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Having joined forces with Vanmarcke, Kuznetsova and Cancellara after the Kemmelberg, Sagan easily won the four-rider sprint to take his second win in Gent-Wevelgem; Vanmarcke was second and Kuznetsov third

Photo: Sirotti






27.03.2016 @ 18:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) finally took what has been a long overdue first win in the rainbow jersey when he claimed a second victory in Gent-Wevelgem. Having attacked hard on the Kemmelberg, he joined forces with Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) to keep an elite chase group at bay and then took an easy sprint win. Vanmarcke was second and Kuznetsov completed the podium.


In the first years of his career, nothing seemed to hold Peter Sagan back as the Slovakian won almost on every single occasion. However, in the last few years, he has built a frustrating reputation as an eternal runner-up.


It was most evident at last year’s Tour de France where he finished second on no less than five stages and the trend has continued in 2016. During the first two months of the year, he has already been second six times and going into Gent-Wevelgem he was still chasing that elusive first win in the rainbow jersey.


However, Sagan can now finally make a sigh of relief after he broke the drought with an impressive ride in the Belgian classic which he conquered for the second time after having taken a solo win in 2013. The Slovakian launched the race-winning move on the Kemmelberg and then emerged as the fastest in a four-rider sprint.


In the finale, it was a case of déjà vu as Sagan had forced the race-winning move and Etixx-QuickStep again had strength in numbers in a chase. Group like inE3 Harelbeke, the Belgian team failed to bring it back for a sprint and the only difference was that Sagan gauged his efforts much better, coming out on top on the four-rider battle for the win.


The race was decided at the second passage of the Kemmelberg where the peloton had already been whittled down to around 50 riders after a tough day in the crosswind. Viachelsav Kuznetsov had anticipated the favourites and hit the climb with a 35-second advantage and Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep) were a few metres ahead.


Fabian Cancellara launched the first move, splitting the group, until Sagan went full gas. Only Cancellara could match his pace and the pair sprinted past Vandenbergh.


At the top of the climb, Sagan and Cancellara had a small advantage over Sep Vanmarcke, Greg Van Avermaet, Zdenek Stybar and Luke Rowe but it was only the former who managed to bridge the gap on the descent. The trio quickly caught Kuznetsov who managed to hang on.


The chase trio tried to close the gap while Matteo Trentin was in lone pursuit further back but they all had to surrender. Instead, they waited for the peloton where Niki Terpstra had already started to chase.


Demare, Oss, Boasson Hagen and Rowe also took a few turns but very quickly it was all left to the Etixx-QuickStep quintet of Terpstra, Boonen, Stybar, Trentin and Vandenbergh. They were 20 seconds behind the leaders but were losing ground, with the gap having gone out to 30 seconds with 25km to go.


The chase group was made up of Boonen, Gaviria, Stybar, Terpstra, Trentin, Vandenbergh, Roelandts, Benoot, Van Avermaet, Oss, Mørkøv, Guarnieri, Boasson Hagen, Grivko, Demare, Waeytens, Keukeleire, Mezgec, Vanspeybrouck, Coquard, Nizzolo, Saramotins, Brutt and Rowe and there wasn’t any help for the six Etixx-QuickStep riders. They stopped their work as they didn’t get any help and this prompted Andriy Grivko (Astana) to attack. He was quickly brought back as the gap had gone out to 40 seconds with 20km to go.

Etixx-QuickStep again took up the chase and now they got some assistance from Benoot. Keukelire also came to the fore to lend a hand but the gap was stable at 35 seconds for more than five kilometres.


Boonen and Terpstra took some huge turns on the front, bringing the gap down to 35 seconds with 8km to go. At the same time, they hit a crosswind section which spelled the end for Grivko and Coquard who were dropped. Keukeleire and Vandenbergh also got dropped after having worked hard.


The Etixx riders briefly seemed to have the upper hand but with 8km to go, they cracked. The balance tipped in favour of the break which had extended the advantage to 55 seconds with 6km to go.


The chase was getting disorganized as people started to tire. Boonen got an unintentional gap and was joined by Mørkøv but Roelandts brought it back together. As everybody was tired, the chase was disorganized and so the attacking started. Rowe, Saramotins and Guarnieri made an unsuccessful try. The slower pace allowed Grivko, Keukeleire and Vandenbergh to rejoin the group.


In the front group, the game of cat and mouse started as Vanmarcke now refused to take any turns. Hence, the gap stabilized at around 45 seconds and it was clear that the break would stay away.


Sagan and Cancellara did the majority of the work in the finale and it was the Swiss who hit the front as they passed the flamme rouge. From there, it was like a sprint match on the track with Sagan and Cancellara riding next to each other while everybody was watching each other carefyully.


Kuznetsov launched the sprint but Sagan reacted immediately. It briefly looked like the Russian would take the win but when Sagan went full gas, the outcome was never in doubt. He had plenty of time to celebrate his win before Vanmarcke with a fast finish managed to cross the line in second. Kuznetsov took third while Cancellara sat down and had to settle for fourth.


In the finale, Benoot, Grivko and Rowe made a late attack but they were brought back on the finishing straight. Instead, it was Demare who beat Gaviria in the sprint to take fifth.


With Gent-Wevelgem done and dusted, the attention now turns to the Driedaagse van de Panne which runs from Tuesday to Thursday and is the final chance to prepare for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders which is the next WorldTour race.


A traditional course

The 78th edition of Gent-Wevelgem was held on a 242.8km course that brought the riders from Deinze to Wevelgem. After a flat start that included a coastal section, the riders hit the traditional hilly zone that included 10 climbs. The riders went up the Kemmelberg two times, with one passage from the usual side and one passage from the steep side that hadn’t been used since 1973. The steep passage came with 34km to go and from there it was the traditional flat run back to the finish.


It was windy and rainy when the riders gathered for the start. Three big names were missing as Ian Stannard (Sky), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had both fallen ill.


Five riders get clear

With a headwind, it was a slow start to the race and the break was formed already after three kilometres when Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) took off. Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Jonas Rickaert (Topsport) and Josef Cerny (CCC) joined the action and while Simon Pellaud (IAM)took off in pursuit, the peloton took it easy.


Pellaud was losing ground and had seen the gap go out to 30 seconds when Westra stopped for a natural break. As the group waited for the Dutchman, both Pellaud and Westra made it back and so it was a five-rider break that already had a gap of 6 minutes.


Gaviria goes down

The peloton was in no hurry and so the gap had gone out to 8.40 at the 26km mark. After one hour at an average speed of 40km/h, it continued to grow until it reached a maximum of 11 minutes. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx) went down in a crash but quickly rejoined the group.


The gap hovered around 11 minutes for the first two hours during which 80km were covered but things heated up when they approached a change of direction. Immediately, the peloton was split into three groups.


The peloton splits to pieces

The hard pace reduced the gap to 7 minutes while the first peloton opened an advantage of 20 secons over the second group. They slowly increased it to 30 seconds while the gap to the leaders was down to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, Lars Boom (Astana) crashed and suddenly found himself in the last group.


The riders in the first peloton were Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Tom Boonen, Nikolas Maes, Matteo Trentin, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep), Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Tiesj Benoot, Jurgen Roelandts, Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal), Greg Van Avermaet, Daniel Oss, Taylor Phinney, Manuel Quinziato(NMC), Jacopo Guarnieri (Katusha), Fabian Cancellara, Edward Theuns, Marco Coledan (Trek), Maarten Tjallingii, Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo), Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar, Matthew Brammeier, Nic Dougall (Dimension Data), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Marko Kump (Lampre-Merida), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE), Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport), Yoann Gene (Direct Energie), Berden De Vries and Raymond Kreder (Roompot) and they were all contributing to the pace-setting. With 140km to go, they had pushd their advantage over the second group out to 40 seconds and were now only 3.50 behind the leaders. Vanmarcke and Stybar were the big names in the second group where Katusha, Tinkoff, Sky and Orica-GreenEDGE were the most active.


The break is caught

Etixx-QuickStep, Lotto, Trek and Dimension Data did a lot of work in the second group but they lost group. With 135km to go, they were 50 seconds behind while the first group was now at 2.30. It had dropped to 1.15 with 122km to go and now the leaders decided to wait.


Cancellara quickly rejoined the peloton after a puncture while Rickaert tried to stay ahead for a little longer. However, it was all back together with 113km to go.


Maes is dropped

A moment of inattentiveness in the crosswind nearly saw Boonen getting dropped. Maes had to do a lot of work to bring the leader back and so he fell off alongside Westra, Kreder, Kump and Amador. They all dropped back to the second group.

With everyone contributing to the pace-setting in both the first and second group, the gap stayed relatively stable at around 50 seconds. Theuns briefly went off road as they approached the climbs but he was quickly back in the group.


LottoNL-Jumbo chase hard

As they hit the Catsberg with a 1-minute gap, Brammeier, Dougall and Farrar did most of the work for Dimension Data while Bram Tankink emptied himself to try to bring Sep Vanmarcke back in contention. He reduced the gap to 45 seconds as they reached the top.


Trentin made a small attack over the top but Dimension Data neutralized it immediately. Meanwhile, Vanmarcke was now taking huge turns himself and with 95km to go, the gap was down to just 25 seconds.


The junction is made

Dimension Data didn’t get much help in the front group and as they hit the Mont Vert, the gap was coming down rapidly. A Topsport rider tried to bridge the gap solo but Vanmarcke and Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) easily brought him back. At the top, the gap was only 15 seconds.


Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) took some huge turns and on Zwarteberg with 90km to go, the junction was made. In that moment, Bak and Grivko attacked. Coledan joined them but Trentin quickly neutralized the move. The subsequent counterattack from Quinziato didn’t work either.


Debusschere crashes

The pace went down as no one was really committed to the pace-setting and the riders took a few moments to recover. Gradually, Trek took over with Marco Coledan setting the pace as they approached the Baneberg.


Just before the climb, disaster struck for Debusschere as he crashed hard and never got back on his bike. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) nearly went down on the ascent but he didn’t hit the deck.


Trek in control

Coledan continued to ride slowly for a few kilometres until they were seven kilometres from the bottom of Kemmelberg. Here the entire Trek team lined out on the front and while the fight for position intensified, Coledan, Gregory Rast and Yaroslav Popovych increased the pace significantly.


It was a big fight for position as they approached the climb but the impressive Coledan regained control, leading the peloton onto the cobbles that led to the bottom. Here Vandenbergh and Phinney took over as they slowly climbed towards the bottom of the real climb.


Etixx-QuickStep up the pace

Rickaert, Coledan and Danny Van Poppel (Sky) were the first to get dropped and while Vandenbergh set the pace, the group splintered. Surprisingly, Theuns was one of the many riders to suffer.


Boonen accelerated over the top and after Vandenbergh had led the group down the descent, Vandenbergh, Boonen and Terpstra created splits in the crosswind. However, they quickly stopped their effort and most of the group came back together.


A strong break

Phinney upped the pace as they hit the Monteberg but it was the attack of Trentin that opened a gap. Benoot, Brutt, Oss and Nizzolo joined the move. Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) and a Katusha rider made a failed attempt to bridge the gap but they were quickly swallowed up.


The front quintet had a big gap as they reached the top and this forced LottoNL-Jumbo to react. Tjallingii hit the front and rode hard, keeping the gap at around 20 seconds with 65km to go.


The break is caught

The gap went out to 25 seconds but when Dimension Data started to work with LottoNL-Jumbo, the gap came down. Tankink, Tjallingii, Teunissen, Dougall, Farrar and Brammeier worked hard and had brought the gap down to 15 seconds with 60km to go.


The gap went out to 25 seconds where it stayed for a while until the chasers got the upper hand. With 55km to go, it was again 15 seconds and with 52km to go, LottoNL-Jumbo managed to bring it back together.


Kuznetsov makes his move

Trek accelerated hard just before a turn but it was Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) who took off. As no one reacted, he quickly got a big gap. It went out to 30 seconds before Trek started to chase with Popovych and Gregory Rast. Meanwhile, Teunissen completely exploded.


The gap went out to 45 seconds where Trek kept it stable for a while. De Buyst moved up next to them as the fight for position started and Sky hit the front with Michal Golas and Luke Rowe.


Vanmarcke takes off

The gap went out to 1.05 and Kuznetsov hit the Baneberg with an advantage of 55 seconds. Sky stayed on the front but were not really chasing.


Vanmarcke launched a surprise attack and he crested the summit with a small advantage. Quinziato and later also Boasson Hagen and Nizzolo joined the move but Trentin shut it down for Etixx-QuiskStep. The acceleration had brought the gap down to 35 seconds.


Vandenbergh gets clear

Waeytens, Phinney and Maes tried to get clear but they had no luck either. Instead, it was Vandenbergh who took off in a solo move.


Vandenbergh stayed a few metres ahead of the peloton as they approached the Kemmelberg and it was Kuznetsov who hit the climb with a 35-second advantage. Vandenbergh also had a small gap but it melted away as the stars attacked from behind, setting the scene for the finale.



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