“The race isn’t over until its over” seems so obvious that it should be a saying, until someone messes it up. And it seems like every year some unfortunate pro has to mess up a finish sprint to remind the rest of the dangers of posting up early.
That reminder came early this season. Ilan van Wilder (Soudal Quick-Step) looked locked in to take the win on stage two of the Volta ao Algarve, leading as the race wound through a tight final 300 metres. Then Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education Easy Post) appeared out of nowwhere and, as van Wilder celebrated, threw his bike for the line.
Cort’s persistence, and patience, paid off. The EF rider earns the win in Foia. Van Wilder is left wondering what could have been.
🇩🇰 Magnus Cort Nielsen ended 🇧🇪 Van Wilder celebration in Fóia in the end of stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve. #valgarve2023 pic.twitter.com/O7znGAM9oY
— Volta ao Algarve (@VoltAlgarve) February 16, 2023
Cort’s victory isn’t just a result of van Wilder’s mistake, though. The Danis racer rode a smart finale. As van Wilder led long, uphill drag to the line, Cort sat several wheels back. Leading on narrow roads seemed wise, with little to move around. Cort saw a different strategy, though.
“There was a lot of headwind, I didn’t want to sit in that for the final kilometre,” Cort told Cycling Pro Net. The gamble almost backfired. “Suddenly I was a bit boxed in, so I had to find the space. But I’m really happy I did it at the last second.”
As van Wilder weaved across the road, Cort found his way clear of the group and took the direct line through the final corners, passing van Wilder at the last possible second as the Belgian celebrated.
While van Wilder doesn’t get the win, he isn’t beating himself up too much.
“I don’t think I celebrated too early, I celebrated on the finish line,” the Soudal Quick-Step rider told Cycling Pro Net. “I thought I won.”
You can watch the full sprint below (geoblocked in Canada, unfortunately)
A battle to the 𝐕𝐄𝐑𝐘 end! 😳
Van Wilder thought he had won stage two of the Tour de Algarve when Magnus Cort snuck past to steal the victory on the finish line 🤯👏#VAlgarve2023 pic.twitter.com/ytj5E3Re6m
— Eurosport (@eurosport) February 16, 2023
Van Wilder is far from the first pro cyclist to lose a race while celebrating victory. Even the best occasionally make mistakes. Just last year, Wout van Aert lost a stage of Critérium du Dauphiné with both…
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