Rémi Cavagna gets first pro victory in spectacular fashion
Florian Sénéchal ensured another 1-2 for Quick-Step Floors, who left its mark over an action-packed Dwars door West-Vlaanderen
Rémi Cavagna turned frustration into aggressiveness and disappointment into huge joy as he stormed to victory at the 72nd edition of Dwars door West-Vlaanderen (189.3 kilometers), making the most out of Quick-Step Floors numerical advantage and tactical acumen to land the team's second win in just four days, after the one in Le Samyn, where Niki Terpstra and Philippe Gilbert took first and second, respectively.
This time, the main protagonists were 22-year-old Cavagna and his countryman Florian Sénéchal, part of a very young Quick-Step Floors squad who compensated the lack of experience with enthusiasm, ambition and some brilliant racing, blowing the peloton apart and infiltrating four men into a nine-man escape, which got clear after the original break of the day been brought to heel. Fabio Jakobsen and Maximiliano Richeze were the other two riders of the team who booked a place in the group before entering the local laps, where the peloton's surge of pace reeled in all but three of the attackers.
Only survivors of that break were Cavagna, Sénéchal and Frederik Frison (Lotto-Soudal), and the trio worked well together, building a margin of 50 seconds and digging deep to hold off the peloton in the final 30 kilometers of the event which had all the main ingredients of a Flemish race: cobbles, hills, strong winds and lashing rain, which split the pack without any mercy.
Despite being dropped some 20-odd kilometers from the finish in Ichtegem, Cavagna channeled his inner Flandrien spirit and threw in a valiant effort which saw him return to the front inside the last ten kilometers. The second-year pro didn't stop there and kept on going, quickly putting a handful of seconds between him and the chasing duo, from which Sénéchal attacked with two kilometers remaining, leaving his opponent in the wake.
Rémi – the sixth Quick-Step Floors rider to put his name on the winners' list this season – had enough time to celebrate his special victory, which came under the heavy rain that had accompanied the riders throughout the day, since the start in Nieuwpoort. A rider with panache and a huge appetite for attacking and shaping the race, the Frenchman was over the moon at the finish line, where he had just signed off the team's 13th UCI win of the season.
"It was super hard and cold today, but I felt good since the start of the race. Actually, I have been feeling good since last season and have waited for this victory for a long time. I wanted this win so badly, I can't tell you how important it's for me to finally get it. I have made mistakes in the past, attacking too early, so today I said to myself 'Don't attack, wait, wait, wait!' and it worked out perfectly in the end."
"The race was full gas from the start, and in the end, after catching the breakaway, I got a gap together with Florian and Frison. We had the upper hand in that group, but Frison was really strong and at one point I even got dropped on the cobbles, but kept calm, knowing I had enough left in the tank. My legs were really hurting, but I ignored the pain and managed to come back, and then I launched a now-or-never attack, powering ahead with all I had. I needed this win and it gives me a huge boost of confidence and even more motivation for the next races, where I'll continue to give my best and help my teammates", concluded Rémi after becoming only the second French winner of the Belgian race.
Quick-Step Floors' crushing dominance in Dwars door West-Vlaanderen was completed by Fabio Jakobsen, who nabbed his best result since turning pro after sprinting to fourth place, and Ecuadorian Champion Jhonatan Narvaez, who celebrated his birthday by taking a remarkable seventh for his fourth consecutive top-10 of the season.
Sports director Tom Steels had only words of praise for the riders: "We rode like a true team today and everybody did a great job from kilometer zero, despite the heavy rain and low temperatures we had from the start. We controlled things, rode an intelligent race and proved what these young guys are capable of. Cavagna was very strong and came back after being dropped on the cobbles, Florian showcased again his solid form, Fabio confirmed the potential he has by winning the sprint of the first group, just as in Le Samyn, while Narvaez – who rode his first ever race on cobblestones – put in an outstanding effort. I am very proud of our riders!"
Photo: ©Nico Vereecken/PhotoNews