Van Hooydonck and Vliegen Lead the Charge at Belgian Semi-Classic14. March 2018, Nokere (BEL) — Road Team
BMC Racing Team was in the thick of the action at Danilith Nokere Koerse today with Nathan Van Hooydonck and Loïc Vliegen animating the middle section of the race before Vliegen sprinted for the line as part of a heavily reduced front group.
A new route for 2018 saw the race split into three distinct parts with a total of 22 cobbled sections including eight ascents of the Nokereberg, a 400m climb up to the finish line with an average gradient of 6%.
Over the opening 75km of racing, which saw the riders tackle the Nokereberg for the first time, an eight-rider breakaway extended a 10-minute advantage over the rest of the field.
The chase soon began to pick up as the peloton crossed the finish line for the second time of the day with the leaders’ advantage being chipped away at over the following four laps of a 14.2km circuit around Nokere.
The breakaway had been pulled back to within four minutes heading onto the first of two laps of the 29.3km finishing circuit, before, with 35km to go, gaps began to form in the main bunch.
Van Hooydonck and Vliegen made the front selection and were part of a nine-rider chase group that trailed the early leaders by less than one minute as the bell rang to mark the start of the final lap, while the re-grouped peloton was another 20 seconds back.
Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport) decided to try his luck going into the closing 20km of the day and just a handful of kilometers later, his fellow breakaway riders were swept up by the chasing group with Van Hooydonck and Vliegen.
However, a determined effort from the main bunch behind saw the race hit the reset button approaching the 10km to go mark.
In the end, it was a brutal finale with a series of stinging attacks, including one from Vliegen, whittling the main bunch down to only around 30 riders as they hit the bottom of the Nokereberg for the final time.
Vliegen was in the mix as the sprint was launched with Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) eventually winning the uphill drag race to the line ahead of Amaury Capiot (Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise) and Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis).
Vliegen was BMC Racing Team's first rider across the line, finishing just outside the top ten in 12th place.
BMC Racing Team’s next semi-classic of the week will be Handzame Classic on Friday (16 March).
Quotes From the Finish Line
"I was feeling good today however I wasn't in the best position when the bunch split and I was a bit annoyed at myself. After the second cobbled section, I was able to make it across to that front group of ten guys with Nathan. It was a good group but when we caught the early breakaway we didn't have the best collaboration and so the bunch came back. We tried again on the last cobbled section with Wout Van Aert (Vérandas Willems-Crelan) but in the end, it came down a bunch sprint. I was still feeling good at this point and I was in a good position for the sprint but there was a little bit of fighting for position, a bit too much I think, and I had a little bit of a problem with my chain."
"12th place wasn't the result I was expecting because with good legs like I had today, you can do better than that for sure but it is a good sign for the next race. I think Friday's race is the most important for me. Of course, it would have been good to get a good result today but the race situation wasn't the best for me but my shape is there and that's a good sign."
Nathan Van Hooydonck:
"When the bunch split I was strong enough to bridge the gap together with Loïc and this was really good for my confidence. It shows that I have trained well in the period that I haven't been racing. It was a little bit unfortunate that we couldn't stay in front because the guys started looking at each other a little bit too early. In the end, I had one good acceleration in my legs and that was to bridge to the front group and then afterward, I wasn't feeling super good."
"I just missed the final selection to be there in the bunch sprint as I was just a little bit too far back. I think I still had the legs to be there but they came from left and right and I just missed it."
"Friday will be another nice race and for sure I will try to show what I can do there."
Sports Director, Klaas Lodewyck:
"The start of the race worked out well for us. The eight-rider breakaway went clear early, and their advantage went out to over ten minutes, so all of the teams had some pressure to chase. We wanted to wait until the important cobbled sections in the last 50km but we knew we needed to move. Nathan Van Hooydonck, Loïc Vliegen and Francisco Ventoso were all riding at a really high-level today but it's really hard to take control of this sort of race. We then had Loïc and Nathan in a really good move but it was a pity that a few of the bigger teams had no one in that move as they were eventually pulled back."
"In the end, it was hard for us to make a result here today but I think we did that maximum that we could and Loïc was really fighting for position in the final but he was unfortunately doing it alone."
"Looking ahead to Friday's race, I think we can be confident after seeing how these guys were racing here and with the addition of Danilo Wyss, who I think will be super motivated, we will have multiple cards to play."
Danilith Nokere Koerse
One-day race: Deinze > Nokere, 191.1km
Top 3: 1. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) 2. Amaury Capiot (Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise) 3. Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 12. Loïc Vliegen 42. Nathan Van Hooydonck 44. Francisco Ventoso