After a hiatus of six and a half weeks since their last race in this Covid-19 disrupted season, the Canyon dhb Sungod team took part in the third round of the Belgian Bingoal Cycling Cup at the Circuit de Wallonie on Thursday, 13th May. The team had already taken part in the first two rounds in early March at Le Samyn and the GP Monseré where their best finishers had been Rory Townsend in 73rd place and Jacob Scott in 22nd place, respectively.
The 196km route commenced and finished in Charleroi and consisted of one large undulating loop of 163km followed by three loops of an 11km finishing circuit which featured two short but sharp climbs.
The Canyon dhb Sungod team was one of seventeen Continental teams competing against four World Tour teams: AG2R Citroen, Cofidis, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and Lotto Soudal as well as four Pro Tour teams. In a field of over 160 riders, star names participating included Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), twice winner of the Eneco Tour and sprinter Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), both who are scheduled to ride in this year’s Tour de France,
The seven riders representing Canyon dhb Sungod were Matt Bostock, Damien Clayton, Jacob Scott, Rob Scott, Rory Townsend, Dan Tulett and making his first appearance of the year after a winter of cyclo-cross races, Thomas Mein. Team principal & owner Tim Elverson was making his first trip of the year to support Directeur Sportif, Simon Holt.
With previous editions of the race often ending in breakaways or reduced bunch sprints, the initial plan was to work for Townsend with the rest of the team ‘taking the wind’ and helping to shut down threatening breakaways. Townsend did indeed get into some promising moves, particularly one instigated by Wellens with 69km to go which broke the peloton into a number of fractions.
However, the race came back together and the Canyon dhb Sungod team soon found themselves on the back foot helping chase a 14-man breakaway that looked to be very promising. Conor Swift (Arkea Samsic) and Ireland national champion Ben Healy (Trinity Racing) worked extremely hard to get across to this break at the 48km to go mark and swelling the number in the breakaway to 16. However, just 2km later the race was very much back together leaving just three riders out in front establishing a maximum of a one-minute lead.
With the bunch bearing down on the breakaway, a mass sprint was looking inevitable so the team plan switched to supporting Bostock for the final bunch kick, but Bostock again found himself largely surfing the wheels to move up the peloton. In a very similar manner to his previous race in Cholet-Pays de la Loire, Bostock had burst through to a top 5 position with just 100 metres to go, but his earlier work (see Bostock’s comments below) left him cramping up and he faded in the final metres to a still admirable 10th place. The race was won predictably by Laporte after the class support of his Cofidis team.
Townsend finished 20th, Rob Scott 50th, Jacob Scott 52nd and Tulett 53rd all in the leading bunch finishing in the same time as the winner. Mein drifted off the leading bunch in the sprint finale and was 42 seconds down in 73rd place, with Clayton pulling out at the half-way mark after taking on the early work for the team but suffering with a niggling knee injury.
Overall, the pattern of race seemed very similar to that of Cholet – Pays de la Loire with the whole team contributing valuable assistance in support of those nominated to go for a result.
Following the race, 10th place finisher Matt Bostock reported:
‘It was quite a stressful race, with the constant threat of crosswinds and rain in the first couple of hours. It didn’t get off to a great start – after 10 minutes I had a crash which required a bike change and a long chase back on. Eoin (mechanic) did a great job of fixing my race bike road-side and I was able to have another quick bike change and get back in the race. There was quite a race into the narrow and undulating section about mid race, where Rory did well to make a selection of 30 or so riders. Rob Scott and Dan Tulett did an amazing job of bringing the race back together coming out of that section and into the finishing circuits – putting myself, Rory and Jake Scott in a great position to get a result.
The finishing laps were controlled by the big teams and that meant we were setting up for the sprint. We tried to set Rory up for the sprint but after a messy run in to the finish I was positioned well and unfortunately without Rory, so I did my best to get a result from the team. Frustratingly I just ran out of legs in the last 100m or so, but just squeezed inside the top 10 and managed to get a result that we more than deserved as a team. A really positive team performance after a long spell without racing.’
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
Picture 1: WeilerFlits.be
Pictures 2-7: Arnoud Guillaume / DirectVelo.com
Picture 8: lanouvellegazette.sudinfo.be