With 36 kilometers of dirt farm tracks and 29 kilometers of cobbles, all in the last 100 kilometers, the Antwerp Port Epic is a telegenic and photogenic race of a type that professional road racers rarely see. Since 2015, when dirt roads were introduced to the race (previously known as Schaal Sels), it has provided a transition to the cyclo-cross season and has typically been won by a cyclo-crosser. This year was no different.
The 2020 edition featured warm temperatures, clear skies, and lots, and lots of dust. Unlike the gray and damp images of the region’s spring classics, this race had more of a Strade Bianche feel to it, minus the rolling hills of Tuscany. And the hilltop medieval castle.
For the riders, it was a race of attrition. Once the pack got to the technical sections mechanicals and crashes began to winnow down the field dramatically. Due to dust being kicked up by riders and vehicles ahead, once a rider fell back it was extremely difficult to regain the front. An early breakaway initiated by Robin Carpenter was joined by some strong riders such as 2017 Tro Bro Leon winner Damien Gaudin. But the move was never given enough leash to have a chance of success. Carpenter would continue to ride aggressively and stay with the front group, eventually finishing the race in a strong 12th place. In the end, only 43 of the 217 starters would make it to the line.