Hepburn 5th at Antwerp Port Epic

Sun 8 Sep 2019

Australian Michael Hepburn has ended his 2019 season with a fifth place at Antwerp Port Epic from a late breakaway today. 

With 32km of cobblestones and 35km of unpaved roads to contend with, Mitchelton-SCOTT aimed to be aggressive and proved to be with Hepburn, Michael Albasini, Chris Juul-Jensen and Kaden Groves animating the race throughout the day.

On the front foot:
Whilst the profile was pan flat, Mitchelton-SCOTT was ready for anything for their debut at Antwerp Port Epic.

After his top-10 finish yesterday Groves was amongst the first of the aggressors, before Hepburn found himself at the front with three others.

The Australian was taken out of the front group thanks to a crash, although he quickly remounted his bike and remained in the race. Without a teammate ahead Albasini and Juul-Jensen put the pressure on the bunch and brought everything back together with 70km remaining. 

Only minor differences:
The attacking continued, before Hepburn once again found himself in a strong group of six as the race entered the final 30km. It reduced to four, and the gaps remained small with the quartet holding just 15seconds advantage into the last 15km.

A counter attack from the heavily reduced bunch saw the lead group grow to seven, and they began to attack from within. 

Aime De Gendt (Wanty – Gobert Cycling Team) slipped off the front in the final two kilometres to take a solo victory, whilst Hepburn settled for fifth place from the third small group on the road. 

Michael Hepburn – 5th place:
"We knew from looking at the parcours that it was going to be filthy right from the get-go so the plan was to race aggressively and always have guys in the move.

"Kaden did a great job jumping in a move from the beginning. Once we hit the circuits it really started to split up and between Chris, Alba and I, we had most things covered.

"At the midway point I got away in a good group of four but unfortunately two of us from that group crashed on one of the gravel sectors. Alba jumped in a good move just after that which allowed the rest of us to sit back a little before the final sectors.

"Over the final sectors there was a big selection and that’s where I found myself in a group of six. Most of the main teams were represented and we were working well so I was confident that we’d go to the line. I was starting to run out of legs in the final 10km and when three more guys bridged across to us from the peloton I just wasn’t able to respond to the four riders that got away in the final kilometers.

"We’ve never done this race before so we didn’t really know what to expect but I think it lived up to it’s epic name - cobbles, dirt, sand, grass fields, there wasn’t much the organizers didn’t put into the race..."  

David McPartland – Sport Director:
“We were always active and always are the front of the race with an option to win.

“There was one main move early on in the day and we were in that with Kaden and that really set the first part of the race up. Total Direct Energie missed it and spent they’re whole team chasing.

“It did come back together and from there on it was basically a fight for position into the cobbles and unpaved sectors on the finishing laps.  

“Heppy was in a good group of four strong guys but he dropped it on an unpaved sector but he was able to jump back on and he was back in the bunch which wasn’t too far behind.

“Albasini was in another move after that, before Heppy was active again in the last group that managed to go to the line.” 

Antwerp Port Epic – Results:
1. Aime De Gendt (Wanty – Gobert Cycling Team) 4:16:59
2. Tim Merlier (Corendon-Circus) +0:07
3. Timothy Dupont (Wanty – Gobert Cycling Team) +0:07
5. Michael Hepburn (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:20

Photo courtesy of Kristof Ramon.