James Fouche has finished 6th in the 79th edition of Gent-Wevelgem/Kattekoers-Ieper. The Nations Cup event saw Jonas Rutsch of Germany take the win ahead of Norway’s Andreas Leknessund and Belgium’s Jens Reynders.
173.8km in length, the Nations Cup event brought together some 150 riders from all around the world to tackle the numerous cobbled sectors and climbs that included the Baneberg, the Kemmelberg and the Monteberg twice each between the 94km and 146km markers. It was a brutal day of racing characterised by punctures and crashes, and the fast-approaching professional race behind them that resulted in just 36 riders making it to the finish line.
New Zealand lined up with a team made up of Ethan Batt, Liam Cappel, Ben Hamilton, Matias Fitzwater, Paul Wright and national road and time trial champion James Fouche. Last year Fouche and Fitzwater were the sole finishers for New Zealand that saw a big bunch sprint decide the race; with Fouche taking 41st across the line. This time around there would be no such sprint with the race being blown apart by a couple of significant attacks in the windy conditions.
Speaking after the race, Fouche told us that the race began hectically but stayed together until a big crash broke the race up. “It was all together and pretty hectic for the first 30km then a big crash split the bunch into pieces. We finally caught back on around 80km in,” Fouche explained. Among the crash victims today was Fitzwater, who had to be taken to hospital for examination to assess a potential broken collarbone. He was released though with no serious damage having been done.
Predictably the decisive moves of the day took shape on the Kemmelberg and Monteberg, with the second climb up the Kemmelberg peaking with 31.4km remaining. With massive support from Ethan Batt, Fouche was able to stay in contention and join a group of 19 riders that contended for the win. But on the second climb up the Kemmelberg a big attack drew 7 riders to the front of the race. Germany’s Jonas Rutsch was joined by the Norwegian duo of Andreas Leknessund and Tobias Foss, Belgium’s Jens Reynders and Cédric Beullens, Great Britain’s Robert Scott and James Fouche.
The group functioned effectively together until 2km to go when the attacks began. “We rolled smoothly until the last 2km where the winning moves went but couldn’t follow unfortunately,” Fouche said.
Rutsch managed to make the decisive attack, drawing Leknessund with him to the line where he disposed of the Norwegian in the sprint to take the win, with Reynders third and Scott fourth. Although Fouche dug deep to try and make it across to the attack with 2km to go it was not to be and Fouche eventually crossed the line sixth ahead of Foss, with the next group back crossing the line 1.12mins in arrears.
Fouche was pleased with the result overall, even if the end hadn’t gone according to plan. “I had decent legs and was happy to come away with a top 10. I’m a bit annoyed I missed the winning move under 2km to go but was pretty cooked then,” Fouche said.
A big part of his success today was the chasing ability of his teammates who came together really well for the Nations Cup event and put in a huge chase effort to return James to contention following the big crash after 30km. “Yea the five of us boys gelled well together and were together for the first part of the race,” James said. “Until a crash around 30km in took most of us boys out. But they helped drag me up to the front group after an hour of chasing in some fairly big crossies. Then Ethan was great to have up with me for the 2nd half of the race following moves.”
Team DS, Dirk van Hove, was full of praise for the way the team rode for James; particularly Ethan Batt’s ability to support the national champion in the latter stages of the race. The result today puts New Zealand in a strong position heading towards the Tour of Flanders.
Speaking about James, Dirk told us, “He’s a very talented rider, if he gets in the right team he’s going to have a great future.”
“He can read races, he stays calm when he has to stay calm. He gets in the good moves, he has a good position, he stays out of trouble. You don’t see him for the whole race, you know where he is but he’s never ever in trouble. He’s the best talented rider in New Zealand at the moment.”
|Rank||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result||IRM|
|29||VAN DEN BOSSCHE||Fabio||BEL||00:02:19|
|AZPARREN IRURZUN||Xabier Mikel||ESP||DNF|