Quick-Step Floors won the team classification, at the end of a week in which our riders were protagonists on a daily basis.
With three intermediate sprints jammed inside the Golden Kilometer and many important seconds up for grabs, it was always going to be a hard task for Rémi Cavagna to defend his leader’s jersey, but nevertheless the Quick-Step Floors boys fought and tried to do everything they could to help the 21-year-old Frenchman come out on top of the Belgium Tour general classification and rack up his first pro victory.
For that reason, the team sent Tim Declercq into the five-man break which snapped the elastic after 60 fast kilometers, managing to put 1:45 between them and the bunch. The riders up the road shared the work, trading turns at the front, but the Belgian National Team ruthlessly reabsorbed them before the Golden Kilometer. A former winner of the race, Philippe Gilbert snatched as many seconds as he could there, but with the first three getting bonifications, it was impossible to stop Jens Keukeleire from nabbing those seconds he needed to move up to first in the standings.
Shortly after, it looked like the race will take a big U-turn, as 12 riders – including four of Quick-Step Floors – got away, but the peloton was soon back together and so the stage headed to a bunch gallop in Tongeren, where Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) won ahead of Coen Vermeltfoort (Roompot) and Boy Van Poppel (Trek-Segafredo).
In the general classification, Rémi Cavagna finished just six seconds behind Jens Keukeleire, but ahead of World ITT Champion Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), his runner-up place in the Belgium Tour, the second-oldest stage race of the calendar, coming as confirmation of the big potential he possesses and already going down as one of the most impressive results scored by a neo-pro in 2017.
“The team did an excellent job today and I’m very grateful for that. We sent a rider in the escape, and that was the perfect situation for us, as we could stay calm in the peloton. Unfortunately for us, the Belgian National Team controlled things and Keukeleire made use of his speed to get those seconds he needed. I won’t hide the fact that I’m a bit sad, but I’m also trying to see the bright side of things: to finish on the podium of such an important race just five months into my debut pro season makes me happy and gives me confidence for the next months”, said Rémi Cavagna, the first Frenchman in three years to conclude the Belgium Tour in the top 3.
Besides Cavagna’s runner-up spot, Quick-Step Floors had also Philippe Gilbert (4th) and Julien Vermote (5th) in the top 10 overall and came out of the race with the team standings, making it for the eleventh time this season that our squad won an auxiliary classification in a stage race.