The youngest rider to triumph at the race since it was elevated to World Tour status, the Belgian talked about his victory and what it meant for him.

The Tour de Pologne was my first World Tour stage race of the year and I was very excited. After my Vuelta a Burgos overall victory I was full of confidence and motivation, but the thing was that Poland didn’t have a proper mountain stage or time trial, so I didn’t quite know what to expect and how things would pan out. The only thing I knew was that I had to find a way to get a good result at the end of the week, and the best opportunity to do that was presented by stage four, which was going to be crucial.

Unfortunately, things took a different and unwanted turn on the opening stage, when Fabio crashed. I remember crossing the line in about the 50th position after making my way through all the debris and riders on the ground, not being aware of what really happened. It was just when another rider came to me and told me that Fabio was down that I heard what had occurred.

Even now, after all that time, I can’t put into words how we felt that evening and all the thoughts crossing our mind. We were thinking of stopping the race, but decided to carry on after a talk with Fabio’s family. They told us it was what he would have wanted us to do, so we agreed on going ahead, sticking to the script and making sure of not getting involved in any tricky situations.

In the morning of the penultimate stage, I asked our press officer for Fabio’s number, as it was something I was thinking about on the night before that stage. The moment I got it and had it in my hands I immediately thought it would be my day and was ready to do my best and win for Fabio. The original plan was to attack on the last lap of the Bukowina Tatrzanska circuit, but with 50 kilometers to go I noticed that everybody was on the limit and this idea came up that it was the perfect moment to go, which I did. At first, the gap was small, but I kept pushing and it kept growing, giving me a comfortable margin inside the final kilometers.

Crossing the line first with Fabio’s number held high was very emotional. The whole day and its aftermath were emotional, not just for me, but for the entire team. Some days later, his girlfriend texted to tell me he had seen the images in the meantime and was very proud and happy. That alone worth more than my stage or overall victory in Poland, because here in the Wolfpack we are more than teammates, we are all a family and we are there for one another no matter what.


Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images

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