Quinn Simmons booked his first pro GC victory at the five-day Tour de Wallonie on Saturday.
The young American defended his overnight lead on Saturday’s stage as returning Deceuninck-Quick-Step fastman Fabio Jakobsen scored his second sprint win of the week. Jakobsen kicked past Rüdiger Selig (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Milan Menten (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces) after an action-packed finale in Quaregnon, south Beglium.
Simmons’ victory marks his debut classification win since hitting the WorldTour with Trek-Segafredo last winter. He’s hoping it will reverse a tide of bad legs and bad luck after a tricky debut season and crash-strewn sophomore year.
“This is crazy and not quite what I expected,” Simmons said Saturday. “I’ve not raced since Tour of Flanders this year. I had two goals outlined for this year: a result in Strade Bianche, and then make the selection for the Tour, but I crashed just before Strade, and then a crash just before the Tour took me out of that.
“To have three months at home, the motivation was quite high to come here and finally get something to go right.”
Simmons rolled home with the peloton after Jakobsen won a reduced bunch sprint. The Dutchman also won the second stage Wednesday in what was his first victories since coming back from a horror crash at last summer’s Tour of Poland.
Jakobsen’s rise to form comes on the eve of his return to the Vuelta a España after winning two stages in his 2019 debut.
“I feel I’m becoming better day after day. I am happy with what I achieved this week, I didn’t expect it, but it’s a great result towards La Vuelta, where I look forward to returning after two years,” Jakobsen said.
“There’s a saying that goes ‘after the rain, comes the sunshine’. Well, now I’m in the sunshine after a long time in the rain and I am extremely happy.
Like Jakobsen, Simmons is eyeing a start at the Vuelta in the middle of next month. His grand tour debut will kick-start an ambitious summer schedule that rolls through the Flandrian world championships and Paris-Roubaix.
“The time I went without winning was super stressful, but it’s back, and I feel more like my old self as a racer now; the confidence is back,” he said. “Now we see what happens for the rest of the year. Maybe I can try and do a stage in the Vuelta, and then the worlds.”
— Tour de Wallonie & GP Wallonie (@tourdewallonie) July 24, 2021
Victory at the Tour de Wallonie isn’t necessarily a sign of stage-racing things to come for Simmons. After he thrived on the cobbles and bergs of northern Europe in the junior ranks, the 20-year-old is looking to retain his one-day focus.
“Racing for the GC is not actually my favorite thing as you have to be a little more conservative and sit more at the front of the bunch and think things through more. Today was a day where I would really like to be attacking in the final circuit to try and win the stage.
“But it’s a nice new experience, and maybe more one-week races in the future will be a nice mix in my classics program.”
The whole peloton chose to donate prize winnings to the victims of floods in the area. South Belgium and Germany was hit with huge rainfalls in the past week, causing rivers to burst their banks. Around 80 were killed as communities were flooded and homes were destroyed.