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Pidcock was 67th at 1:56 behind winner Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Goubert), but he was simply happy to have completed the 249km race.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider has been laid off for much of March with a stomach bug, which forced him to skip Strade Bianche and abandon Milan-San Remo after being dropped inside the final 40 kilometers.
“It was a very hard day. Of course, it’s a classic, they’re really hard races,” Pidcock said. “It was a hard day, but I am quite pleased how it went for me. I at least finished and that’s a good sign going forward.”
Pidcock was up in the front group for much of the race but got lost in the shuffle as the pack approached the final ascent of the Kemmelberg with just under 40 kilometers remaining. Unlike Milan-San Remo, it did not prove terminal and he was able to make it to Wevelgem.
“It shows I’ve lacked a lot of racing. Today I was suffering,” he said at the line. “I was feeling awesome the first time up the Kemmelberg, and then I was just not. It’s a good start, and it gives me a good base. I was going full-gas today, even when I was dropped, I was still going full-gas to see where I was off. I am still far off. I have to look at the positive side.”
While Pidcock was racing to finish, Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay made history as the first African to win the one-day classic. The 21-year-old Girmay is racing his first full cobbled classics campaign and was making his debut at the race.
“It’s really nice to see. I already said well done to him in the race for the results he’s been getting already,” he said. “Now he wins, and this is a massive race. This guy is from Africa and he’s going to be the face of this sport in Africa. It’s great for the sport.”
Despite a solid return to racing action, Pidcock isn’t out of the woods just yet with his health issues as he struggles to absorb the nutrition he needs during a race. He hopes that this will change soon, but there’s no definite timeframe for recovery and it is all about patience for him.
“I was feeling really good. I was stuck behind a crash and I came back, and I was at the front of the Kemmelberg on the first time. That was a big effort and maybe I paid for it later on,” he said. “I have good shape, but I think it’s my stomach, it can’t take in the carbs at the end of the race and I was suffered for that.
“I don’t know when I will be back at my normal self. We do what we can and we hope it will be as soon as possible.”
Pidcock said team doctors and staffers are still trying to figure out what’s the problem, adding that it had previously taken a long time to recover from stomach bugs in the past.
“We’re not really sure. My liver is not processing things very well. It just takes time to heal. In the past when I was younger, it hit me quite hard,” he said. “I did a blood and urine tests, it was high fat content. To be honest, I don’t know the details. It’s not normal, but we do what we can to fix it.”
Ben Turner leads home Ineos Grenadiers
Ben Turner led home Ineos Grenadiers with 28th at the line. He was the only rider from the team to finish in the front chase group.
“I am really happy. The legs were phenomenal today and there was no plan for me to be there like that,” Turner said. “I followed the moves on the Kemmelberg, and after the split, I just kept trying and trying. When you have good legs it’s just amazing to race like that.”
The WorldTour rookie was 27th at E3 Saxo Bank Classic on Friday, after helping to salvage the race for the team when it missed the split on the Taaienberg, and Sunday’s distance was the longest race he’s done since so far in his short career.
“They told us last night the total distance was 260km with neutral, I thought, oh no,” he said. “In the end it was all right, but I am a big guy, so that’s going to take it out of me. There’s no secret that Jumbo are really strong right now.”