Gallery: Over cobbles and bergs

EF Pro Cycling, the reigning champions, took to the Flandrian cobbles

As a mix of buses and campervans assembled alongside the River Scheldt, a chilly grey autumnal sky hung heavy over Antwerp, one which wouldn’t haven’t been out of place in April, the time of year the Ronde van Vlaanderen is usually held. As teams filed out and back to the team presentation, EF Pro Cycling were the last team on the roll call. Reigning champion  Alberto Bettiol would be carrying the number one on his back for the day – a privilege given to the previous year’s winner. 

 

As the team clipped in making its way to sign on nerves were bubbling inside. They were ready to take on what Belgian’s Monument had to throw at them. Over the next 6 hours there’d be near misses, attacks, crashes and mechanicals. The usual tales and woes of a Cobbled Classic. After 244km of racing the team came back together at the finish, disappointed with the result, but appreciative of the full commitment they’d given to each other. It was a performance to be proud of as the 2020 Monument season came to a close. 

Take a look back at the Tour of Flanders through the lenses of team photographers: Ashley & Jered Gruber and hear from the team below:

Alberto Bettiol, Rider

 

“No, it was not a surprise [to see van der Poel and van Aert attack]. We had expected them to attack early. Especially van der Poel because he knows the course really well. I was with them on the main climbs of the day but I had an issue with my rear wheel and lost the wheel of van der Poel. I tried to chase back on after the Taaeinberg but it was too late. I knew the race was over then. We tried to attack with Sep but it didn’t work. I didn’t feel as good as last year I must admit.”

 

“I was with van der Poel on the Koppenberg, and then we tried chasing with Naesen. But on one of the climbs, I let a gap build after my wheel slipped. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for them to go. We got close to closing the gap, so it was a pity because I was feeling good on the climbs. When you arrive at the finish line and feel like you have given everything, you have to be happy. I didn’t have the same legs as last year but in the end we had two guys in the chase group. I’m not satisfied but I couldn’t do more than this. The best guy won. It’s such a beautiful race, but it’s also so hard and I gave everything I had.”

Andreas Klier, Sport Director

 

“If we would’ve won, we would have said “that was the perfect race.” With Alberto being in the wheel of van der Poel and van Aert, but at a certain moment, the race just went without us. They went away on a flatter, slightly downhill part of the course. Alberto gave it a good go at the top of the Taaienberg and he closed the gap to 4-5 seconds, but then he switched off a little. He had two Quickstep riders in his wheel which made it mentally harder to bridge the gap. I knew, and he knew, that that was the last chance to close the gap, and he just didn’t quite manage it. After that, the only hope we had was for the two riders in front to start playing a game because those two riders were so strong. They started to play that game, but I think in the end we were just too tired. We attacked with Sep at the end because I didn’t want us to sprint against Kristoff and Degenkolb but that didn’t work either so now we’re standing here with empty hands.” 

 

“They never did anything wrong, not a single time. You can turn the race upside down and they didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t criticise them because it was obviously a brutal race and the best two were in front, however Alberto belonged with those two riders. I don’t just say that because he’s one of our riders, but I say that because I just believe that he belonged there today. You could see that on the Koppenberg, and the other cobbled climbs, he was ready, the team was ready. But after a few crashes and other race incidents, we were a little unlucky, but we weren’t the only team with incidents today. At the end of the day, I guess the best rider won, and the second best got second. I still think we had a very nice result at the Tour of Flanders.”

Jonas Rutsch, rider, Flanders rookie

 

“It was exciting for sure, I tried to do my job, that the team told me to do in the team meeting, as well as I possibly could, I think I managed it quite well.”

 

“The whole day it was hectic and really fast, normally the plan was that I try something after 120km after we crossed the Oude Kwaremont the first time, it was a bit rubbish because in front of the Kwaremont there was a big crash, some of the riders went into my back wheel and damaged it, which meant after the Kwaremont I had to stop and change my wheel. Unfortunately meaning it wasn’t possible for me to do my job, which can happen so often in the Classics, things like that happen all the time. So you need to adapt and try to manage the situation as best you can. I think as a team we did a good job today, everybody was in the race, we were focussed, we wanted to win, but in the end we had a bit of bad luck, but I think we can come away feeling proud of ourselves.” 

Stefan Bissegger, rider, Flanders rookie

 

“I’m feeling quite good, we had some bad luck with a crash, but that’s racing. I was super nervous, but super happy to be here, it was quite a hard race, pretty hectic, which people really nervous. It was something special though, ok without the crowds it’s not a monument like you would expect it, but it was really cool to ride it.”

 

“We knew we had some good chances and everyone tried their best, but in the end we just suffered some bad luck.”