend was there today, especially with this victory. It's a big win for me.


“Of course it's nice that I have the record. I love this race, especially since we always have the best sprinters at the start. If you can beat them here, it is always something special.


"All the big names were in that race – they lined up to go for the victory. To win against all the other guys, if you just look at the podium, that’s a really important win. There was such good competition, so many other good sprinters here. It makes it very special and I’m very proud of it.”


"I hope we don’t have rain in Qatar…" he said regarding the World Championships. "This is definitely a good test, but to talk now already about a race that is in half a year – I think it’s a bit early."


Mark Cavendish: As always, Kittel was just that little bit faster

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were the team that took control of the race and Jay Thomson would put in an incredible ride to manage the gap to the break for the majority of the race. Mark Cavendish, as a 3-time winner of the Scheldeprijs, was the protected rider for the finish and the team ensured Cavendish was always in prime position throughout the day. As they entered Schoten, and 3 laps of a 16km circuit were to be completed, the wind picked up and so did the speed of the race. Jay Thomson and Matt Brammeier did some monster turns on the front of the peloton and this saw a number of riders being dropped from the peloton as the break was also reeled in well before the finish.


Due to the pressure being applied by the African Team the group actually split on a number of occasions but it kept regrouping. Finally, in the final 5km Etixx-Quickstep came to the front with fresh legs and the African Team placed Cavendish on the wheel of Kittel. Tyler Farrar was always present as well, supporting Cavendish into the final kilometer. The sprint then opened up with Etixx leading it out. Cavendish started coming around Kittel but the German just had that little bit more in the final few meters to win by a rim's length from Cavendish.


Cavendish said:


“Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka did a great job for me today. Jay Thomson was controlling it from the beginning. When we hit the circuits the team made sure I was always in the best position at the decisive points. It was getting wet and windy at the end and we thought it might split near the finish but the guys did an incredible job to keep me up there obviously.


“We wanted Reinie [van Rensburg] and Tyler there with me for the final but they had a job to do earlier on. At the end I had Tyler, and we talked about it before, if we didn't have a team anymore then Tyler would make sure he was with me in case I had any trouble.


“At the end of the day, it’s Kittel. It’s not like I f*cked up, I gave everything, the team gave everything, we gave it everything but he was just better today.


“He's got a great lead-out now, and I knew he'd be in the front. I was on his wheel, but in the spray from the road I couldn't see how far to go. I thought, ‘Perfect’, he'd hit it too early, then I saw 150m to go. I was coming, coming but just when I got next to him he went again. I used to be able to do that, but I can't do that anymore.


"With my… age, I’d rather have a smaller group sprint. The weather was playing up and getting wetter and windier, so we tried to go with a couple of laps to go. But Kittel wasn’t there, so Etixx didn’t ride.


“I knew I had to be on the Etixx team. That was fine and we’d talked about that. Tyler was there too in case we needed him but Kittel was the best wheel to be on. The guys were superb the way they looked after me. At the end of the day I’m super happy with that. I did a good ride, the Dimension Data guys did a good ride. Just, as always, Kittel’s a bit faster at the end. I’ve lost by closer this year. It is how it is.


“What can I say, it was Marcel Kittel that beat me so we can be happy with how the team rode. Obviously I am disappointed to not be able to finish their work off but we can take confidence from riding well together.  


“I needed a good block of training. I didn’t want to come into this race mediocre and not be able to do a good job in the likes of E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Flanders and Roubaix. If I’m going in at 70 per cent and then racing and recovering after races, I’m kind of chasing my tail, I can’t do a great job for the team. So I thought it was best to miss a couple of races and then comeback good for a couple of races, go for the win here and do a good job on Sunday. I’m happy that the team gave me the freedom to do that. It’s what this team is about; they listen to what we have to say and comeback and do well in the next part of the season.


“The problem is that I get paid a lot of money in the teams I ride for to do well at the Giro d’Italia, the Tour of California and the Tour de France. So teams don’t want me risking things at Roubaix.


“I ideally joined Quickstep to learn to ride Paris-Roubaix, I thought it was the best place to do that but Wilfred Peters didn’t like me riding with him. With him I was never within a shot of riding….


“This team is letting me give it a go. I don’t want to finish my career and regret not trying to do something in Paris-Roubaix. I don’t think I can win Roubaix but there aren’t many races where I can pay back the guy who work so well for me. Edvald is going really well, so I’d like to do something for him on Sunday.”


Sports director Roger Hammond added:

“It was a good race. The team rode really well and fought hard for Mark. The plan was to get him onto Kittel’s leadout and do the sprint from there. Mark said he just misjudged how far he was from the finish but it looked like he was coming back pretty well. I am pleased that the team was strong, they rode like a team and they rode from the front. 


Satisfied André Greipel: Today my goal was just to do the sprint

André Greipel sprinted to the third place and completes the podium. The German was able to compete in the sprint and is happy with the result.


Hesaid: “We knew for sure it would be a bunch sprint because a lot of teams participated with a strong sprinter. The initial plan was to give a small group some advantage, then Frederik Frison could control the gap together with a few riders of other teams.


“After that it was important to be at the front of the peloton in the finale with as many riders as possible, because of the strong wind that wasn’t easy. We decided beforehand that we wanted to participate in the sprint. A victory would be fantastic but we also needed to be realistic. Due to a severe rib injury (which he sustained in Volta ao Algarve, ed.) the spring season got disturbed for me. I was unable to do specific sprint trainings and I never had a great feeling on the bike. Today I just wanted to participate in the bunch sprint. Because of the tailwind in the final road to the finish line I’d planned to take the initiative. But then it became clear that I can’t compete with Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel at this moment.


"The team was fantastic in this weather. Today I had much better legs. The aim of today was to sprint, and we succeeded. It is a nice podium. The crowd was fantastic and I'm glad I finally got third.


“It’s not my weather: the rain and the cold. I always have problems in these conditions. I can be happy now with the third place. I know I can sprint better than I did today but ‘today is today’ and the best rider won, today. If I could turn it back I could not have done it any better. I had a good position. Unfortunately I didn’t have the legs. I’m looking forward to contest in more sprints now.


“In the sprint I didn’t feel like I was recovered from Flanders. But hey, today is the Scheldeprijs and nobody was asking me to ride my guts out in the breakaway.


 “It was the same scenario. Normally there would’ve been enough wind to split up the peloton but nobody wanted to do that so everybody came quite relaxed on the final circuit. The team did a really good job to keep me up front. It wasn’t that easy but we managed to do that. I didn’t have the best legs for the sprint today but the goal today was to be up there and contend in a sprint with a strong team performance. It worked out really well.


“I still feel the ribs. I had a really difficult last five, six weeks with my injury. I couldn’t do sprint training like I used to do. I look forward when I can put the injury behind and look at the future now. Therefore I’m trying to be ready for the Giro in a couple of weeks. First I do Paris-Roubaix and then I’m going to see how I can prepare for the Giro.


“The race was quite relaxed until 40, 30 kilometres to go so that shouldn’t be a problem fo Roubaix. For sure there are better riders than me in these races but I have a good spirit in my head for the moment so I’m going to try my best. A lot of things can happen in Roubaix. I hope I have somehow good legs to help the team.


“I can’t complain about the way I did my sprint today, I’m very happy with this third place. Sunday I’ll participate in Paris-Roubaix, that’s always a special race. You can’t predict what will happen and I really look forward to this race. After that I’ll have a short rest period and then I’ll prepare myself for the Giro d’Italia. I know what to do, optimizing my sprint speed.”


Trek pair of Theuns and Bonifazio the best of the rest behind the sprinting giants

There was no surprise ending to the 207-kilometer sprinters Classic Scheldeprijs Wednesday, and a bunch finish unfolded as anticipated.


The only hitch was the rain that caused a more treacherous ending than desired, but Edward Theuns positioned well in the final kilometer and sprinted to fourth place while - coming from behind - Niccolo Bonifazio finished with a strong kick to place fifth.


With some of the biggest sprinting names knocking elbows, it was a close finish. The photo finish showed Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) a tire width over Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) to claim the win, as Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) rounded out the podium.


"It was a wet and dangerous sprint," explained Theuns. "Etixx (Quick Step) pulled really hard in the final kilometer, it was all in one line and just about holding the wheel and then sprinting in the last 200 meters.


"I was a little bit short for the podium, but I am happy finishing behind these three guys. I was able to stay on their wheels, and they did not sprint away from me in the end; I was even battling against Greipel for third. I was there, and that is good for me.


"I may be reasonably happy with my fourth place Especially when you see the riders in the first, second and third place. I was still very close to André Greipel. 


"My next race is perhaps the Tour of Croatia, later in the month. I am a reserve for Paris-Roubaix, though I would have liked to do that race. The team management, however, decided otherwise and I must accept that.”


The rain and wet roads made for a tricky ending, and with Paris-Roubaix looming on the horizon, the primary objective for Trek-Segafredo, the two young sprinters were left to their own devices in the finale.


"The tactic was simple today with five of the best sprinters in the world on the start line," said director Dirk Demol. "We knew that the race would be controlled by their teams. Our first goal was to go through today safely with Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, our main goal. It's a pity that we had the rain in the last 60 kilometers which made the cobbled section on the circuit more dangerous and also the finale.


"It's always difficult when you have two good sprinters, they're not top sprinters yet, but they are both very good. The idea was for our two fast guys, Edward and Niccolo, to talk to each other at the end for who would help the other in the sprint. If you see the podium, it's with three of the best sprinters in the world, and we are fourth and fifth just behind.


"I am a bit disappointed that I was not more clear at the end to choose someone [for the sprint], but I didn't want to put too much pressure and stress on these young guys in the rain – my main concern was to get safely through with no crazy risks. Fourth and fifth sounds good, but next time we need better communication, I need to be clearer, and we need to choose just one card.


"On one side you have two guys in the top five, on the other I would prefer that one completely sacrificed for the other. I don't know if [the outcome] would have been any different…


"The main thing is we got in a long training ahead of Sunday, we stayed safe, and two in the top five which, for sure, is not bad."


Danny Van Poppel takes over from Elia Viviani in Scheldeprijs

Danny van Poppel sprinted to sixth place at Scheldeprijs after a hard day of racing in Belgium.


It took a photo finish to split winner Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish, while Andre Greipel took third, with Van Poppel just missing out on a top-five finish.


The one-day race is traditionally seen as a sprinter's Classic and so it proved, with Kittel (Etixx - Quick-Step) taking a record fourth victory from a large bunch finish.


The peloton caught the day's break 40km from the line and, despite a few small attacks, a sprint looked nailed on from around 20km out.


The lead out trains began to form in earnest 3km from the finish and Elia Viviani looked poised in the bunch along with Van Poppel, but the Italian was unable to fully launch his sprint.


“It was close. I was pretty tired but I gave it a go and did the best I could,” he told Cyclingnews. “The plan was for Viviani but he was pretty far back, so I had a go. I ran out of energy and so it was too bad but I suppose it’s a god sign for me.


"I feel strong now and don’t have any pain in my knee. It’ll take time to get back up to my level but I know that I can do it.”


Encouraging sign for Nikias Arndt in Scheldeprijs

Throughout the stage, Giant-Alpecin focused on supporting Nikias Arndt all day and providing a good lead-out for him in the sprint. In the final kilometer, he was positioned in the top 15 and he managed to sprint to a top 10 finish.


Nikias Arndt said : “I think the race went quite well today, it was really windy throughout the stage and we needed to stay alert to any splits. We managed to stay together as a team at the front of the peloton which was good.


“As usual, the final lap is always very difficult, but the team put me in a good position in the first rows of the bunch. With 2km to go, the lead-out was good, but I ended up a bit isolated which made it more difficult. The guys did a great job for during the whole day and we were aiming for a top 10 result and I managed to sprint to 7th place. I think it is a good step in the right direction.”


Coach Arthur van Dongen said: “The race went according to plan today and as expected it ended up in a sprint finish. The team showed good intentions and team spirit throughout the race. We put in a solid performance and we were aiming for a top 10 which we achieved.”


Wouter Wippert bounces back from illness at Scheldeprijs

“Happy to be back racing after some illness. 8th today. Nice job by the @Ride_Argyle boys to keep me in front! #Scheldeprijs #Cannondale,” Wouter Wippert tweeted after the race.


Dylan Groenewgen: Today we proved that we have one of the best lead-outs in the world

Dylan Groenewegen finished ninth in the Scheldeprijs today in Schoten, in Antwerp’s suberbs. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter was supported well by his team-mates during the preparations for the final kick, but lost Robert Wagner’s wheel with 1.8 kilometres to go. Marcel Kittel (Etixx - Quick Step) won.


“We delivered a strong race, but didn’t grab the result we wanted,” Sports Director Jan Boven said. “We took control during the day and we knew that it was going to be important to be in the right position all the time. That went as we planned. We had to be the first riders entering the final two kilometres. It was a big fight, but Tom Van Asbroeck and Robert Wagner came out of it perfectly. Dylan Groenewegen had to let someone in the space in front of him, so he lost positions afterwards.”


Groenewegen gave everything to come back in Wagner’s slipstream afterwards.


“Just before the penultimate turn, I found his wheel again, but I slipped away a little bit during the final turn,” Groenewegen explained. “That’s why I ended up around 20th in the peloton. That was way too far back. I lost it myself today because the team delivered a strong performance. We showed to have one of the best sprint lead-outs in a very strong field of competitors.”


Sam Bennett left frustrated after failed lead-out at Scheldeprijs

After a long and hard Tour of Flanders, Sam Bennett and his lead-out rider Rüdiger Selig were back in the BORA – ARGON 18 line-up for the Scheldeprijs. The team tactics was pretty much predetermined. The Scheldeprijs is one of the Belgium Classics that sprinters, so this time should also be another good chance for Bennett to score a top result.


A breakaway could go clear from the peloton with no BORA – ARGON 18 rider. The team decided to concentrate on a possible sprint finish with Sam Bennett and support the main sprinter fully.


BORA – ARGON 18 moved up to the front with about 6k to go. The team looked well positioned, but when the roads got narrow between kilometre 3 and 1, they were caught on the wrong side on the peloton and lost a lot of positions. Shane Archbold tried to move up with Bennett on his wheel in the last kilometre, but the race was already lost there. Bennett couldn’t take on the sprint with the best and finished 12th.


“Everything looked good with 5k to go. The team was well together and up the front. But when we turned from the Schelde back into the city, we were caught on the wrong side. We lost position but also each other there. I tried to move up with Sam in the last kilometre, but there was no chance because it was too late,” Shane Archbold said.


“After we lost position Shane tried to move us back up. He dropped me at the wheel of Kristoff, but it was too late, there was no chance to take on the sprint with the guys on the front, also for Kristoff,”  Sam Bennett said.


“My concern was that because of the rain in the end, there could be a split in the peloton on the last cobble section. Our guys had no problems there and they really had a good position after the last section. But they were on the wrong side on the turn into the city before the narrow roads. They lost their chance there,” said André Schulze, sports director.


Dissapointed Roy Jans: I never got the chance to sprint

"I can't be satisfied with this 13th place. I was bad-positioned in the final. I couldn’t really sprint today", Jans said after the arrival.


Team Wanty-Groupe Gobert lined up today with fast man in Roy Jans. The other seven riders were: Frederik Backaert, Jérôme Baugnies, Kenny Dehaes, Tom Devriendt, Lander Seynaeve, Robin Stenuit and Frederik Veuchelen.


Very early in the race, a leading group of six riders, without representation of Wanty Groupe Gobert, got a lead of nearly five minutes. Jerome Baugnies tried alone to close the gap, but came no closer and was caught by the peloton.


“I was not happy with the fact that we missed the breakaway. On the other hand, I knew that the breakaway did not have a chance. It was not so bad,” sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren relativizes.


The peloton had the breakaway under control. The leading group was caught at 60 kilometer from the finish. Just before crossing the finishline for the first time, Frederik Backaert attacked. He rode 25 km at the front with Brian Van Goethem. Just after the third finish crossing they had caught the lead group back.


“With the crosswind, I wanted to try something. That was a good test against Paris-Roubaix. I am now totally ready for the Hell of the North.”


At 25 kilometres from the line the eight mentioned Wanty-Groupe Gobert were all in the main peloton. The preparation for the bunch sprint went without incident and we got the expected bunch sprint. Marcel Kittel was the strongest of the pack. Roy Jans could not really fight againt the best world sprinters and finished the race at the 13th place.


“At five kilometers from the finish, I lost a few places. Robin Stenuit brought me forward. In the last two kilometers I was alone. It went very fast. I couldn’t really sprint,” Jans explained.


Sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren was satisfied with the performance of his team.


“I think that the team did very well today. Frederik Backaert is now ready for Paris-Roubaix. This race is traditionally very dangerous. Some riders did not take any risk in order to be healthy for next Sunday. »


Disappointed Alexander Kristoff: This is probably my worst result

As defending champion in Scheldeprijs, Team KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff was in the hunt for a repeat victory. A mix-up in his sprint train left the Norwegian fast man wanting more and looking to Sunday’s all-important Paris-Roubaix as his next goal. A record-setting fourth win by Marcel Kittel made history on Wednesday.  


”Perhaps we made things a little too complicated today. In this final it is so narrow it’s hard just to be in the front. We had a plan to be first team into the 90-degree corner, but that did not happen, so in the end we were too far away. Jacopo made it to the front and I was on his wheel, but at one point just before that, Mørkøv came between us, but wasn’t exactly following the moves, so all of us didn’t make it to the front. In truth Jacopo was in a good position and could have done the sprint himself, because I was stuck behind. I sprinted with what I could but at 200 meters I was finished. I am disappointed, of course, because I won here last year and this is probably my worst result. We look forward to Sunday,” said team leader Alexander Kristoff.    


”We tried to come from behind and we managed to do it with 2 km to go – we were right behind Etixx. But Alex and Mørkøv did not follow. It’s not always easy to organize and make this happen. I waited in the last corner to see if Alex was coming and he reached me at 800 meters to go. I tried to bridge him up to the front, but he had spent a lot of energy fighting for position so we come back home with no result.   Like we say in Italy, ‘It’s not always Sunday’ so we cannot always win, but I think our train is working well and we’d like to continue on like this. Now we look forward and hope to do something in Paris-Roubaix,” said lead-out riderJacopo Guarnieri.   


Attacking doesn’t pay off for Roompot at Scheldeprijs

Berden de Vries and Brian Van Goethem confirmed again in the Scheldeprijs that Roompot is a team for attacks. The sprinters André Looij and Barry Markus could not really interfere om the sprint.


Unlike in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday, the break of the day went quite smoothly. After only six kilometers, a group of six, including Berden de Vries, got clear. When the group was caught, Brian Van Goethem responded well to an attack from Frederick Backuart. Together with the Belgian, he kept the chasing pack at bay for about twenty kilometers. 


With 18th place, André Looij was the best-placed rider from the team. Wesley Kreder (30th), Jesper Asselman (33rd) and Barry Markus (35th) were not far behind.


No repeat of top result for FDJ talent at Scheldeprijs

The race was a big goal for him but FDJ's Marc Sarreau had an average day and was really not able to defend his chances.


"We only had six riders at the start, said manager Marc Madiot, "and it was not easy anyway. Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier was not in his terrain and Daniel Hoelgaard suffered a puncture in the finale. It did not help."


Marc Sarreau and Mickael Delage were very well placed with fifteen kilometers to go but then they lost ground. The organizers had changed the final by including two corners to stretch the pack and avoid the traditional final crash. So it was a little more complicated to move up.


"And the best sprinters were here. In addition, Marc Sarreau (17th) said he did not have great legs.But at least the guy tried."


No luck for Erik Baska despite support from Sagan at Scheldeprijs

The Classics continued today with the Scheldeprijs – the oldest race in the Flanders calendar. The 104th edition was again one for the sprinters, and after a fast, frenetic and testing final kilometre, the expected bunch sprint took place, with Tinkoff’s Erik Baška finishing in 20th, shortly after the race winner.


The 208km course was flat, encouraging a fast tempo, but weather conditions made racing treacherous at times, especially over the cobblestone sections. In a change to previous years, where the final kilometre has been notorious for crashes, the route was changed this year, leading to a safer finish to the race.


A break of six riders got away early in the stage. With the intention of keeping the finish as a sprint, the peloton started chasing from 120km out, bringing the gap down considerably, although at 3'30" there was still a lot of work to be done. Tinkoff worked to drive the pace, steadily reducing the break's advantage, bringing it to under a minute, before the break was finally caught with more than 50km of the race remaining. With plenty of racing still to go, more attacks came and a second break managed to get 30 seconds on the peloton.


Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, explained how the race unfolded.


"From the start was a steady breakaway so the bunch cruised behind as the race headed towards Schoten and once the pace picked up behind it was soon coming back together. The break was then caught quite early and from here it was very fast on the first few finishing circuits as there was some wind, but it calmed down a little on the last lap ahead of the sprint."


At this stage of the race, the sprinters’ teams had no intention of allowing a break to stick, and so upped the pace again. As the race entered the final circuit, the break was caught and the jostling for position began. No team had control of the front, with all the riders looking around nervously to see who they would be up against in the final sprint.


Erik Baška was at the front of the race in the closing stages.


"All day there was quite a good tempo and no strong winds. Then in the last three laps it all started - I had a good position on the first few laps when it was hard, and Peter helped me a lot in this. Then coming into the last lap, I had a good position on the cobblestones but from there the pace dropped and no team was really pulling so it was really nervous with an easy tempo.“


The final kilometre came, and while Tinkoff were near the front, it was tough to find position, as Baška observed.


"I had a few near misses with crashes and lost position. I then followed Katusha and Kristoff but he was also out of the positions at the end."


Baška was blocked by the other teams’ sprint trains and was unable to find a clean line to the finish, coming across the line in 20th position, three seconds after the leaders.


On the final circuit, the speed in the peloton became noticeably slower – something Baška felt affected his finish in the race.


"I'm disappointed that no teams were pulling, as with an easy tempo everyone was fighting for position and it got quite nervous in the bunch. If it had been faster then I would have been able to get into a better position and have been further up there at the end. It was great to have the team helping me today though, and good to learn from having the responsibility in the race."


Hoffman was pleased with the team’s performance in the race, and how Baška performed as leader.


"Erik Baška was up there all day and at the end the guys tried to get him up into the right wheels but he lost his at the end and wasn't in the sprint. It's good to see that he gave it a really good shot and pushed hard but he's still young and learning, and sprinting at Scheldeprijs against the guys here is different to what he has had before. The pressure will be good for his development and it was a good experience.”


Ahead of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, Hoffman felt the team as preparing well for this important race.


"Peter stayed safe and everything was OK with the boys. They tested their Paris-Roubaix bikes here and they're feeling good ahead of Sunday. They changed the finish, making it safer in the final few kilometres today, which I think worked well. So I'm pleased overall that the guys stayed out of trouble, and got some good kilometres in the legs ahead of Sunday. We'll have a steady day tomorrow before a recon ride of Roubaix on Friday."



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