The 104th edition of the Scheldeprijs ended in a mass sprint and Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) just managed to cross the line first, ahead of our Mark Cavendish with Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) placing 3rd.
It was a pretty cold and grim day in the Flanders region as the peloton took on the 207km Belgian Classic. 6 riders escaped early on and they got some good T.V. coverage but the Scheldeprijs is known as the sprinters classic and so the fast men made sure they weren’t going to be denied their chance at victory today.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were the team that took control of the race and Jay Thomson would put in an incredible ride to manage the gap to the break for the majority of the race. Our African Team did not receive much assistance at all from any of the other teams but our boys were up for the task at hand and rode well as a unit.
Mark Cavendish, as a 3-time winner of the Scheldeprijs, was our protected rider for the finish and the team ensured Cavendish was always in prime position throughout the day. As we entered Schoten, and 3 laps of a 16km circuit were to be completed, the wind picked up and so did the speed of the race. Jay Thomson and Matt Brammeier did some monster turns on the front of the peloton and this saw a number of riders being dropped from the peloton as the break was also reeled in well before the finish.
Due to the pressure being applied by our African Team the group actually split on a number of occasions but it kept regrouping as no other team was willing to come and help set the pace. Finally, in the final 5km Etixx-Quickstep came to the front with fresh legs and our African Team placed Cavendish on the wheel of Kittel. Tyler Farrar was always present as well, supporting Cavendish into the final kilometer. The sprint then opened up with Etixx leading it out. Cavendish started coming around Kittel but the German just had that little bit more in the final few meters to win by a rim’s length from Cavendish.
Mark Cavendish – Rider
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka did a great job for me today. Jay Thomson was controlling it from the beginning. When we hit the circuits the team made sure I was always in the best position at the decisive points. It was getting wet and windy at the end and we thought it might split near the finish but the guys did an incredible job to keep me up there obviously. We wanted Reinie and Tyler there with me for the final but they had a job to do earlier on. At the end I had Tyler, and we talked about it before, if we didn’t have a team anymore then Tyler would make sure he was with me in case I had any trouble. I was a little bit late going actually, when I saw 150m I thought there was still 50 more meters so I thought I better go now. I came with some good speed and when I came alongside Kittel I thought I had the better of him. When I was alongside him though he was just able to pull that little bit more out, it was something I was used to be able to do but not anymore. What can I say, it was Marcel Kittel that beat me so we can be happy with how the team rode. Obviously I am disappointed to not be able to finish their work off but we can take confidence from riding well together.
Roger Hammond – Sport Director
It was a good race. The team rode really well and fought hard for Mark. The plan was to get him onto Kittel’s leadout and do the sprint from there. Mark said he just misjudged how far he was from the finish but it looked like he was coming back pretty well. I am pleased that the team was strong, they rode like a team and they rode from the front.