• Yob Hillewaert

Vlad Van Mechelen wins Guido Reybrouck classic (U19): “It’s a big relief”

Vlad Van Mechelen (Cannibal Team) has won the Guido Reybrouck Classic this afternoon. After a tactically difficult race, a group of thirteen riders sprinted for victory on the cobbled Kerkstraat in Damme, Belgium. “This is a confirmation that I still have what it takes”, says Van Mechelen, who felt the pressure rising after some difficult races in Kuurne and Nokere.

Vlad Van Mechelen was happy everything finally went his way in the Guido Reybrouck - Copyright: Hannes Tahon

The Guido Reybrouck Classic is one of the cobbled classics for juniors in Flanders. With sections of cobblestones as the Brieversweg, the race is usually hard enough to split the peloton. After two years of absence, Vlad Van Mechelen may put his name on the palmares next to among others Sam Watson, Remco Evenepoel and Jasper Philipsen. We were there and talked to the winner himself.

What is the story of your race?

“Well, I wanted to approach Guido Reybrouck Classic a bit different than Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Nokere Koerse, where I spilled too much energy and returned home without a result. I sat back today and looked from a distance to what happened in the race. Once we were halfway, the breakaway was reeled back in. Then with 35 kilometres from the finish, a dangerous breakaway went. Among others my teammate Frank Aron Ragilo was in that break.”

Frank is a fast guy, so that was a good situation for your Cannibal Team.

“It was, but at the same time I didn’t want to finish in the peloton for the third time in a row. So I tried to bridge across to his group. There wasn’t immediately any response from the peloton, so I managed to get a gap. I went full gas. But it was hard to bridge over, as the group already had an advantage of 35 seconds. After 20 kilometres of riding alone between the peloton and the front group, I was starting to feel my legs and it was hard to close the last hundred metres. Luckily, three new guys bridged over to me from the peloton (among others the British rider Jed Smithson, Ed.). Together with them, I was able to close the gap.”

You closed the gap with only two kilometres to go.

“Yes, and by the time we bridged I was completely dead. But everyone from my group and the front group seemed to be dead.” (laughs) “The peloton was not in sight, so the battle for victory would be between us. Because in my last races I had started my sprint too early, I waited really long this time. I was behind my teammate Frank Aron Ragilo, which was the good wheel. In the end I was the fastest.”

The last weeks were a bit disappointing for you, how does it feel to win a classic as Guido Reybrouck now?

“It is a big relief after the difficult last races. The last weeks, I didn’t get much out of my races. In Kuurne and Nokere, something went wrong tactically. Guido Reybrouck is a big and important race. To finally be able to tick off a big win like this is a relief. A relief after all the pressure I was confronted with. It’s a big confirmation that I still have what it takes.”

Next week, Vlad will aim for more glory in Gent-Wevelgem U19.

Vlad Van Mechelen won in front of Hubert Grygowski and his friend Frank Aron Ragilo - Copyright Hannes Tahon

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