Anything can happen on the cobbles. And often does.
EF Education First Pro Cycling Classics captain Sep Vanmarcke went down in crash at the mid-point of E3 BinckBank Classic on Friday. It was race over for the Belgian, who will remain sidelined through the weekend, hoping to bounce back for Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
With Vanmarcke out, and Alberto Bettiol held their own during the second half of the race with Bettiol eventually contesting the race win from a group of five. The Italian jumped from fifth wheel to open the sprint and powered across the line in fourth place. Zdenēk Štybar (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was fastest in the five-up finish to claim the E3 victory. Sebastian Langeveld
The exhilarating finish in Harelbeke represented a career-best result for Bettiol with the biggest spring races still to come.
“For three or four years now I have raced the Classics,” said Bettiol. “If you are good on the cobbles, the climbs, the sprints, you can go well in the Classics. Today tells me my form is pretty good right now. I’m happy. I’ll keep on and stay concentrated. I can help the team, and, if the team says I’m the captain, I’m ready to race for the victory.”
“If you ask me about the race and the results, of course, I can say we did really good teammate because of Tom [Scully], Mitch [Docker] and the others,” said sport director Andreas Klier. “Things worked out nearly perfectly. I had the feeling Stybar would win today, but if you sit in the wheel, you never finish better than second.
“We maybe made a little mistake with one kilometer,” Klier added. “Alberto knows his mistake, and he will take it him into the next races. With Sebastian, we gambled a long time, having him go flat-out with the others to catch the group and have better cards for the final. When it was obvious the group wouldn’t make it, we told Sebas to stop riding. It was the right call, and he did a nice finish. The only bad thing today was when Sep crashed at 115.”