Our young Dane’s masterpiece in the Opening Weekend is one of the team’s best moments of the season.
Going into the Opening Weekend I felt very good, especially after enjoying a solid winter. In the beginning of the year I did two training camps with the team, the last of these in Portugal, together with many of the other Classics riders, before heading to France for the Tour de la Provence, where I could feel the condition was improving by the day.
That weekend is very important for the team, it’s always a special feeling knowing you’ll be there, everybody is excited and a bit nervous, as you get to find out what your form really is. Personally, I had high hopes for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but a mechanical ruined my race and I couldn’t feature in the final. Despite that, I had a lot of confidence, because I managed a solid comeback there; ok, that meant spending a lot of energy which I could have used in the last part of the race, but on the other hand, it underlined my condition.
Twenty-four hours later, at the start of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne – a race that I already knew after having made my debut there last year – I had a great feeling and was very motivated to help the team get a good result. It was a cold day with some rain here and there, slightly wet roads and a lot of wind, which made people extremely nervous. The wind didn’t split the peloton, but was strong enough to make it very hard to stay at the front, you really had to fight to maintain your position.
With 60 kilometers to go, a group went up the road and we had one rider there, but were outnumbered by other teams, so we pulled hard to close that move, which we did after the Oude Kwaremont. We knew that on the small roads there were many changes of direction where you could make it really difficult for others, so we set a big tempo before Bob attacked. When he was brought back, I countered, made it to the breakaway group and kept going. Two guys managed to stick with me, while I was in full time trial mode for the final 35 kilometers.
I pushed very hard to get rid of them and at the same time keep clear of the bunch. After dispatching the last one, inside the closing ten kilometers, I knew the gap wasn’t that big, but kept going and going without looking back, and it was only on the finishing straight that I could relax, knowing the victory was mine. Growing up, I aspired towards the cobbled Classics, and winning one in my second full year as a pro was a dream come true. It was a morale-boosting victory, and I was really bummed that the season stopped a couple of days later, although I fully understood and agreed with the reason behind this decision, because the shape I had made me really confident for the rest of the Classics campaign.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images