Two races were scheduled for Lotto Soudal today: the opening stage of Paris-Nice and Dwars door West-Vlaanderen. The team achieved a good result in both races! Frederik Frison could step on the podium of Dwars door West-Vlaanderen as third, while Tim Wellens got fourth in a thrilling uphill sprint at Paris-Nice.
The opening stage of Paris-Nice was only 135 kilometres long and took the riders from Chatou to Meudon where the finish line was drawn on top of a hill of 1.9 kilometres with an average gradient of 5.4%. The early break (Périchon, Roelandts and Rolland) got reeled in at fifteen kilometres from the finish. Then Lotto Soudal took control of the bunch. Alexis Vuillermoz attacked at the bottom of the climb, but the peloton caught him on time. Arnaud Démare was just a tad faster than Gorka Izagirre in a very close sprint. Christophe Laporte completed the top three, ahead of Tim Wellens.
Tim Wellens: “Yesterday, we did a recon of the last 25 kilometres of this stage. I liked the finish when I saw it. We had seen there was a lot of street furniture in the last kilometres, so the team kept me safe at the front of the peloton. As expected, it was very hectic in the finale. The team did an excellent job for me today!”
“I was riding at the front of the peloton when we started the climb. It was a high pace, but once Vuillermoz had attacked the pace dropped. For a moment it looked like Vuillermoz would make it, but the last 800 metres were very hard. We did catch Vuillermoz before the finish, despite the nice gap he had created. I chose the wheel of Démare, but was pushed away. When we passed by Vuillermoz, I had to hold back for a moment. Maybe I could have set an even better result if I had started my sprint earlier, but it’s always easy to analyse a sprint afterwards. We were all dead beat at the finish. Our team started Paris-Nice very well, we were the only complete team at the front in the finale. Tomorrow we aim for a sprint with André Greipel!”
At Dwars door West-Vlaanderen Boucher, Cataford and Coenen got up to seven minutes advantage, but already before the first of four laps of thirteen kilometres a new front group was established. Frederik Frison closed the gap on his own and then he rode away with Rémi Cavagna and Florian Sénéchal, two Quick-Step riders. Cavagna won the race, ahead of his teammate Sénéchal. Frison finished third, a nice result after all bad luck from last year when the 25-year-old rider had a pelvic fracture and glandular fever which meant he was out for almost the entire year.
Frederik Frison: “I am definitely happy with this third place, although I think more was possible with the legs I had but unfortunately I had two Quick-Step riders with me. They were not stronger, but it’s hard to beat two teammates.”
“Just before entering the local circuit a front group of ten was formed without a Lotto Soudal rider in it. We chased the leaders to keep the gap as small as possible and at the beginning of the first lap I made the jump to the front. The front group had split by that time, which meant I had to catch two groups. I joined Cavagna and Sénéchal when they attacked. That was a difficult moment after the effort I had just done, but we immediately cooperated well. I knew the situation was far from ideal. I wanted to get rid of at least one of them on the cobbles and Cavagna did drop, but Sénéchal didn’t pull and that way Cavagna could return to the front. Then I knew they would attack one after another. When Cavagna had gone solo, it was impossible to close the gap on my own.”
“This third place feels good. After all bad luck from last year I could show that I’m back. I had a good winter and last month I went on an altitude training camp at Sierra Nevada, together with Tiesj Benoot. That turned out well for us both.”
“I am very grateful to the team for keeping their faith in me and for extending my contract by two years despite the difficult times I had in 2017. I wanted to thank the team by doing well this season and this is definitely a good start.”