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Belgium’s riders fail to match Tour de France’s symbolism
While this year’s Tour de France honoured the fallen in Flanders Fields for the First World War centennial, the riders from the neighbourhood failed to rise to the occasion with memorable performances.
The 2014 course traced battlefield sites from Ypres to the Swiss border, including the Menin Gate, but the rain-lashed, wind-swept Belgian leg will be most remembered for the fall in the mud that ended the hopes of defending champion Chris Froome.
As for the cyclists, Jurgen Van den Broeck (pictured) will once again be looking back with regret at his missed chances, after finishing 13th in the general classification, 34’01” behind winner Vincenzo Nibali. Van den Broeck, who came fourth in 2010 and 2012, crashed out last year and in 2011, so he will at least be relieved that he finished the Tour. (And in fairness, he did much to recover from 2013 injuries to his cruciate ligament, cartilage, and knee).
But Van den Broeck lost too much time in the Alps, slipping back and never able to close the gap. He was also partly to blame for a crash when one of his water bottles bounced out of its cage and took out Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang front wheel.
There was only meagre consolation from other Flemish riders. Jan Bakelants from Oudenaarde finished 24th overall (down from 18th last year) and was the top Flemish climber, finishing 25th in the polka dot jersey classification.
Greg Van Avermaet, the runner-up in this year’s Tour of Flanders, ended 38th. Van Avermaet also came in ninth in the green jersey sprint rankings, up from 13th last year.
Jens Keukeleire, meanwhile, came in 67th and Johan Van Summeren 74th. Jurgen Roelandts came in at 111, while Maarten Wynants was at 117.
Teamwise, it was not much better. Omega Pharma-Quick Step trailed in 14th (down from eighth last year); and Lotto Belisol was right behind at 15th (up from 20th in 2013).