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Victor Campenaerts personifies Lotto-Soudal’s ‘Wolfpack’ at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The Belgian comes back from a crash and mechanicals to finish fifth.

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NINOVE, Belgium (VN) — The Lotto-Soudal team seems to be morphing from a struggling, almost anonymous team, and into its own version of the famous QiuickStep Wolfpack.

The Belgian team is rocking and the presence of Victor Campenaerts is a key factor in this make over. The UCI world hour record holder heralded the pre-season drinks with the boys but also the morning core-stability and evening yoga sessions as ways in which the team bonded over the winter and that new atmosphere is already making an impression out on the road.

His ride in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was proof of the new fighting spirit in the Lotto-Soudal team. Often fighting back from lost positions he salvaged the day with a fifth place in Ninove, his best-ever result in the Belgian opener.

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“Obviously the team came for more than a fifth place but in the current circumstances, our team leader wasn’t at the start, it couldn’t been much worse,” Campenaerts said.

“At the end of the day I finished in fifth place. Before the race I would not have signed for that but knowing how the race unfolded I can be satisfied,” Campenaerts said.

“It wasn’t a fun day to be fair,” he said in the Sporza studio.

“This morning Tim Wellens woke up sick. During the race I punctured twice. Braking hard when you puncture isn’t easy so I crashed but wasn’t in too much pain. Then once I got back I had to switch bikes because my gearing system was no longer working,” Campenaerts explained.

“I tried to move up too quickly and made mistakes by doing so. Then I told myself to calm down. The situation wasn’t what I hoped it would’ve been but I had to make the best of it. I tried to remain calm and Florian’s attack put us in a comfortable position. We didn’t have to set things straight so there was no stress in the team. I’m enjoying good form. I trained well. If you’re having good legs then you automatically move to the front rows on the Muur in Geraardsbergen.”

And that’s what happened. Campenaerts appeared back at the front of the race when a large lead group formed after the Muur. Just before the Bosberg, the final climb of the day, he even attacked with compatriot Oliver Naesen (AG2R-Citroen). The duo were caught and at the foot of the Bosberg Wout van Aert blasted away.

“I hesitated too long. That split second where you’re waiting creates a gap that needs to be closed down. Quite quickly I focused on getting support from behind because otherwise I might have had to put my feet on the ground when my legs blew up. Wout shows that he’s the best of the field. Tadej Mohoric isn’t a nobody and he set a fierce pace in an effort to arrange a sprint for Colbrelli and still Wout kept riding away,” Campenaerts said.

Last year Campenaerts morphed from a time-trial expert into a rider with ambitions at the classics. He showed he had the skills to perform well and before the start of this season Campenaerts stated that he had set the bar higher than last year.

“I’m not going to say that I’ll win a classic. I’ll focus on the races that are a level below those: Le Samyn, Dwars door Vlaanderen. Those are my races. Right now, I’m looking forward to Le Samyn on Tuesday a lot. Then I’ll ride Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico and then I’m heading back for Belgium.”