Matej Mohoric on the podium in Belgium
At the opening weekend of Belgium’s spring racing campaign, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS showed some strong performances and Matej Mohoric finished the semi-classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 3rd place. Pello Bilbao on the other hand missed out on a podium result in the overall standings of the UAE Tour by a scant 3 seconds.
The two semi-classic one-day races Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne signal the start of Belgium's spring racing campaign. Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS lined up for these races with Matej Mohoric and Fred Wright to go into breakaways and Jonathan Milan, Dusan Rajovic and Andrea Pasqualon as options for sprint finishes. Filip Maciejuk and Jasha Sütterlin and Cameron Scott respectively were riding in their support. The riders in orange, red and black raced aggressively at the Omloop already. With more than 100 kilometers to go Fred Wright made it into the first echelon and from there rode in the lead of the race for more than 40 kilometers. During the final hour of racing first Jonathan Milan went on the attack and then Matej Mohoric was very active in the failed chase on later winner Dylan van Baarle. In the end Andrea Pasqualon crossed the finish line in 8th as part of the first chasing group.
The next day the course of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne seemed to favour sprinters, but Matej Mohoric clearly had different plans - and he was not the only one. When Team Jumbo Visma first forced the bunch to split into echelons in the heart of the hilly zone and then went into the attack with no less than three of its riders, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS was very attentive. Its riders were positioned well up front not to get dropped in the crosswinds or slowed down by the many crashes. And once the big attack started only Matej Mohoric and Tim Wellens could react. The resulting breakaway managed to stay away from a 40-rider strong chasing group stacked with strong sprinters. But after more than 80 kilometers in the race lead and reacting to multiple attacks, Matej Mohoric ran out of steam in the last couple of kilometers and had to settle for 3rd place.
From the perspective of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS the UAE Tour started out very promising but ended with a slight disappointment. Throughout the short opening stage the riders in orange, red and black were highly active, contributing to the formation of multiple echelons in crosswinds. In the finale it managed to get three of its riders into a 13-rider group that went for the stage win, ruining the bunch sprint that had been generally expected. In the end Nikias Arndt crossed the line in 5th and Pello Bilbao had put himself in a promising position in the overall standings as most of his rivals lost a minute on the first day. On the next day, the team performed strongly aboard MERIDA BIKES' TIME-WARP TT bikes in the team time trial, conceding no more than 4 seconds to the stage winners and slotting in in 4th place.
At the first mountaintop finish of the stage race, Pello Bilbao kept up with the other contenders for the overall standings but did not contest the sprint for bonifications at the finish. Likewise Phil Bauhaus did not find room to manoeuvre in the hotly contested bunch sprints against strong competition, having to settle for a 10th place as his best result apart from the opening stage where he had finished in 6th behind his lead-out man Nikias Arndt. The overall standings were decided on the final day when the stage finished atop Jebel Hafeet. When Adam Yates attacked with 6 kilometers to go, Pello Bilbao could not react right away as Remco Evenepoel did. When Bilbao crossed the finish line in 5th, he had lost 4 seconds too many to stage winner Adam Yates to hold on to 3rd place in the overall standings, finishing the race in 4th.
75TH KUURNE-BRUSSELS-KUURNE: KUURNE - KUURNE, 193.1KM
1. Tiesj Benoot, BEL, in 4:32.25 hours
2. Nathan van Hooydonck, BEL, + 0.01
3. Matej Mohoric, SVN/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency