Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise won first and second place at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, thanks to smart teamwork, as Jelle Wallays took victory ahead of teammate and fellow Belgian Edward Theuns.
The two made up half of the winning four-man break. Up against world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step), and Cannondale-Garmin’s Dylan Van Baarle, Wallays timed his attack perfectly with one kilometer left. His teammate ensured that the move stuck, and then sprinted to round out the top-two placings.
“It’s very important for me,” Wallays said. “I want to be on a ProTour team. I want to be on a big team. With two big victories I hope it will come.”
With 52 kilometers left in the 200.2km race, Wallays, Theuns, Kwiatkowski, and Van Baarle were out front with a 21-second lead.
A large second group, broken off the front of the peloton gave chase. It included notables such as Lars Boom (Astana), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing).
With 40 kilometers remaining, the Kwiatkowski group had a one-minute lead over the main chase group.
While Etixx-Quick-Step’s Mark Cavendish and Niki Terpstra tried to chase back on, Boom attacked on the Oude Kwaremont.
The Dutchman had soon shaved the gap to 42 seconds. Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) bridged up to the lone chaser, but then, disaster struck as both crashed on a flat section of pave with about 34km remaining.
After the disruption caused by the crash, the leading four had a 1:12 lead with 31km left.
With 25km left, the gap was down to 43 seconds, as the group of 11 chasers picked up the pace. Ten kilometers later, the gap held, and Lotto-Soudal’s Jens Debusschere pushed the pace in the chase group. Etixx’s Nikolas Maes patrolled the front of the chase, protecting the interests of his teammate, Kwiatkowski, ahead on the road.
By 12.4km to go, Lotto-Soudal’s efforts in the chase began to pay dividends as the gap dropped to 28 seconds.
Just outside of 10km to go, Katusha’s Viacheslav Kuznetsov attacked the chase, attempting to bridge the gap. However, the Russian’s efforts were fruitless, as the gap went out to 45 seconds by the final five kilometers. The four leaders had ridden clear, and the winner would come from their group.
Heading into the final kilometer, Wallays attacked as Kwiatkowski sat on the front of the group. The world champion, frustrated by the lack of cooperation waved an arm to Van Baarle.
Wallays teammate, Theuns, sat on the back, content to let the others chase.
Kwiatkowski chased into the final hundred meters. Theuns made a move, with Van Baarle on his wheel. Wallays hung on for the win as his teammate sprinted to second place.
“It was a difficult final,” said Kwiatkowski, 24. “With Wallays attacking and Theuns being his teammate, he wasn’t going to chase him down. The collaboration maybe wasn’t there with the rest of us that was necessary to close the gap. I also used some energy in the previous kilometers to keep our advantage before the sprint. I tried to win it today, but in the end Wallays took advantage of his situation and he deserved the victory.”