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Race Wrap: Wevelgem Predicts Flanders & Catalunya -> Il Giro

Wevelgem and Catalunya Breakdown

Key Takeaways: Gent-Wevelgem & Volta Catalunya. Breaking down what we can take away from a few key cobbled tuneups before next weekend’s Tour of Flanders and what the GC battle at the Volta Catalunya told us about the looming Giro d’Italia showdown.

– This article is an excerpt from the Beyond the Peloton newsletter. Sign up here for full access. –

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Jumbo – Dominant!

At Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, Wout van Aert returned from an incredible E3 victory on Friday and pulled himself and teammate Christophe Laporte nearly two minutes clear of the chasing peloton before generously gifting the prestigious race win to Laporte. This incredible and dominant ride from Jumbo-Visma means the Dutch superteam has gone four for four in the major one-day Cobbled Classics so far in 2023 (Omloop, Kuurne, E3 & Gent-Wevelgem).

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Roglič winning in Catalunya

Meanwhile, in Spain, the Jumbo show continued with Primož Roglič winning the GC classification over Remco Evenepoel at the Volta a Catalunya. He demonstrated that even as he continues to build his fitness through the spring, he is approaching some of the best form of his career. However, perhaps more important for the duo’s upcoming clash at May’s Giro d’Italia was Roglič’s display of strategic and tactical superiority over Evenepoel during the seven-stage race.

Below are the breakdowns of a few key moments of the weekend, and what it all means going forward:

Gent-Wevelgem Notebook:

78km-to-go: Two small groups merge to create an elite group in front of the chasing peloton. Jumbo has done an excellent job of ensuring they have representation here with Nathan Van Hooydonck and Christophe Laporte, allowing the rest of the team to sit back in the peloton, unbothered about the chase.

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77km: Sensing that he has missed the winning move, Mads Pedersen surges off the front of the peloton (being patrolled at the front by Wout van Aert) to bridge the gap.

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61km-55km: However, this bridge is proven unnecessary when Soudal-Quickstep and FDJ, both of whom have missed the move, put resources on the front to reel the escape group in right before the next ascent of the Kemmelberg.

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53km: Jumbo gets three riders to the front of the group right at the base of the Kemmelberg.

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53km cont: This allows them to send Van Aert to the front to set an extremely high tempo while Laporte hangs on for dear life on his wheel, and the third Jumbo rider falls back and serves as an obstacle for riders from rival teams trying to get on Laporte’s wheel.

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52km: This clever interference creates just enough of a gap for Van Aert and Laporte to get enough daylight to ride clear.

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47km: Once they are up and over the climb, this slight gap has blown out to close to 20 seconds. With the peloton splintered into multiple chase groups behind, there is no chance of mustering enough firepower in the chase to reel in the two leaders.

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35km: Laporte and Van Aert have over a minute advantage by the time they hit the final pass of the Kemmelberg, and Van Aert feels comfortable enough in their advantage to sit up and wait for Laporte after accidentally dropping him.

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Final kilometer: Waiting for Laporte proves to be the smart move since the two teammates are able to build up a two-minute advantage on the chasers behind. As they head into the final kilometer, we can see them attempting to convince each other that the other deserves the win.

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Finish: Van Aert, likely wanting to build support and spread the love within his Jumbo team before he goes all in on Flanders next weekend, sits up and almost pushes his teammate Laporte over the line for what is likely the biggest win of the French rider’s career.

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Top 3:
1) Christophe Laporte +0
2) Wout van Aert +0
3) Sep Vanmarcke +1’56

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The Jumbo-Visma two-man final TT win

Key Takeaways

1) Jumbo-Visma set a strategic trap before launching to victory

  • The Dutch superteam extended its undefeated 2023 record at major Cobbled races by using their deep squad to get strong riders into the elite escape group with roughly 80km to go. This forced strong rivals like Mads Pedersen to expend massive amounts of energy bridging up to the group while Wout van Aert rested behind.
  • Further, by the time Van Aert made his move on the Kemmelberg, he was relatively rested while his rivals were gassed.
    • The fact that the second strongest rider in the race, Laporte, was on their team meant there was no real chance of reeling in the duo once they got even a slight gap.
    • If the riders behind are each weaker than the riders in front, it doesn’t matter how many are working since each turn on the front will be slower than the speed of the riders in front.

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Van Aert was the strongest, but…

2) Wout van Aert is peaking at just the right time

  • By winning a race that is almost impossible to win from a breakaway via a breakaway, the Belgian superstar proved that his form has significantly improved from Milano-Sanremo and even E3, which ran just three days before Gent-Wevelgem.
    • This form trajectory tells us that Van Aert will likely be in, or at least close to, peak fitness by his main target of the season, the Tour of Flanders, on Sunday.
  • Also, while his decision to gift the prestigious race to his teammate Laporte was unexpected (and frustrating for those of us with money on Van Aert to win the race), it makes sense when we consider that Van Aert is only interested in winning two races this Spring, Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix, and wants to keep his extremely talented Jumbo teammates, many of whom are good enough to ride as leaders in their right, happy and dedicated to working for him in these major events.

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Once Van Aert and Laporte escaped, they were not seen again till Wevelgem

3) Christophe Laporte’s improvement will give rival teams an additional worry at Flanders and Roubaix

  • With this ride, the 30-year-old French rider has shown his transformation from an occasional contender to a top-tier rider since his 2022 transfer to Jumbo from Cofidis is complete.
    • The implications of this are that Jumbo has given the teams of major classics contenders like Tadej Pogačar and Mathieu van der Poel something to think about if Laporte slips into another mid-race move at Flanders or Roubaix.
  • The fact that Jumbo-Visma is stacked with recent major Cobbled classic winners will put massive pressure on any team attempting to control the race, all while giving Van Aert another free ride as we saw on Sunday.

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Catalunya stage 6 did eventually end in a sprint

Volta A Catalunya

Stage 6
27.1km: Remco Evenepoel attacks on a slight hill towards the end of what was supposed to be a boring sprint stage. He is closely marked by an attentive Primož Roglič, who can’t afford to give Evenepoel a single second of daylight due to his thin overall lead.

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13.7km: Despite Roglič having no incentive to work with Evenepoel, and, in fact, having every interest in the pair being caught so the sprinters can eat up the time bonuses, Evenepoel wastes valuable energy he could use on the more difficult final stage by riding full speed towards the finish after failing to drop Roglič and yelling at his rival to pull through. It is somewhat odd that Evenepoel seems unaware of this fairly basic racing dynamic.

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Stage 7

25.5km: Evenepoel attacks on the final stage at almost the exact same location on the course as the day before, and is again followed by Roglič, plus Marc Soler. Evenepoel, clearly rattled by Roglič (logically) refusing to pull through all week, still wastes massive amounts of energy attempting to force him through.

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Finish: Evenepoel fails to drop Roglic, but is successful in striking a deal with him to share the pace with him in exchange for the race leader not contesting the stage win. Their combined pace is so high that they drop Soler, despite him just sitting on, and getting them over the finish line nearly a minute in front of the chasing peloton.

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Final GC Results:
1) Primož Roglič +0
2) Remco Evenepoel +6
3) João Almeida +2’11

Takeaways Cont.

4) Primož Roglič won this race with superior tactical decision making

  • The veteran Slovenian used savvy racing decisions, and incredible form, to overcome fairly long pre-race odds to upset the reigning World and Vuelta a Espana champion.
    • For example, his superior positioning in the sprints on stages 1 and 2, along with far better timing during the stage 5 uphill finish, netted him 10 bonus seconds, plus six ‘real’ seconds gained on the road, over Evenepoel.
    • Considering that he won the race overall by just six seconds, these decisions clearly paid significant dividends.
  • In addition to his strategic superiority, Roglič also showed via his climbing performance on stage 5, where he produced 1927 VAM and 6.9 w/kgs (aka a lot of power) on the 24-minute final climb, his form has progressed significantly since Tirreno-Adriatico just two weeks ago and that he is on track for an extremely strong ride at the upcoming Giro d’Italia.

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Stage wins for Evenepoel, but no overall

5) Remco Evenepoel still has a lot to learn about stage racing

  • In contrast to Roglič, the World Champion appeared to throw away the overall victory here with decisions despite being on incredible physical form.
    • For example, Evenepoel’s decision to cede precious seconds by sitting up and celebrating on stage 3 and then to launch a full-on sprint with nearly a minute left on the steep climb to the finish on stage 5 showed that Evenepoel still has a lot to learn about the nuances of stage racing.
    • On the flip side, his incredible form, and newfound powerful sprint, also showed that he will be a formidable opponent in any future three-week race. If we add in the fact that he, at least according to his team, is still far above his ideal race weight, Roglič could certainly have his hands full when the Giro kicks off in May.
  • However, one habit Evenepoel needs to kick if he wishes to continue winning Grand Tours is his obsession with riders sitting on his wheel. He wasted valuable energy he could have used later in the race screaming at Roglič to pull through when it made no sense for him to do so. He then continued to ride on for no reason other than anger on Stage 6. He can’t afford these emotional indulges in longer races with deeper GC fields.

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UAE Team Emirates seemed unorganized in Catalunya

6) Team UAE’s extreme dysfunction could come back to bite them at the Tour de France

  • Outside of the Roglič/Evenepoel domination, what stood out the most during the weeklong race was the visible infighting at Team UAE. We saw Adam Yates pacing a group away from his own GC leader João Almeida on stage 1, and then Marc Soler attempting to rip clear of the peloton on stages 6 & 7 to overtake Almeida’s 3rd place overall.
    • This infighting and intrateam tactical chaos matches what we’ve seen from UAE at stage races where Tadej Pogacar isn’t present (see: 2022 Catalunya & Vuelta a España).
  • These problems may not directly affect Pogačar at the moment, but the fact that the team is adrift tactically under the surface isn’t a great sign and signals that this instability could come into play this summer at the Tour de France.

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Evenepoel couldn’t shake Roglič off

# Spencer Martin is the author of the cycling-analysis newsletter Beyond the Peloton that breaks down the nuances of each race and answers big picture questions surrounding team and rider performance. Sign up now to get full access to all the available content and race breakdowns. #

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