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After the final attackers were caught less than 3km from the finish, Groenewegen beat van der Sande and Planckaert in the bunch sprint on stage 1 of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen; Bohli retained the lead

Photo: Lotto NL-Jumbo

BAPTISTE PLANCKAERT

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DRIEDAAGSE VAN WEST-VLAANDEREN

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DYLAN GROENEWEGEN

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TOM BOHLI

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TOSH VAN DER SANDE

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05.03.2016 @ 17:16 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Dylan Groenewegen continued the dream start to his WorldTour career by taking his second victory since joining LottoNL-Jumbo in the bunch sprint on stage 1 of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. The Dutchman managed to hold off Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) while Tom Bohli (BMC) finished safely in the peloton to retain his lead.

 

With his victory in last year’s Brussels Cycling Classic, Dylan Groenewegen had already announced himself as one of the biggest sprint talents. His impressive results made LottoNL-Jumbo build a lead-out train around the Dutchman as they gave him the chance to be a leader in his first year on the WorldTour.

 

The gamble has clearly paid off as Groenewegen has had a great start to the year. He won the very first sprint he contested at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and he finished fourth in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and sixth in Le Samyn.

 

The results made him confident for this week’s Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen where he was the star sprinter in a field with lots of fast riders. Today he proved his status as he came out on top in the bunch sprint on stage 1.

 

At the start of the first lap of the 10.6km finishing circuit that was to be covered thrice, an 8-rider breakaway of Elia van Brusseghem (Verandas Willems), Nico Denz (Ag2r), Jeremy Cornu (Direct Energie), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal), Jonathan Restrepo (Team Katusha), Nicolas Baldo (Team Roth) and Jonas Rickaert (Topsport Vlaanderen) had an advantage of 1.45. Here Vervaeke won the final intermediate sprint, holding off Rickaert and Restrepo. Steven Lammertink (LottoNL-Jumbo) who was sixth overall, had been dropped from the peloton and crossed the line more than 3 minutes behind the leaders.

 

BMC, Cofidis and LottoNL-Jumbo had done the chase work until now. ONE also started to chase and they joined forces with Cofidis and Crelan. Those three teams led the peloton to the finish at the end of the second lap 1.17 behind the leaders.

 

Vervaeke who had been active early in the stage, again tried to attack but was joined by Denz, van Brusseghem, Cornu and Restrepo. The quintet put 20 seconds into Alaphilippe, Rickaert and Baldo whle the peloton was now only 50 seconds behind.

 

With 12km to go, the chasers were caught and the peloton had reduced the gap to 40 seconds. It was 30 seconds at the start of the final lap and now riders were getting dropped frm the peloton.

 

A crash in the peloton took out sprinters Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Jonas Ahlstrand and Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis) but that didn’t slow the bunch down. As they approached the front group, Vervaeke attacked again and only Denz could respond.

 

With 5km to go, the leading pair were five seconds ahead of their chasers while the peloton was at 15 seconds. Denz made the next attack and he managed to distance his companion.

 

However, it was all in vain and with less than 3km to go, it was all back together for a bunch sprint. Here LottoNL-Jumbo did the perfect job to deliver Groenewegen to victory.

 

Race leader Tom Bohli finished safely in the bunch to retain his 6-second advantage over Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo). He now just needs to survive the final stage which will see the riders cover the climbs of Goeberg, Rodeberg, Monteberg, Kemmelberg and Scherpenberg at the midpoint before they end the race by doing three laps of a 13.8km finishing circuit that includes the small Keiberg and Catteberg climbs. However, the final top comes 5km from the flat finish where the sprinters are again expected to shine unless the wind comes into play.

 

A mostly flat stage

After the opening prologue, the sprinters were expected to come to the fore in stage 1 which brought the riders over 176.3km from Brugge to Harelbeke. After a flat start, the riders headed into the Flemish Ardennes where they tackled the Tiegemberg (twice), Oude Kwaremont and Holstraat climbs. The final helling was located with 55km to go and then it was a flat run to Harelbeke where the riders ended the stage by doing three laps of a 10.6km flat and technical finishing circuit.

 

It was a dry and calm day when the riders gathered for the start. All riders that finished the prologue were present as they headed out for their neutral ride.

 

A fast start

A tailwind made it a very fast start to the race and the many attacks were all unsuccessful as BMC worked hard to keep things under control. That made it difficult for Romain Cardis (Direct Energie) to rejoined the peloton after a puncture.

 

Damien Shaw (An Post) was one of the many riders to attack but like everybody else he had no luck. At the end of the first hour, the riders had covered 47.8km but no one had managed to get clear.

 

8 riders get clear

As the riders approached the feed zone with 100km to go, a small group of riders that included the likes of Frederik Frison (Lotto-Soudal), Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Nico Denz (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Alexander Geuens (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) and Elias Van Breusseghem (Verandas Willems) got a gap but they had no success. Instead, it was another group that escaped at the other side of the feed zone when Van Brusseghem and Denz joined forces with Jeremy Cornu (Direct Energie).

 

The trio worked well together to build an advantage of 20 seconds before five riders bridged the gap on the Tiegemberg. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal), Jonathan Restrepo (Team Katusha), Nicolas Baldo (Team Roth) and Jonas Rickaert (Topsport Vlaanderen) made the junction.

 

The break splits up

The octet was still only 22 seconds ahead as they hit the Holstraat where three riders tried to bridge across. They stayed around 30 seconds behind the leaders while the peloton finally slowed down and allowed the gap to go out to two minutes.

 

As the riders hit the Oude Kwaremont, Vervaeke attacked from the front group while Baldo and van Brusseghem were dropped. Restrepo was the next to lose contact while the peloton exploded into several groups. Vervaeke won the second intermediate sprint at the top, followed by Alaphilippe and Rickaert.

 

A regrouping takes place

After the climb, the 8 attackers found back together and still had a 52-second advantage over their chasers and 1.42 on the peloton. With 66km to go, it was 1.15 and 1.40 respectively and the three chasers decided to sit up.

 

The gap stayed around 1.45 as two riders from BMC were setting the pace. They briefly allowed it to go out to 2.10 before Cofidis and LottoNL-Jumbo came to the fore to lend them a hand with less than 50km to go. The gap stayed around 1.45 until they hit the finishing circuit where the chase really kicked off, setting the scene for the bunch sprint.

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