Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) has admitted to making “a huge mistake” as the Dane looked nailed on for one of the two top spots of the podium after going clear with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) before Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) came through in extraordinary fashion to snatch victory.
Fuglsang managed to hang on to third place on the podium, as Alaphilippe slipped to fourth, but said “the tactic was wrong to risk it” as the pair began to play cat and mouse after the Astana team car told them at 5km to go that no-one would catch them.
Speaking in the post-race press conference, the 34-year-old said: “I didn’t believe with 5km to go they would come back. The information I got on the radio was that Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and those guys were too far behind and so the team orders were they didn’t want me to pull anymore so I said ‘ok but you’re going to need to keep me updated with the timings’.
“And then suddenly Kwiatkowski closes the gap and he pulls through and then there’s some some shadow behind us so I turn around and it’s those guys coming.
“I’m happy that I still managed to get third but I still believe we made a huge mistake or the tactic was wrong to risk it because it was basically a safe win or second place and then to gamble it like that to almost lose was a bit risky I think.”
Van der Poel seemingly came from nowhere, dragging a large chase group with him, to bring the race back together at the death and proved himself strongest in the sprint to continue his sensational debut spring Classics season, having also won Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl.
When asked to explain what happened, the young Dutchman said: “It’s difficult to explain actually, I thought the riders in front were gone, they had a one minute lead in the last lap. I don’t think anyone really believed we could win from our group, and it’s just the last straight that I see the guys in front ahead of us.”
Simon Clarke (EF Education First) completed the podium, finishing second in a race he was anonymous in up until the line.
The Australian attempted to unpick the hectic final few kilometres, telling Cycling Weekly: “It’s difficult to get clear information [during the last part of a race] because someone has to see it on a television, then they have to say it on a radio, and that has to come through to our directors in the car and then they say it on our radio.
When the situation was changing so quickly in the final there it was difficult to know time gaps, so actually my director was really smart in that he just gave me the names of who was in front. So I’m just going through my head ticking them off as we were catching them, and that way I knew just by who he’d told me: Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Alaphilippe, Fuglsang, and all the guys who were ahead on the road, so when we caught them I knew we were racing for the win.
“In the end it was an emotional rollercoaster for us so I can’t imagine what it was like on TV but I’m going to have to go back and watch that final again.”