A fantastic surge of the Czech rider on the Citadelle de Namur netted him second in the Belgian one-day race.
On Wednesday, Petr Vakoč became the first Czech rider to podium in the Grand Prix de Wallonie (Beaufays – Namur, 205.5 kilometers), a result even more impressive considering he lined up at the start less than three days after completing the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. Just as in Canada, the 24-year-old was one of the main protagonists, attacking on the Tienne aux Pierres climb, with around 20 kilometers left, together with six other riders, after Etixx – Quick-Step made sure of neutralizing the day's escape.
The group quickly established a 25-second lead which at one point looked to be substantial enough for the riders up front to make it as they were preparing to hit the spectacular ascent of Citadelle de Namur (6% average gradient), but the furious pack came back just at the foot of the final ascent of the seven jammed on the course and things got reshuffled immediately. A few men tried to get away, but the status quo was maintained, as the peloton tackled the cobbled part of the 2km climb.
With 1200 meters to go, Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) accelerated and put some daylight between him and the bunch, as he entered in the final kilometer of the race. That was the point that saw Petr Vakoč make another move and the Czech rider – winner of Classic Sud Ardèche, Drôme Classic and Brabantse Pijl in 2016 – displayed incredible stamina, putting in an incredible effort and unleashing a huge and fierce attack to come roaring back.
In one of the most thrilling finishes of the season, Petr closed the gap on his French opponent, almost catching him on the line, but in the end concluded second by the narrowest of margins, for Etixx – Quick-Step's 60th podium of the year, which comes in addition to the 50 victories the team scored across 31 different races.
"I am very disappointed, because the opportunity to take the victory was there. Grand Prix de Wallonie is a race I really like, suited to my characteristics and I was hoping of winning it. The team did an excellent job throughout the day, protecting and always keeping me out of the wind", said Petr, who went on to make an analysis of the hectic last kilometers: "When Tony attacked, I was a little bit boxed in and couldn't follow him immediately, so I lost the momentum. Once I found the space to go, I took off, gained ground back, but couldn't pass him on the line, so congrats to him. It's a pity, because the form was there, but on the other hand it motivates me even more for the European Championships in Bretagne, where I am ready to give 100%, just as I did today."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele