Corbin Strong claims podium spot at Circuit Franco-Belge

New Zealand cyclist Corbin Strong showed his strength and speed in the final climb of the Circuit Franco-Belge, a one-day race in Belgium. He sprinted to third place behind Arnaud De Lie of Lotto-Dstny and Rasmus Tiller of Uno-X, who took first and second respectively.

Strong, who rides for Israel-Premier Tech, was well-positioned in the front group of 16 riders as they approached the Mont-de-l’Enclus, a short but steep ascent that decided the race. He followed the moves of De Lie and Tiller, who launched their attacks in the last 200 meters. Strong could not match their pace, but he held off the rest of the chasers to secure his spot on the podium.

A new parcours for a classic race

The Circuit Franco-Belge, also known as the Eurométropole Tour, is a classic race that dates back to 1924. It usually features a flat course that favors sprinters, but this year, the organizers changed the parcours to include more hills and cobbles.

Corbin Strong claims podium spot at Circuit Franco-Belge
Corbin Strong claims podium spot at Circuit Franco-Belge

The new route was 190.6 kilometers long, starting in Tournai and ending in Mont-de-l’Enclus. It featured six laps of a 25-kilometer circuit that included two climbs: the Côte de la Croix Jubaru and the Côte de Trieu. The final lap also added the Mont-de-l’Enclus, a 1.3-kilometer climb with an average gradient of 8.7 percent and a maximum of 14 percent.

The new parcours made the race more open and unpredictable, as teams had to decide whether to bring puncheurs, rouleurs or pure sprinters. Strong, who is a versatile rider with a track background, proved to be well-suited for the challenge.

A farewell race for two legends

The Circuit Franco-Belge also marked the final race for two Belgian legends: Greg Van Avermaet of AG2R Citroën and Dries Devenyns of Soudal-QuickStep. Both riders announced their retirement from professional cycling earlier this year, and they received a warm farewell from their fans and peers at the start and finish of the race.

Van Avermaet, 37, is one of the most successful classics riders of his generation, with wins at Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He also won an Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016 and wore the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in 2018.

Devenyns, 38, is a loyal domestique who has helped his teammates win many races over his 16-year career. He has also achieved some personal victories, such as the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in 2020 and the overall title at the Tour de Wallonie in 2019.

Both riders received gifts and applause from the organizers and their fellow competitors before the start of the race. They also rode at the front of the peloton for a while, before joining the action in the final laps. Van Avermaet finished 11th and Devenyns 13th, both in the same time as Strong.

A promising season for Strong

Strong’s podium finish at the Circuit Franco-Belge is his best result in a one-day race this season. He has also shown his potential in stage races, winning a stage and finishing second overall at the Tour de Langkawi in February. He also finished fourth overall at the Tour de l’Ain in August.

Strong is only 22 years old and has been riding for Israel-Premier Tech since 2020. He is part of a young and talented generation of New Zealand cyclists, along with George Bennett, Patrick Bevin and Finn Fisher-Black.

Strong was happy with his performance at the Circuit Franco-Belge, but he also expressed his ambition to win more races in the future.

“Today was a nice parcours for me, and the team supported me well all day. In the final, I didn’t have the speed for the win, but I’m happy with the podium,” he said after the race. “It was also nice to have the experience of Sep Vanmarcke on the radio for his first race as a Sports Director.”

Vanmarcke, who retired from racing earlier this year, made his debut as a Sports Director for Israel-Premier Tech at the Circuit Franco-Belge. He was pleased with Strong’s result and praised his talent and potential.

“It was nice to get a good taste of what I will do in the near future. To plan the race and tactics was great. I look forward to the next one, especially if it’s another podium!” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *