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Katusha on a roll in opening to the Belgian season.

Photo: Team Katusha

ADRIEN PETIT

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ALEXEI TSATEVICH

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ARNAUD DEMARE

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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KRIS BOECKMANS

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27.02.2013 @ 18:49 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Alexey Tsatevich took a convincing victory in the Walloon season opener, Le Samyn. He held off the sprinters with an impressive attack in the final kilometer.

 

While Omloop Het Nieuwsblad kicking off the Flemish season Saturday, the Walloon races were set to start off today with the 44. edition of Le Samyn. Despite being held in the French-speaking part of Belgium, the nature of the course has more similarities with a typical Flemish race than the races in the Ardennes, and so it is traditionally a perfect opportunity for the hard men of the Northern classics to hone their form in light of the bigger races to come in the end of March and beginning of April.

 

As usual, the 206 km route was divided into two parts: first a 126 km trek from Frameries to Dour with 5 climbs along the way and finally 5 laps on a 20 km circuit containing two short, typical Belgian climbs and a hard, final 1,5 km. The last editions have finished in a mass sprint, and as a consequence the teams had lined up a number of strong sprinters who excel on in a hard finish like the one in Dour.

 

The early part of the race was dominated by a three-man breakaway consisting of Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) and Elias Van Breussegem (Doltcini - Flanders). Their gap was allowed to grow and reached 5.30 at its peak. Defending champion Arnaud Demare was in no mood to let the break take the spoils, and so he put his FDJ team on the front of the peloton to close the gap.

 

The breakaway put up a brave fight, but the effort was too much for young Van Breussegem who was left behind with 60 km to go. 20 km further down the road Thomas Sprengers was also dropped, and this left Rowe alone in the front. However, he stood no chance against the collective effort of FDJ, and it was all back together on the last lap with 12 km to go.

 

Cofidis joined forces at the front of the peloton for young Adrien Petit, but this did not stop Sky from continuing their aggressive race. Inside the final 10 km, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas (both Team Sky), Ignatas Konovalovas (MTN Qhubeka) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked the peloton and built an advantage of 17 seconds with 6 km to go. The gap began to tumble, and so Thomas decided to take things into his own hands by going solo. At the same time, disaster struck for Demare who punctured with 5 km to go which effectively ended his race.

 

Thomas proved his strong time trial abilities by holding off the peloton for several kilometers, but with 2 km to go it was all back together. In turn, UnitedHealthcare and Lotto-Belisol took charge of the peloton to set up sprinters Alessandro Bazzana and Kenny Dehaes, respectively. They were surprised by an attack from Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) and Sebastien Chavanel (Team Europcar) inside the final kilometer, and as the sprint trains lost their final workhorses, Tsatevich dropped his companion. With an impressive effort, he held off the peloton to take the first victory of his career. Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM) beat Adrien Petit (Cofidis) in the sprint of the bunch, and as a result the Belgian and Frenchman finished second and third in the race for the second year in a row!

 

With Tsatevich' victory, Katusha continues their domination in Belgium this season. With Luca Paolini's victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in the week, they have won the two first major races, and they will get a chance to continue their winning streak when the peloton moves to West Flanders for the Driedaagse van Westvlaanderen which starts Friday.

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