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Having escaped with teammates Terpstra and Wisniowski, Keisse was allowed to cross the line first on a memorable day for Etixx-QuickStep in Ronde van Zeeland; Lampaert was 4th in a 1-2-3-4 for the team

Photo: © Etixx - Quick-Step / Tim de Waele

ILJO KEISSE

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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21.03.2015 @ 17:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Loyal domestique Iljo Keisse took a rare win when he was allowed to cross the line first after a dominant performance by the Etixx-QuickStep team in the Ronde van Zeeland. Having escaped with Niki Terpstra and Lukasz Wisniowski, the three teammates team time trialled their way away from the rest and as Yves Lampaert turned out to be the strongest from a 15-rider chase group, it ended as a memorable 1-2-3-4 for the Belgian team.

 

At the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Etixx-QuickStep was clearly the strongest team but the Belgians were embarrassingly defeated when Niki Terpstra, Tom Boonen and Stijn Vandenbergh came up short against Ian Stannard in the escape quartet. Today the team made an equally impressive showing in the Ronde van Zeeland and this time they made sure not to have anyone for company.

 

The flat Dutch race is characterized by its windy conditions and pave sectors and this made it a perfect test for the Belgian team. When a 30-rider group emerged in the front after a brutally fast start to the race, the team proved its strength as it had seven of its eight riders still in contention.

 

Everybody knew that the Belgian team were the ones to beat but they couldn’t do anything against the mighty classics specialist. With more than 70km to go, Iljo Keisse, Niki Terpstra and Lukasz Wisniowski accelerated and unlike in the Omloop, they made sure not have anyone for company.

 

No one was able to follow the strong Etixx-QuickStep trio which went into time trial mode. Behind a 15-rider chase group was formed but they never managed to gain any ground on the three leaders who constantly increased their advantage.

 

With 25km to go, they had already distanced their rivals by 4.15 and it was clear that the Belgian team would make a clean sweep of the podium. This meant that the rest were riding for fourth place but in that battle, Etixx-QuickStep also came out on top.

 

While the three leaders had time to discuss the internal order at the passage of the finish line, Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen) attacked out of the chase group but he had Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep) for company. With his three teammates far ahead, the latter could allow himself to contribute to the pace-setting and the duo managed to keep their chaser at bay.

 

In the front group, Etixx-QuickStep had decided that loyal domestique Iljo Keisse deserved the win and the Belgian led Terpstra and Wisniowski across the line. More than 4 minutes later, Lampaert made it an even better day for the Belgian team when he beat Theuns in the sprint to complete a 1-2-3-4 for the mighty squad. With Guillaume Van Keirsbulck in 9th, the team had five riders in the top 10 on a day when only 18 riders finished a brutally hard race.

 

With the Ronde van Zeeland done and dusted, the northern classics move back to Belgium for Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen. The next big Dutch race is a hillier affair when the Limburg province is the scene of the Ronde van Limburg on April 4.

 

A flat course

The 4th Ronde van Zeeland had been moved from its usual June slot on the calendar and was held on a 196.1km route that started and finished in Terneuzen. The roads were almost completely flat and the main challenges were the 12 pave sectors that were spread throughout the course. The final of those was located with 32km to go and then the riders returned to the finish where they ended the race by doing two laps of a 9.9km finishing circuit.

 

The riders took the start under a cloudy sky and like always there was a pretty strong wind in this area. There were two non-starters: Federico Zurlo (Unitedhealthcare) and Brian Bulgac (LottoNL-Jumbo) who had fallen ill.

 

A first breakaway

The riders got the race off to a very fast start and the many attacks created a frantic pace. Already during the first 15 minutes of racing, riders were getting dropped. Etixx-QuickStep took control as they tackled the first pave but still no one had managed to get clear.

 

Finally, it seemed that a break had been established when Amaury Capiot (Topsport Vlaanderen), Martin Mortensen (Cult), Dennis Bakker (Valkenburg), Jochem Hoekstra (Jo Piels), Ike Groen (De Rijke) and Alexander Cools (Vastgoedservice) got clear. While they fought hard to build an advantage of 1.15 after an hour of racing, a big crash ended the race for Jack Wilson (An Post).

 

A big group takes off

Brian van Goethem took control of the peloton for the Roompot team before the riders hit a crosswinds section after 50km of racing. Here a big 23-rider group got clear and they reduced the gap to the front group to 25 seconds at a point when the peloton was 20 seconds further adrift.

 

While Nick van der Lijke (LottoNL-Jumbo) left the race, the chase group was whittled down to 20 riders. They caught the front group and the new leading group was trimmed down to 24 riders.

 

Etixx-QuickStep and Roompot set the pace

Etixx-QuickStp had Niki Terpstra, Nikolas Maes, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume van Keisbulck and Lukasz Wisniowski in the group while Johnny Hoogerland, Michel and Raymond Kreder, Sjoerd van Ginneken and van Goethem were there for Roompot. Hence, those two teams did most of the work to maintain a 35-second advantage over the peloton.

 

An 8-rider chase group was formed and they dangled 30 seconds behind for a little while. Meanwhile, the peloton had lost further group and were now trailing by 1.45.

 

Terpstra, Wisniowski and Keisse take off

In the 10th pave sector, the 8 chasers caught the leaders at a time when the peloton was 2 minutes behind. The entire Etixx-QuickStep team except Martin Velits was now in the lead group that was being chased by 5 riders who were 45 seconds behind.

 

Just before the next pave, the Etixx-QuickStep trio of Wisniowski, Terpstra and Iljo Keisse attacked and they quickly got a 20-second advantage over their chasers. While they increased their advantage, the chase group started to crumble, and suddenly an 8-rider chase group had formed.

 

A 15-rider chase group

More riders joined from behind to make it a 15-rider group made up of Timo Roosen, Mike Teunissen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Yves Lampaert, Maes, Trentin, Van Keirsbulck (Etixx-QuickStep), Tiesj Benoot, Sean de Bie (Lotto Soudal), Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen), Troels Vinther (Cult), Hoogerland, Raymond Kreder, van Goethem (Roompot), Joey van Rhee (Jo Piels) and Coen Vermeltfoort (De Rijke). With 60km to go, however, they had been distanced by 1.50 and moments later the advantage of the leaders passed the 2-minute mark.

 

The trio had gone into team time trial mode and with 55km to go, they had extended their advantage to 2.40. At this point, the hard race meant that only 24 riders were still on the course.

 

Lampaert and Theuns get clear

The gap reached 4.15 with 25km to go and 5km later, the front trio crossed the finish line for the first time. At this point, only 18 riders were left in the race: the front trio and the 15 chasers.

 

It was now clear that the chasers were riding for fourth place and they now started to attack each other. Theuns and Lampaert managed to escape and as they held off their chasers, Lampaert managed to make it a 1-2-3-4 for Etixx-QuickStep on a day when Keisse was allowed to take the win.

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