• Van Asbroeck with ‘racing experience’ to top-5
  • Jones’ first racing experience on cobbles: ‘Quite the opposite from the Gold Coast’
  • Van Asbroeck sees fast-learning team: ‘The youngsters were great’

It was a day for the Jinga rain jackets and the Velotoze shoe covers. Result: muddy faces after the finish.

Nokere Koerse turned out to be a typical Belgian ‘early spring’ race. According to ISN-data on TrainingPeaks, the temperature went down to 1 degree Celsius after an hour of racing.

It was one would expect from a Belgian early-spring day in the saddle. “The weather was bad,” DS Eric Van Lancker confirmed. “Rain, wind, cold.”

Of course, Tom Van Asbroeck and Sep Vanmarcke felt particularly at home on the Belgian roads as they were racing in their home country (in fact, Vanmarcke lives on today’s parcours) but also because of the familiar weather conditions throughout the race.

Van Asbroeck himself did not experience the best day of his racing career. He crashed twice, but was able to be right at the front when it really mattered: at the finish line. “I was late for pretty much every single move today, as I had to chase multiple times,” he recapped. “I guess my legs were good enough in the end to finish in the front.”

He had another critical trait which allowed him to be right up there in the last meters: experience. “I’ve done this kind of racing since I was young. It is all about positioning and choosing the right moments.”

Nokere Koerse also meant the WorldTour debut of Taj Jones. The Australian enjoyed a warm welcome in cold weather conditions. “The atmosphere was great towards this race, which made the change to new teammates easy.”

Nokere Koerse was his second race on European soil. “All the stories I’ve been told over the years did not disappoint today. Racing for the first time on Belgian cobbles was the complete opposite to what I get when I am training along the coast. It was a massive learning experience being in the shadow and supporting a rider like Sep Vanmarcke. I am already looking forward to Friday, the next race on the cobbles.”

The peloton miscalculated the power of the break-away and never saw two riders of the original group of escapees again. In the end, Van Asbroeck got ISN a fifth place, after finishing third in the sprint of the bunch. Rudy Barbier completed the top-10 in Nokere Koerse.

Van Asbroeck: “We have a lot of talents on our team. I saw a great Alexis, Rudy and Norman today, and also Taj’s performance was impressive given the fact it was his first-time racing on the cobbles.”

Photos: Bettini Photo

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