Schmid in the thick of the action
A roller-coaster of a stage kicked off the 91st edition of the race where our team holds the record for the most GC victories, with nine such successes brought by five different riders. Comprising many of the climbs known from the Spring Classics, the trek between Merelbeke and Maarkedal gave almost no moment of respite, and the Wolfpack was one of the main instigators of the day.
The first to show his intentions was Mauro Schmid. A stage winner in the beginning of the season at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, the Swiss all-rounder jumped from the peloton with more than 60 kilometers to go, as soon as the six-man breakaway got pegged back. Although short-lived, this move netted him some important bonus seconds, which would go on to count at the end of the day.
On the second of the four laps in Maarkedal, Florian Sénéchal went, and with him, five other riders. They managed to put around ten seconds between them and a peloton that was getting thinned out by the kilometer, but they too were eventually caught. Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl neo-pro Stan Van Tricht also gave it a go before the final lap, where for a brief moment the sprinters that got previously dropped found a way to rejoin the pack.
The final hill of the day was where the decisive selection was made. Florian attacked, a ten-man group featuring Mauro soon bridged across, and together they opened a gap on the chasers just as the gradient stiffened towards the top. Sénéchal took seventh as Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) sprinted to victory, while Schmid – helped by the bonifications scored during the stage – climbed to third in the general classification, where Yves Lampaert is just three seconds behind his teammate.
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