Jens Keukeleire checks in from Paris-Tours after sprinting to ninth place.
Today was another fast day. We had a tailwind for the entire race. This pushed the average speed of the race really high. We finished ahead of the fastest projected schedule with a 48 kilometer/hour average.
The fast speeds and high winds made for a nervous race. It was important to always be near the front. With wind, you never know how the race can change quickly. Everybody was fighting for position on the front all day long.
A big breakaway went away from the beginning. We had Michael Hepburn in the front. He was part of the 11-rider group. It was good for us that Michael went up the road. It gave us a chance to sit back and relax just a little bit. Some teams immediately started controlling the race after the group had established.
As we came closer to the end, the roads narrowed. There were more twists and turns and ups and downs. I already knew that I was feeling good at this point, so I let the team know that we should continue to follow the plan.
There were three small hills in the final, and it was critical to be in a good position on the front when we came up to those climbs. The team put me in the right place. I found I could follow the bigger moves once we started climbing.
On the last climb, maybe eight kilometers from the finish, I gave it everything I had. This forced the selection of a group of eight riders. There were three riders up the road at this point. Unluckily for me, all the riders in the front had teammates in my group, so no one really wanted to work.
I wanted to work. I still wanted to catch those three riders out front. Maybe I wasn’t too smart in the last five kilometers because I stayed on the front and continued to pull. Maybe it would have been better to ride for fourth place, but I couldn’t. I absolutely wanted to close the gap to the guys out front.
In the final, the riders in my group started jumping. I couldn’t follow every move because I had been pulling so hard. In the end, I was second in the sprint of the guys that were left in my group. I ended up in ninth place. The three riders I had been chasing were able to stay away. Marco Marcato (VCD) won the race from a three-up sprint.
I’m happy about my race. I’m especially happy with the way I was able to ride in the final – to be able to attack the way that I did. It shows that I have improved a lot this year in comparison to other years. I know a better place may have been possible today if I had ridden differently, but I’m happy I tried.
We were lucky to have Heppy in the front. I was lucky to have the team do a great job keeping me in the front the whole day and making sure I was in the right position for the last climb. I rode strong, and I paid the team back for the good work they did.