When cyclists feel cobblestones, you know that the classics in Belgium are coming The peloton arrives in Ghent for the first race of the year and the real freaks wake up after their hibernation. It was an extraordinary year for the Belgians in the classics: Van Avermaet and Gilbert destroyed everyone, Naesen showed his recent progress and Boonen said goodbye. And of course there is always Peter Sagan, the world champion who always makes the races attractive. Welcome in this first part of the 2017 cycling overview. Starting at the Omloop and finishing at Roubaix. Once you arrive in Ghent,and you see all the people… You realise: this is where things get real. Everything before, it’s nice… but it doesn’t really matter. Omloop het Nieuwsblad is Day 0. All the are races before, it’s just a bit having fun. For us Belgians, Het Nieuwsblad is the first important race. There is a crash Also Tom Boonen is involved in there. For many riders, that was the end of their race I was one of the last ones who got a new bike, so you know at that moment in the race, you won’t come back. How much do you hate that?
– At that moment it’s the worst thing ever. But I realise immediately, that’s life. Taaienberg is always an important point. Especially in races where the gutter is open. At the Taaienberg I could easily follow the favourites. And then on the next one, the Eikenberg, I went to the front. But actually it was to lower the pace, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to follow any attacks. when somebody tried to pass, I tried to block them a bit. But when Sagan attacked, with Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke, I couldn’t follow. I saw them, but I was 2 or 3 groups behind them. At a certain point, we also went too fast for me. He was just killing everyone and then asking to help him. But after the Leberg and Haaghoek, I started to feel better. I could be more in the front then before, and for Sagan the opposite was happening. It’s always in Het Nieuwsblad, that you are fighting against guys who try to come back. But usually the best riders can stay in the front, although they have to work together very well. I was trying everything I could, but we couldn’t close the gap. The gap went from 25 to 35 sec. and we tried everything we could, so you know the winner is in the front I wanted to stay in the front, otherwise you don’t get anything I also knew that a sprint with 3 was the best for me Yes it’s an important victory. Winning the first race, made me euforic and gave me a lot of self-confidence. My family doesn’t come very often, so it was nice to have Fleur with me on the podium, the same as last year. I asked them to come again and it inspires me. I usually only focus on myself. But beating Sagan, one of the best riders of the world, is very nice.