Halfway to the steep finale of today’s time trial, it was clear to our guys in the Israel Start-Up Nation support car that our leader, Mads Würtz Schmidt, would not be able to reach the podium he so coveted. But we weren’t too disappointed to see the podium slip away, and to see Mads settle for fifth overall.

“Finishing two stages in the top five, another stage with a top 10, and the fifth overall for our leader? Last year we would have taken that with both hands,” said our ISN boss here, DS Eric Van Lancker.
“For me, it is a clear indication that we are moving up: we raced as a team, sticking together in the front, a thing we did not see enough of last year.” He credits the leadership of our Belgian newcomer Sep Vanmarcke for the upgrade. “A true leader,” he said. “I want to see the same in our next races.”
And Mads? Well, no top athlete is happy to let a podium slip away (his 16:00 minute TT was 20 seconds behind his two main rivals), but he quickly raised his head. “I can be happy with my performance because I gave all I had. We had a good race. The team offered me a chance to go for the GC, and the guys backed me up from stage 1; I am so proud of them for giving me everything.
“Now it’s time to recover and get back to work. Our next race is Omloop in Belgium, and it’s encouraging to see that we are on the right track.”