1 stages, 201.9 km
Top 5 for Sénéchal in Le Samyn
What do you get when you have cobbles, hills, and rain on the menu? An aggressive race, with a flurry of attacks, countless twists and a hectic finale. In short, that was the story of the 51st Le Samyn, where Florian Sénéchal came at the start with number 1 pinned on his back after his 2019 victory, finishing again as the highest-ranked Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider.
The Wolfpack put on Tuesday an aggressive all-round display long before entering the local circuit – which was to be covered three times – sending on the attack the likes of Davide Ballerini, Alvaro Hodeg and Jannik Steimle, who piled on the pressure and gradually reduced the peloton to a 30-man group with 80 kilometers to go. The race came back, but only for a brief moment, another strong collective effort of our team, despite the lack of crosswinds, fragmenting the bunch on the cobblestones.
From that group, Tim Declercq emerged in the closing 15 kilometers, a series of spirited accelerations putting many riders into the red and forcing another selection, only a handful of men making the cut this time, including defending champion Sénéchal. The Frenchman, who last weekend finished tenth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, benefited from his teammate’s superb work at the front and kept his powder dry until the final, when he launched several attacks of his own and even shut down a move of Alex Kirsch (Trek-Segafredo) under the flamme rouge.
Eventually, in the sprint, which played out between eight riders and was won by Hugo Hofstetter (Israel Start-Up Nation), Florian concluded fifth for his fourth top 5 result at Le Samyn, followed shortly over the line by Declercq, who came home in ninth position.
“We wanted to make the race hard and that’s why we wore so aggressive, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough wind to give us a hand of really splitting up the bunch. When that 12-man group rode away, we had to play it smart, because it contained some sprinters, and the guys did a great job. When one rider attacked in the final, Florian went after him, but the others came back soon and he lost a few positions, which ended up costing him in the sprint. Overall, the guys did a great race, we were one of the just two teams who really tried something today and I think we can be content with the spirit shown by our wolves out there”, Rik Van Slycke said.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s sports director talked also of another moment which had our team in the spotlight. With roughly 90 kilometers remaining at Tuesday’s race, Bert Van Lerberghe crashed and was forced to abandon. Taken to the hospital, the Belgian underwent examinations that revealed he had a broken left collarbone, which requires surgery that will be performed at the Roeselare hospital on Wednesday.
“We were putting pressure on the peloton and there was a small echelon, and Van Lerberghe was in the line on the side of the road when another guy went off and took Bert with him. He crashed into a ditch and picked up this injury, which is a real pity, as he was in a very good condition in this start of the season and was one of the riders we could use in the classics”, Rik Van Slycke concluded.
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images