Tour of Flanders (U23)
Event: 6 April 2013
Location: Oudenaarde, Belgium
Report: Eddie Allen
British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme athlete Owain Doull was the best of the British riders over 169 gruelling kilometres of the Tour of Flanders U23 edition.
Taking place a week after the elite event, won convincingly by Fabien Cancellara, the under 23 event used a modified version of the course, taking in 15 'bergs' with the Taaienberg and the Eikenberg tackled twice before a flat 9km run in to the finish.
The bunch sprint was won by Rick Zabel of Germany, with Owain Doull finishing in the bunch in the same time, back in 13th position.
World points race champion and fellow Academy rider Simon Yates was the next GB rider home, finishing in 20th, followed by Jonathan Dibben who came in 2 minutes and 36 seconds back in a small group.
The Great Britain team was beset with bad luck throughout the race, with a total of five punctures and crashes affecting every rider to some degree. Worst off was Sam Harrison who crashed heavily, suffering multiple cuts and bruises, ripping a cleat off his shoe in the process. Harrison swapped shoes and tried to recover but lost too much time to get back into the peloton and was forced to abandon.
Punctures put paid to the chances of Alistair Slater and Joe Kelly, a case of wrong place, wrong time meaning both riders were unable to get help and get back into the peloton, joining a total of 54 riders who were forced to abandon. This was particularly bitter for Alistair Slater, who was in the leading group when Flanders foul luck befell him.
Top finisher Doull’s 13th place didn’t reflect the effort he’d put in throughout the 169km – the Welsh rider battled back after puncture, which happened just as Harrison went down, and was forced to chase back on alone for 10km before eventually making contact with the lead group, where he joined Simon Yates.
Yates attacked twice in the final two laps of the Taaienberg and the Eikenberg. In the first attack Yates briefly got away on his own until he was joined by 10 riders but attacked again on the Eikenberg. However, it all came back together for the finishing sprint. Despite his fatigue, Doull attempted to set up the sprint for Yates but things didn’t pan out for GB in the end and Doull was best of the British finishers, a creditable position give the day’s torrid luck.
U23 Team Manager Keith Lambert spoke to British Cycling after the event and concluded that despite the paper result the team had a lot to take away from the race. “On paper it looks like it was a pretty poor performance but it was anything but. I said to the lad’s last night, ‘don’t be despondent, you’ve got to take credit for the way you’ve rode – if you ride like that another time you’ll get a good result’.
“I’m not displeased at all. I’m just disappointed for them because they rode so well. But there’s another two races to come on the back of this – Picardy and Seven-Eleven next week so there’s plenty of confidence going into that. At the end of the day, there were 100 that got dropped of the 130 that started. If they hadn’t had the problems I’m convinced that there would have been another two or three [GB riders] in the lead group, so that tells you how well they were going.”
1 ZABEL Rick GERMANY GER 4:26:33
2 GROENEWEGEN Dylan NEDERLAND
3 NIELSEN Magnus Cort DENMARK
4 DE BIE Sean BELGIUM
5 JENSEN Kristian Haugaard DENMARK
6 VAN DER LIJKE Nick NEDERLAND
7 SKUJINS Toms LATVIA
8 PIBERNIK Luka SLOVENIA
9 LECUISINIER Pierre Henri FRANCE
10 BETTIOL Alberto ITALIA
13 DOULL Owain GREAT BRITAIN
20 YATES Simon GREAT BRITAIN
48 DIBBEN Jonathan GREAT BRITAIN @ 0:02:36
DNF HARRISON Samuel GREAT BRITAIN
DNF SLATER Alistair GREAT BRITAIN
DNF KELLY Joseph GREAT BRITAIN