Race report

Niklas Märkl first home for the team after gravel action at Antwerp Port Epic

Antwerp Port Epic

Development Team Sunweb were back in action today at Antwerp Port Epic. A race known for its numerous kilometres of gravel roads and cobbled sections, it is a notoriously hard day in the saddle.

The team were active at the head of the race with Martin Salmon in one of the early moves that was soon brought back. Throughout the day there were constant attacks in the bunch with several groups going clear before they too were soon reeled in. The attacking nature of the peloton continued until eventually a group of five riders broke clear coming into the last 40 kilometres of the race. A few more riders would bridge to the front and that group would go on to fight for the win.

Working to position Niklas Märkl, the team stayed attentive during the finale, keeping the young German sprinter safe going into the gravel road sections. Coming into the sprint finish Märkl was left in what was now a reduced peloton, where he opened up his effort early and took to the front of the bunch. Producing a good kick to the line he ended the day in 18th place, a good result after what was a tough day in the saddle.

“It was a really epic race, with a lot of gravel and cobbled parts,” explained Märkl at the finish. “At the start I wasn’t feeling too great but then as the longer the race continued the more I came into it and the better I felt. The team did a really good job at positioning me into the sections and making me space in the bunch. Towards the end we had four guys there but unfortunately Martin crashed with around 30 kilometres to go and the other two guys were dropped on one of the sections soon after. I think I managed the finale well. The break stayed away to the finish and in the sprint I felt good. Maybe I went a bit too early but in general it was a nice day and we can be satisfied with our performance.” 

Team Sunweb coach Bennie Lambregts added: “The start was good and we had Martin in one of the breaks. The rest of the guys did a good job at positioning Edo, Tim and Niklas heading towards the more difficult sections. Tim unfortunately had a flat tire but fought hard to make it back to the front group. Coming into the last 40 kilometres we still had four guys in the front; Edo, Tim, Martin and Niklas, which was good. Martin unfortunately crashed and Edo was empty so they were both no longer in the front as we headed towards the final sections of gravel road. Tim dug deep but he was dropped on the last section, so we just had Niklas left in front. He did a good sprint in the final, just missing out on a top 15 finish. Overall, the team rode well today and the guys did a good job, we can be happy with our race.”