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After a great lead-our, Boonen launched a powerful uphill sprint to narrowly hold off Demare and take his second win at the Brussels Cycling Classic; Bouhanni completed the podium

Photo: Sirotti

ARNAUD DEMARE

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BRUSSELS CYCLING CLASSIC

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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NACER BOUHANNI

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03.09.2016 @ 19:21 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) proved that he is still a very capable sprinter as he continued his great spring season by taking his second victory at the Brussels Cycling Classic. After a great lead-out from his team, he powered up the uphill finishing straight and narrowly held off Arnaud Demare (FDJ), with Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), completing the podium.

 

During the classics season, Etixx-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere did nothing to hide that he preferred his star rider Tom Boonen to retire at the end of the spring campaign. However, after his second place in Paris-Roubaix, the Belgian was keen to give it another shot but it wasn’t easy for him to find a spot in the team that has been his home for almost his entire career.

 

In the final week of the Tour, the parties finally agreed on a contract that will see Boonen end his career on the Roubaix velodrome next April. Less than two weeks later Lefevere has no reason to regret his decision as Boonen has been flying ever since the contract was signed.

 

One day later Boonen already took his first win at the Tour de Wallonie and he was close to another victory one day later when he finished second in a crash-marred sprint. After having worked for Gianni Meersman in the final part of the race, he continued his run of success by winning the RideLondon Classic in impressive fashion.

 

Since then, Boonen has been quiet but he is aiming to finish the season strongly at the World Championships. Today he made another claim for leadership of the Belgian team when he took his second victory at the big autumn race, Brussels Cycling Classic, after a fantastic sprint duel against Arnaud Demare

 

The 96th edition of the Belgian classic was held on a traditional 199.3km course that both started and finished in Brussels. After a relatively flat start, the riders faced a total of 13 small climbs in typical lumpy Belgian terrain. However, the final climb was located 35km from the finish and from there it was a flat run back to Brussels where an uphill finishing straight welcomed the riders.

 

The riders couldn’t have asked for better conditions for the race as bright sunshine greeted the peloton when they gathered for the start. Unsurprisingly, it was a fast opening phase with numerous attacks and it took some time for the early break to be formed.

 

When the elastic had snapped, Maxime Cam (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Matteo Busato (Wilier), Alexandr Kolobnev (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty), Sander Cordeel, Brecht Dhaene (Veranda’s Willems), Florent Delfosse (Wallonie) and  Gianni Marchand (Cibel) had escaped and they soon got an advantage of 2.30 while they approached the first climbs. However, the peloton was unwilling to let them get much of an advantage as Etixx-QuickStep, Cofidis and FDJ took control. As they hit the final 110km, the gap was still only one minute.

 

 

With 70km to go, the gap was down to 1.50 and Cofidis, Etixx-QuickStep and FDJ had everything under control. Stijn Anthony Perez, Vandenbergh and Sebastien Chavanel were sharing the work and kept the gap stable to avoid an early catch.

 

Surprisingly, the Nippo-Vini Fantini came to the fore to lend the three big sprint teams a hand. Gianfranco Zilioli took a massive turn. However, he soon disappeared when the peloton hit the climbs with around 50km to go where the fight for position intensified.

 

Yoann Offredo (FDJ) launched the first attack and was joined by another four riders but Etixx-QuickStep marked everything closely, most notably with Tom Boonen. The fast pace made the peloton explode and brought the gap down to 30 seconds with 45km to go.

 

Topsport Vlaanderen hit the front before Cofidis again took responsibility. Meanwhile, Cam was dropped from the breakaway. As they hit the next climb, Sean De Bie (lotto Soudal) attacked but it was Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen) who managed to get an advantage. He was joined by a few riders, including Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), at the top but the group was brought back

 

On the next climb, Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) attacked before Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Alexis Giougeard (Ag2r) countered. The pair was joined by Davide Martinelli (Etixx-QuickStep) and Costa and the quartet managed to bridge the gap to the leaders. Unfortunately, they had the rest of the peloton close behind and so everything was back together with 40km to go.

 

Unsurprisingly, the attacking started immediately and it was Fabian Wegmann (Stölting) who laid the foundations for the next move. Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal), Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida) and a Fortuneo rider joined him and the quartet hit the final climb with a small advantage.

 

Ligthart accelerated on the ascent and dropped the Fortuneo rider but he was replaced by Trentin who joined from behind. However, they were soon brought back and instead it was Offredo who tried again. Frederik Backart (Wanty) and Mohoric then gave it a shot, and the pair got a small advantage. It briefly looked promising but things came back together with 30km to go.

 

Mohoric was very active but it was Leonardo Duque (Delko) who was the next rider to get an advantage. The Colombian stayed clear for a few minutes but with 25km to go, the attacking could start again.

 

Delko were aggressive but it was Stijl Steels (Topsport) who was the first rider to get a real advantage. When he was brought back, Gougeard and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty) attacked. Lars Boom (Astana) and a few more joined the move but they barely had an advantage. Veuchelen tried to keep the move going it was back together with 18km to go.

 

Things finally calmed down as FDJ and Etixx-QuickStep took control. Etixx-QuickStep were particularly active and quickly neutralized an attack from a Wilier rider.

 

With 12km to go, Wallonie hit the front with 3 riders and they led the peloton onto a cobbled section. The small continental team remained in control as they hit the final 10km.

 

Gougeard was relentless and so attacked again. With 8km to go, he had an advantage of 10 seconds and Wallonie were losing ground. This forced Etixx-QuickStep to take the initiative and the Belgian team lined out their train on the front.

 

With 6km to go, Costa tried to bridge the gap to the lone Frenchman and he made the junction after 1.5km of chasing. However, the pair were reabsorbed immediately and instead Filippo PPozzato gave it a shot. The Italian got an advantage of a few seconds while Etixx-QuickStep continued to chase.

 

With 2km to go, Pozzato had an advantage of 10 seconds and Etixx-QuickStep were looking slightly disorganized. Instead, FDJ hit the front with Offredo but they were still 10 seconds behind at the flamme rouge.

 

Etixx-QuickStep managed to regroup and the team lined out four riders on the front, with Marcel Kittel taking a huge turn to bring Pozzat back. Trentin then took over and the Nikolas Maes did the lead-out for Boonen.

 

Mickael Delage tried to pass with Arnaud Demare on his wheel and this forced Boonen to launch a long sprint. Demare briefly seemed to come around but the Frenchman finally had to sit up, allowing the Belgian to take another win in the classic. Nacer Bouhanni had to settle for third.

 

There will be an immediate chance to take revenge tomorrow in the GP de Fourmies which have a pretty similar field at the start. The next major race in Belgium is the GP de Wallonie on September 1

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