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'Normally you only see them on TV!' – Lazkano relishes racing Van Aert and Wellens at Kuurne

Oier Lazkano’s star keeps on rising. The tall Basque rider is a rarity among riders hailing from the Iberian Peninsula, excelling in the harsh cobbled and gravel roads of the spring rather than the sharp mountains that pepper his country and the route of its national tour.

Having risen to prominence last March with a bruising, day-long, ride from the breakaway to take second at Dwars door Vlaanderen, he’s back in Belgium this spring to take on the Flemish cobbles once more.

Having already won on the gravel roads of the Clásica Jaén two weekends ago, he was back on the podium again on Sunday, scoring third place on his career debut at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

The 24-year-old, racing in the colours of Spanish champion, was part of the winning move that went clear 87km from the line, going to the line with eventual winner and pre-race favourite Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease A Bike) and another experienced Belgian in Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) after a hard, cold day in the saddle.

“You always want to win, but I’m happy,” Lazkano said after taking to the podium for the second time in his cobbled Classics career. “They pushed me really hard, and I gave everything I had. It’s one of those races that you always look forward to watching on television, and it’s nice to be racing here again.

“I tried to go for the win, but Wout and Tim were very strong. They kept on accelerating. It was also unlikely for me to be our front with those champions – normally, you only see them on the TV!” he added with quite some modesty.

Lazkano, whose next appointment should be the Race to the Sun of Paris-Nice before heading back north to the grim climes of the cobbles, became the first Spaniard to step on the podium in 76 editions of Kuurne.

He said later that he’s always wanted to race in Flanders, adding that all he was missing on the day were the legs to challenge the two Belgians in the closing sprint.

“I’ve always wanted to race here,” he said. “These are races in which every step and every fight for position is hard, and to see myself up here is exciting. It’s really a day to enjoy.

“I couldn’t not collaborate in the relays with Van Aert and Wellens because if I didn’t pass through, it was clear that the attacks would start and it would be worse for me. We had to try to take the breakaway to the end and then play our cards in the last part. I just didn’t have the legs, that’s all.”

Flandrian ex-racer Jürgen Roelandts, who closed out his career with Movistar before taking on a directeur sportif role at the team post-retirement, was in the car behind Lazkano this weekend.

With podiums at the Tour of Flanders and E3 Saxo Classic on his palmarès, the 38-year-old is an ideal choice to support Lazkano as he seeks similar successes.

“He helped me a lot from the car. With his experience and the results he’s achieved, he’s someone to respect, and he knows everything. It’s like being a bit closer to home with his knowledge and the encouragement he gives you.”

 

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: daniel.ostanek@futurenet.com
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