According to La Dernière Heure, Vanendert was sharply criticised by Wellens for failing to work for him, and breaking a pre-race agreement on tactics. On the day, Vanendert finished third on the Mur de Huy, while Wellens took seventh.
Lotto Soudal are one of the strongest teams collectively in the hilly Classics this year, and even prior to their Flèche Wallone results, the Belgian squad had won Brabantse Pijl and taken sixth in Amstel with Wellens, as well as tenth in Amstel with Vanendert.
But their failure to establish a clear hierarchy on the Mur de Huy did not go unnoticed by their rivals: Philippe Gilbert (Quick Step Floors), who took Lotto’s last big Classic win at Liege in 2011, said, somewhat drily, on Friday, that “the type of internal crisis I saw in Lotto Soudal after the Mur de Huy would not happen in our team.” Meanwhile, in his weekly column for La Meuse newspaper on Saturday, former Classics star Johan Museeuw wrote: “If I was in Vanendert’s place, I would try to get in a good breakaway in the finale [of Liège] so he doesn’t have to work for Wellens.”
Come their pre-race press conference for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the team appeared with three riders as their co-leaders: Vanendert, who was not originally slated to have a top role, according to La Dernière Heure, but has now earned protected status, Tiesj Benoot, who is riding his first Doyenne, and Wellens. Both Lotto management and the riders themselves were at pains to put Wednesday’s spat behind them.
“Tim’s declaration was an emotional reaction,” said team manager Marc Sergeant. “He was disappointed about his result, but Jelle did nothing wrong, he was simply very strong.”
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