When Sports Director Sep Vanmarcke stood at the front of the Israel – Premier Tech bus this morning ahead of the Ronde van Vlaanderen start, he had one piece of advice; “Race with your heart, not your head.” Dylan Teuns did just that.

Teuns was on the brink of a maiden podium finish alongside former winner Alberto Bettiol when the duo, who were gunning for the two steps below winner Mathieu van der Poel, were heartbreakingly caught inside the final hundred meters. Teuns would finish in eighth place, followed closely by rookie Riley Sheehan, who dug deep to finish one minute later with an impressive 13th place.

Emotions were understandably high after the finish with an immensely disappointed Teuns saying “I’m super disappointed actually. It was a dream for me when I was a kid to be on the podium. It’s sad that it didn’t happen today.” Nonetheless, Teuns can take confidence from the race where he was arguably one of the strongest on the day and showed his best legs in a long time.

I still had doubts this morning about my stomach, if it would stand up so long with such an intense race. I managed it well over the last week. I’m super happy with how I’m on the bike, how my shape is. I need to be confident for the next races. In a Monument, if you can be that far in the final, then you can be really happy with your shape. It’s just an enormous disappointment to be not on that podium today.”

While pre-race favourite Van der Poel lived up to expectations, the 2024 edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen still provided plenty of surprises, with the sight of the peloton having to walk their bikes up the Koppenberg due to the slippery cobbles one of the highlights.

A few times when there were key moments, I was not in a good position or caught up behind a crash,” explained Teuns. “But earlier in the race, with 120 kilometers or so to go, when the big dogs were going, I could manage to keep myself more and more in front and be up there in the right positions. And then on the Koppenberg, I had no other chance than to stop and get off the bike and start running. I’d never seen that before in another race.”

Teuns parting words after the finish left nothing open to interpretation. “I’m still coming back. I want that spot on the podium.”

While Teuns wasn’t present at the front of the race in the first half, IPT was with Krists Neilands and Tom Van Asbroeck showing great form to maintain a good position in the first key moments of the race. Alongside Sheehan, Corbin Strong also made his Ronde van Vlaanderen debut with another solid performance, including an attack from the reduced peloton as they entered the business end of the race.

Paris-Tours winner Sheehan continued to impress all day, managing to come back again and again to just miss out on the top-ten in his debut participation.

“Chaotic and insane are the words I would use to describe the race. First off, it feels amazing just to finish it and it’s really cool to see the progress come together,” added Sheehan. “I knew I had good legs but it was a bit of a mystery how I would go and the distance was a question mark. I definitely gave it my best shot and set myself no limits. It was just a fight to stay on the bike and push the pedals down. For sure, it gives me confidence ahead of Paris – Roubaix. It’s a different beast for sure but it will be nice to not go up so many bergs.”

Unfortunately, Canadians Guillaume Boivin and Hugo Houle were both forced to abandon after separate crashes. An update on their conditions will be provided once they have been examined by the medical team.