Ben Turner puts Ineos Grenadiers in the action as Paris-Roubaix becomes big target

Ben Turner went on the attack at Gent-Wevelgem in pursuit of Mads Pedersen and Mathieu van der Poel
Ben Turner went on the attack at Gent-Wevelgem in pursuit of Mads Pedersen and Mathieu van der Poel (Image credit: Getty Images)

Ben Turner was delighted to be back at the business end of racing at Gent-Wevelgem, where he went on the attack and showed signs of the 2022 form that made him one of Ineos Grenadiers’ leaders for the cobbled Classics. 

“Yeah I was good, it was nice to be in front of a race again. It's been a while…” Turner told Cyclingnews and GCN beyond the finish line in Wevelgem after making the front group that chased after Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and then finishing 25th.   

The 24-year-old Yorkshireman had a stop-start 2023 season where crashes and injuries derailed his progress and results. He broke his elbow at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then his radius at the Tour of Flanders, caught up in the mass crash that wiped out part of the peloton. 

His run of bad luck and injury came after a strong start to 2023 with his first, and to this day still only, professional win at the Vuelta a Murcia. 

But more injuries followed at the Criterium du Dauphiné and his debut at the Tour de France, meaning 2023 was ruined by crashes and setbacks.

“I had two broken arms and a very bad knee from two massive crashes last spring, so I knew I couldn't show anything,” Turner explained of his 2023 season. 

“Also last year I had a tough time with crashes and it was really bad, so it was hard to get going.”

Turner was back to his best at Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, the only Ineos Grenadiers rider that made it into the front echelon of favourites when the race exploded in the wind with 150 km to go. 

Jhonatan Narváez and Connor Swift crashed out earlier and veteran road captain Luke Rowe was absent after crashing early during Friday’s E3 Saxo Classic. 

“Everyone knew where it was gonna split in De Moeren. I managed to nail that point really well and then I was in that front group echelon. I was feeling pretty good,” Turner explained.

“Then it came back together and went on that first time in Kemmel. I wasn't in the best place to go but also I don't think I would have gone with them guys [Mathieu Van der Poel and Mads Pedersen]. I had a bit of a bad moment on that lap.”

As the lead group and victory played out up the road, Turner had a second wind and found the energy to attack with just over 40km to go after looking very strong on the second climb of the Kemmelberg. 

He was joined by Hugo Page (Intermarché-Wanty), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), who bridged across, and Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) after the Kiwi was dropped by Pedersen and van der Poel on the final climb and they quickly had a decent gap on the fragmented chase.

“After the second time on the Kemmel, I knew the legs were still pretty strong, so I decided to have a go,” Turner said. 

The charge in the peloton from Soudal-Quick Step and Visma-Lease a Bike eventually proved too much for the escapees inside the final 15km. 

“It was a good move. I think it could have been a different story with maybe another guy.”

Turner can now look optimistically to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He will perhaps be Ineos Grenadiers' protected rider as they look for their first WorldTour win of 2024.  Filippo Ganna has already ended his Classic campaign, while Tom Pidcock is focusing on the Ardennes Classics.   

“We're starting to build again in a good way. I had a good Paris-Nice. Unfortunately, I was sick last week so E3 wasn't great but today was a good step forward in the right direction,” Turner said.

“100%,” Turner said when asked if his form will improve.

“The big goal is Paris-Roubaix. So still some races to fine-tune a bit but the legs were strong and that's a good sign for what's to come.”

Turner will be joined by fellow Brit Josh Tarling for the remaining Belgian cobbled Classics - Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

“Josh is a big strong boy so hopefully quite good,” Turner said of what to expect of the 19-year-old.

“We also had bad luck, Jhonny [Narvaes] and Connor [Swift] crashed so that could have played a massive part as well. We're a good group, that's for sure.”

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