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Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Fabio Jakobsen wins nailbiter with dramatic late sprint

Escape trio reeled in within meters of the line as race comes down to bunch sprint, with Caleb Ewan finishing second.

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Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) won a thriller at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

Jakobsen launched a searing sprint to beat fast-finishing rival Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) in a race that went down to the wire.

A breakaway trio of Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) dangled just seconds ahead of the charging peloton for some 15km in a final that could have gone either way.

The trio went to within 200 meters of scoring a breathtaking victory only for the sprint squads to leave it to the last minute, swamping the escape and unleashing Jakobsen and Ewan in the charge for the line.

Jakobsen went first, and wasn’t to be stopped on his way to his fifth victory of the season.

Ewan finished second, with Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic) took third.

Jakobsen’s victory makes for a salve for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl after it looked like “opening weekend” may be going wrong.

Patrick Lefevere’s “pack” misfired at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and struggled to make a mark through much of Sunday’s sprinter-friendly one-dayer. With supersprinter Jakobsen in the line-up, it was all-eyes on the Belgian crew to restore order, and it only just made it happen.

“I have to thank the team, of course,” Jakobsen said. “We had three guys to catch in the end and I had to use all my team to even be able to sprint, so the last hour was fast and furious.

“I know I have a good sprint so I launched at 300 meters dove into their slipstream. I could feel Ewan come on the left, but I guess I had a good jump and I could pass the line first.”

Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma played protagonist much of the day in the effort to drop sprint aces like Jakobsen and Ewan, and Quick-Step was caught out more than once in missing major moves.

Ineos Grenadiers had gone into the race with a host of options for all scenarios, and the Brit squad wanted to make things tough for its leaders Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock. The team put four riders on the front when the race hit 100km to go and started hammering hard in an effort to bring down the bunch.

Van der Hoorn made it into the day’s initial early break and hung tough at the front when the race came together inside the final 60km.

Relentless pressure from Ineos Grenadiers, UAE Emirates and Ag2r Citroën lined out the bunch and saw stacks of riders dopping out the back ahead in the final flurry of climbs before the flat final 50km.

Domestique de luxe Tiesj Benoot finally snapped the elastic for Jumbo-Visma over the penultimate climb, forcing a dangerous split packed with riders from Jumbo-Visma, Ineos and Bahrain Victorious.

Quick-Step and Israel Premier Tech both missed the move and led the pursuit.

Benoot – who was key to Wout van Aert’s victory at Omloop on Saturday – was relentless drilling the attack group, and it took around 45 seconds of a lead over the top of the day’s final Kluisberg climb.

The attack group malfunctioned rather than trying to hold the peloton at bay. Attacks flew at all angles in the effort to drop fastmen like Laporte, Pidcock and Matteo Trentin (UAE Emirates). Behind them, Quick-Step and the sprint squads piled power into the chase and hung between 20-30 seconds back.

The escapees refusal to co-ordinate marked some – but not all – of their ends.

Laporte, Narvaez and van der Hoorn kicked out of the group as Lotto-Soudal and Alpecin-Fenix put the motor into the peloton and caught the remainder of the move.

Laporte, Narvaez and van der Hoorn kept piling on and held off the Quick-Step-led chase as the race looked set to go down to the wire.

Jumbo-Visma came up late in the final 5km and disrupted the Quick-Step train to keep Laporte in contention. Jakobsen looked isolated from his train and surfed mid-pack ahead of reconnecting with his crew in the dying moments.

The sprint squads massed at the front in the approach to the flamme rouge as the leaders refused to relent, just seconds ahead. The finishline was in sight and the peloton lurked just meters behind the escape.

Laporte opened things up in a desperate last bid for victory, but the sprinters swamped them just meters from the line to close an unforgettable day in Kuurne.

Top-6

  1. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl): 4:32:13
  2. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal): S.T.
  3. Hugo Hofstetter (Arkea-Samsic): S.T
  4. Dan McLay (Arkea-Samsic): S.T
  5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech): S.T.
  6. Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies): S.T