Tom Pidcock secured third place for Ineos Grenadiers at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne but the performance of the day at the British team arguably came from fellow young rider Jhonatan Narváez, who audaciously joined Mathieu van der Poel’s attack with 85km to go and then worked with the Dutchman in the break until being swept up by the peloton with just two kilometres remaining.
Narváez was the first rider from Ecuador ever to ride Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and also impressed at Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where he finished in the front group that fought for victory in the sprint finish.
24 hours later he look unperturbed when Van der Poel surged away with 85km to go on the Kanarieberg climb and he quickly jumped across to join him for two hours of aggressive riding off the front, which allowed Pidcock and his teammates to ride a defensive race.
“The plan was always to attack there anyway, and that’s when Van Der Poel went too,” Narváez explained post-race, after the television images showed him being told of Van der Poel’s attack and then him jumping after him alone, while the rest of the peloton seemed in awe or unable to chase.
The pair quickly established a lead of almost a minute on the peloton and then made contact with the early break on the Oude Kwaremont with around 60km to go. Some riders missed turns as Van der Poel worked hard but Narváez gave his all, seemingly loving racing in Belgium.
“I enjoyed every moment, until the last kilometre when they made the catch. I really enjoyed riding with him, it was full gas,” he said.
“You are always fighting for position, the roads are different… It’s really nice to be here. I was a little afraid before my first race on the cobbles. It is not easy, to start racing on them but, well, it looks like I can do it!”
“I wanted to make myself happy and I have done that. I prepared really well for these races and it’s nice to race in Belgium.”
Narváez is part of Ineos Grenadiers’ talented next generation of riders that includes Pidcock, Egan Bernal, Filippo Ganna, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Ethan Hayter, Pavel Sivakov, Carlos Rodríguez and Iván Sosa.
He rode for Axel Merck’s Axeon Hagens Berman development team in 2017, joined QuickStep Floors in 2018 and then broke his contract early to move to Team Sky for 2019.
Last year, he won the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy and then cofirmed his talents by winning stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia to Cesenatico.