Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) made a winning return to action yesterday at Brabantse Pijl after breaking clear alone and soloing to victory in Overijse.
The race started in Leuven with a minute’s silence in memory of Michael Goolaerts, who sadly died last weekend with his Veranda’s Willems Crelan team mates leading the peloton from the start.
Almost immediately after the start, a breakaway of seven riders was established. Dries De Bondt (Veranda’s Willems Crelan), Calvin Watson (Aqua Blue Sport), Tyler Williams (Israel Cycling Academy), Michael Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Elmar Reinders (Roompot), Antoine Warnier (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic), and Andrea Peron (Novo Nordisk) gained a maximum lead of eight minutes before the bunch started to work to reduce the gap.
Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) jumped across to the leaders on the first of three local laps of 23.4 kilometres and by the start of the second lap, had dropped the original seven breakaways. With 12 kilometres remaining, Van der Sande and Haig were caught and Jelle Vanendert along with Wellens were next to go clear in a small group.
Wellens attacked with 7.5 kilometres to go and that turned out to be the decisive move. Wellens arrived solo at the finish in Overijse, paying tribute to Michael Goolaerts. Tiesj Benoot sprinted to the third place, behind last year’s winner Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida).
Tim Wellens: “It was the plan to let the race explode as early as possible, because we had such a strong line-up. That’s what we did with over seventy kilometres to go. Rémy Mertz had first controlled the gap on his own for sixty kilometres, until he got help from a rider of BMC and one of Bahrain. Maxime Monfort raised the pace on the local circuit and that caused the peloton to split. It was our plan to send a rider in the break afterwards and that was the case with Tosh Van der Sande. I thought for a while that they would remain ahead as there was not immediately a team that took control of the chase. When they got caught, Jelle Vanendert accelerated as I had asked. He did that perfectly. I attacked on a section with a slight headwind. I had to fight at first to get a gap, but when Pauwels and Serry came off the front my lead grew up to 25 seconds.”
“The past years I learned to choose the best moment to attack. Today that was with 7.8 kilometres to go and that meant that I needed to go full for about ten minutes. That went really well, I had super legs. This gives me confidence for the upcoming races, even though they are of a higher level. With the team we had today, we are more than ready.”
“Of course we talk about what happened with Michael Goolaerts, in the peloton and in the team. It was a very serene atmosphere at the start. There are teammates of mine that have raced with Michael. I know his teammates Sean De Bie and Zico Waeytens very well. They go through a difficult time and I try to support them.”