The Manxman joins Belgium’s Ernest Sterckx as the riders with the most top 3 finishes in Flanders’ oldest race.
Scheldeprijs promised wind, hail and storm, but the peloton ended up being split not by the weather, but by a series of crashes that left most of the riders trailing with more than 100 kilometers to go. Sam Bennett and Michael Mørkøv booked a place in a reduced front group, which with 70 kilometers remaining was joined by a dozen or so riders, including three teammates: Mark Cavendish, Florian Sénéchal and Bert Van Lerberghe.
A top 10 finisher in six one-day races this season, Florian did a ton of work once the junction was made, driving the group and making sure the peloton wouldn’t come back. The gap remained around the two-minute mark until the penultimate lap in Schoten, but even if the chasers managed to cut it by 40 seconds with ten kilometers to go, the leaders weren’t under threat of getting caught at any point in the closing part of the race.
Once Sénéchal peeled off the front, Van Leberghe stepped in and expertly shut down a pair of attacks, before Michael Mørkøv took over and moved towards the front both Sam Bennett and Mark Cavendish. Just as our team was preparing to kick off the sprint, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) anticipated it and took the victory, just ahead of Sam Bennett, who almost closed the gap in the final meters, and Mark Cavendish.
For the 30-year-old Bennett, this was his first ever top 3 at Scheldeprijs, while Cavendish claimed his sixth podium in the race, which put him on par with Ernest Sterckx, who until Wednesday was the rider with the most top 3 finishes in Flanders’ oldest race – a record the Belgian held since 1954.
“It wasn’t an easy race and the first 75 kilometers went really fast, as the peloton travelled at more than 50km/h. We had riders in the first two groups and once it came back together, we took responsibility and Florian and Bert did a tremendous job, making sure it would come down to a sprint. At the end of the day, one rider was faster, so we don’t have any regrets, although we have preferred to take the win”, said Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Tom Steels.
Steels continued: “We draw the curtain over the first part of the Classics and we can say we had an exceptional campaign. We won four important one-day races – all World Tour events – we saw a very active World Champion, we were always prominent and we put the cherry on the cake by winning De Ronde in a superb way! We showed an amazing team spirit every single time and the guys can be proud of themselves and of what they achieved”.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images