The experienced Belgian’s victory at the beginning of February is one of our top 10 moments of the year.
I remember having a very strong start to the year. I felt good at both Tour Down Under and Race Torquay, even getting into the break at the latter, so I carried that shape and confidence into the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. It’s a race that suits me, I finished fourth there two years ago, but our plan was to go for the victory with Sam, who showed an amazing form in the previous two races. The beginning was quite frantic, and I found myself distanced after echelons split the peloton, but I remained calm and confident it would all come back together.
As I said, we wanted a bunch sprint on that day, but other teams had different plans and shed the fast men out the back with two laps to go. I was the only guy from our team to make the cut, so I waited to see if Sam would come back. The pace continued to be very high and it became clear that it would be between the dozen or so guys still at the front. Inside the final kilometers, attacks started pouring in but I managed to stay with the best and began thinking I might have a chance.
Then, Sivakov attacked from the small group after the last climb and opened the gap. Sensing some hesitation from the others, I accelerated and managed to bridge across. It was just the two of us and we worked well together, quickly expanding our advantage. Going under the red kite, I didn’t know my opponent’s sprint and did not know what to expect but just being there fighting for victory felt good and gave me a lot of confidence. I was also reassured by the track training I’d done in the winter and just gave everything in the final 200 meters.
Winning the race was overwhelming! Most of the time I work for Julian and helping him win races gives me the same feeling I had when crossing the line in Geelong. Cycling is a team sport and I like contributing to my Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammates’ victories. On the other hand, it was nice to get a win after so many years and be there on the podium, especially as the Australian block of racing is my favourite time of the season. I like being there, I like the races and the fans, I like how it’s all organised, and all these make me even more sad there won’t be any races next year.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images