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Matej Mohorič: ‘Wout and Christophe were a level above the others’

Mohorič looking forward to surprising his rivals at the Tour of Flanders.

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HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — A week after attacking to victory at Milan-San Remo, the shoe was on the other foot for Matej Mohorič at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic.

Mohorič was part of a very select group of riders that tried in vain to bring back a huge attack from teammates Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte. Try as the group might, the Jumbo-Visma pair continued to extend the winning advantage to over 1:30.

While the force of the moves over the Taaienberg and the Paterberg did come as something of a surprise, the performance from van Aert and his team did not.

“I knew that Wout especially is a level above the others. In the opening weekend, and in San Remo, he showed the dominance, so it was to be expected today,” Mohorič said at the finish line in Harelbeke. “He was actually perfect with positioning himself, he had a perfect team around him but we must also emphasize that we did a good race. My teammates around me took time to get me in a very good position. I tried my best in the final.

“We were all a little bit surprised by the effort of the Jumbo-Visma guys, so nobody had the legs to bring them back, so hats off to them.”

Mohorič had a race of swinging fortunes, being distanced on a number of occasions as Jumbo-Visma continued to pile the pressure on. After chasing back on, time and again, Mohorič was eyeing up the final podium spot but he ran out of steam in the drive for the line when Stefan Küng made a late break for third.

“My teammates worked hard to put me in a good position on the Taaienberg and I made the selection. After the Taaienberg I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling great, so I was trying to just hang in there,” he explained. “Maybe I missed a bit of a moment on the Paterberg, but Wout and Christophe were just one level above the others today and they very much deserved this win. They also had Tiesj [Benoot] in the group if we brought them back, which was probably not possible.

“There were some moments in the early final that I was a little bit struggling but then I found my legs in the late final. I tried to go for a podium but in the end, I was not fast enough in the sprint and Stefan [Küng] deserved his third place.”

Also read: Wout van Aert brings home Jumbo-Visma two-up TT with Christophe Laporte

The Slovenian monument winner looked back with a touch of regret that he didn’t bury himself on the Oude Kwaremont, when the gap dropped from 25 seconds to 16, but hindsight is a great thing and Mohorič had the final 38 kilometers to think about it.

Despite the small frustrations, hanging in with the top riders was a good sign in Mohorič’s first cobbled classics campaign since 2019.

“Looking back, maybe I could have invested everything and done a big attack on the Oude Kwaremont,” Mohorič said. “I was a little bit afraid to go all in and attack with everything I had on the Oude Kwaremont but it’s also hard to decide in this moment because you’re already thinking about what’s still to come.

“It was a good race and it is a good feeling for Flanders. Of course, the favorites are going to be van Aert and van der Poel, but we have a strong team here and we will try to play our cards wise and try to surprise and do the best to fight for the podium.”

Thoughts now turn to the next big goal at the Tour of Flanders in just over a week’s time. Mohorič knows that he will have a tough fight on his hands to overcome the might of Jumbo-Visma and the incoming Mathieu van der Poel, who got back to winning ways at the Coppi e Bartali on Friday, but he won’t back down.

“It’s like this, and they have proved many times that they are big favorites. We will see, but the race is always open, especially here in Belgium one small mistake can cost you. It’s going to be hard, but it’s not impossible,” Mohorič said.