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"I surprised myself a bit. In fact I have not been so good this season. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself. I wanted to perform right away, but I must not forget that I am only 20 years old," Van Poppel says

Photo: Trek Factory Racing

DANNY VAN POPPEL

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DRIEDAAGSE VAN WEST-VLAANDEREN

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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08.03.2014 @ 21:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Danny Van Poppel took his first professional win when he was the fastest in the bunch sprint in today's Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. The Dutchman was delighted to have finally broken the ice on a day when the team's plans to take the overall lead had failed.

 

Trek Factory Racing’s Danny van Poppel sprinted to victory in the first road stage of Three Days of West-Flanders, beating out Danilo Napolitano (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Scott Thwaites (NetApp-Endura) for his first professional win.

It was an aggressive race as promised, but in the final kilometers everything was back together in one large group as the peloton headed towards a bunch finish for the 183-kilometer race that began in Brugge and finished in Harelbeke. 

Trek Factory Racing positioned Danny van Poppel perfectly in the closing meters as the young 20-year old blasted around Danilo Napolitano to seal his first, but certainly not his last, professional victory.

“I am very happy! There was a corner around 500m to go, and just after this the team came by me and went full gas,” explained Danny van Poppel shortly after the race had finished. “It was perfect for me, I was sitting in Danilo Napolitano’s wheel and he started his sprint early, and I was able to come around him at the end. I have had a lot of podiums before this, but this is my first win.

“I did not feel super today at the start, but then started to feel better and better as the race went along. And for a sprinter at the end, it does not matter - when I see the finish line coming, and with the team helping me like they did at the end, that made it easy for me. I want to really thank the team today, because without them I would not have won.

 

"I am absolutely delighted with my first professional win," he added to Directvelo. "It was a very nervous and dangerous race. My teammates did a great job. I really wanted to make my mark Saturday or Sunday. It's done. 

 

"Now, we'll see tomorrow. The course will be more difficult tomorrow. I do not consider this as a revenge victory [after the disappointment in the prologue]. The prologue was not my thing but I know that [teammate] Kristof Vandewalle was disappointed with his third place.

 

"I surprised myself a bit. In fact I have not been so good this season. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself. I wanted to perform right away, but I must not forget that I am only 20 years old. 

 

"This first victory means a lot to me. For a rider, there is only one goal and that is to win. If there is a new sprint on Sunday, I will of course go for for two out of two, but there are still some strong guys in the peloton. "


The race began with a 4-man breakaway, escaping in the early kilometers and gaining upwards of five minutes before the pace increased from behind and the gap began to slowly fall. The undulating parcours eventually split the leading quartet in half, and also the chasing peloton behind. With 60-kilometers remaining the two riders forged ahead, 25 seconds in hand over the first peloton, and a minute on the second. Eventually the peloton regrouped, and the duo out front were also brought back, which only initiated two more riders to give it a go.

Stig Broeckx (Lotto- Belisol) and Alphonse Vermote (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) gained 25 seconds before Broeckx decided to set off alone leaving Vermote to be gobbled up by a hard-chasing peloton. The peloton finally snagged Broeckx back with four kilometers remaining, and the group sprint unfolded perfectly for Trek Factory Racing to snag its fourth win of the year.

“Today was great, it was Danny’s first win as a pro, but for sure not his last,” echoed director Dirk Demol. “Yesterday was a disappointment. Our riders were really good, but we didn’t have the results we wanted. Today is some sort of redemption.

“We had the goal to win the stage and possibly also shift the overall, because we have three guys in the top six overall. The wind could have allowed for some options, but there weren’t enough crosswinds to mix it up. The profile wasn’t hard enough either, with only the Oude Kwaremont. There were about 120 guys left when we entered the local circuit, so we decided to go for our second goal: the stage win.”

Boy van Poppel, the key leadout man for Danny was elated for his younger brother, and also pointed to the great teamwork today as instrumental to the team's win.

“I’m really happy for Danny. We’ve been training really hard in the last weeks, so this is nice. He was feeling really good. On the Kwaremont he was not in trouble at all, so I knew it could be good. I protected him all day, keeping him out of the wind and all. The final lap was chaotic. We lost each other at some point, but we found each other quickly again. Jasper [Stuyven] also pulled really hard in the last kilometers, so really it was a great team effort all around.”

 

"I'm happy with the victory of my teammate," Jasper Stuyven told Directvelo. "When we crossed the bridge in the last kilometre, I was the final lead-out man for Danny. We spent all day at the front. At the beginning, the first fifteen minutes were nervous. Thereafter, the peloton slowed down. We made sure to position us well during critical moments on the Kwaremont and Tiegemberg. Danny didn't need a train today and the role of lieutenant pleased me because I'm not fast enough in the sprints. "

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