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Kristoff crushes sprint to break Quick-Step stranglehold at Gent-Wevelgem

Kristoff sprinted long and into the wind from reduced peloton of favorites to take fast and furious edition of the race.

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Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) launched a remarkable sprint to win Gent-Wevelgem after a day of scintillating racing, Sunday. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) came second, and Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) finished third. Despite the efforts of Deceuninck-Quick-Step in the final 20 kilometers to set up Elia Viviani, the Italian again leaves the race disappointed.

Kristoff benefited from a good line in the final stretches, but also displayed awesome power, and simply rode away from the field. The Norweigan looked strong all race, attacking prior to the final climb of the Kemmelberg to ensure he made it over the top in touch with the leaders, and deservedly took one of the biggest wins of his career, which includes victories in Milano-Sanremo 2014 and the Tour of Flanders 2015.

“I got the right wheel in the sprint and my form was good coming into the Flanders season,” said Kristoff, who must be considered a big contender for this year’s Ronde.

The 252-kilometer classic is known as a race for sprinters, but the course is not without its difficulties, notably a succession of bergs in the second half, including a double ascent of the steep, cobbled Kemmelberg, and dirt sectors known as plugstreets.

However, the final 35km of the race is flat and the race typically comes together for a charge into Wevelgem. The typical key factor influencing the race is strong winds coming in off the North Sea, bringing on splits, echelons, and, in 2015, riders being blown into ditches. Echelons did form through the race, but none that were pivotal to the result.

The action of the day was dominated by breakaways, with a powerful group going clear with 180km to go, including an array of dangermen such as Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tim Declerq (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton Scott), Dylan Theuns, John Degenkolb (both Trek-Segafredo), Mike Teunissen, Wout Van Aert (both Jumbo-Visma), and Niki Terpstra (Direct-Energy). The presence of multiple riders from powerful teams such as Jumbo-Visma and Trek showed the peloton’s intent to break Quick-Step’s dominance of the classics so far this year

Sagan, Trentin, Teunissen, and Theuns went clear from the group with 65km to go, and Rowe eventually bridged. This powerful quintet took nearly a minute’s advantage. They worked well together and for a time looked a real threat.

Zdenek Stybar (Deceunick-Quick-Step), Van Aert, and Kristoff attacked out of the peloton behind them as the final ascent of the Kemmelbeg approached, but the trio were soon neutralized. However, it was a sign of Kristoff’s confidence and form, as the final run-in to Wevelgem approached.

With the bergs done and dusted, the race came back together, Quick-Step setting the pace and looking to set up Viviani. The strength in depth that the team has boasted in the latter stages of the racing this year so far was absent however, with only Stybar and Philippe Gilbert on the front.

A flurry of attacks went and were soon brought back in the final 10km, with a strong headwind not favoring a small group. However, Amud Grondahl Jansen (Jumbo-Visma), Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education First), Jack Bauer (Mitchelton Scott) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek) went clear with 5km to go and built a small gap that looked like it may stick, before they too were inevitably brought back as Jumbo-Visma, Mitchelton-Scott, and Trek-Segafredo all took turns on the front, looking to set up their fastmen.

As the race entered the final kilometers, the peloton of around 40 riders included nearly all the pre-race favorites, however, once Kristoff had picked his line and revved up his sprint, he was in a class of his own and won by several bike lengths.

Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields ME Results

1KRISTOFF AlexanderUAE Team Emirates5:26:08
2DEGENKOLB JohnTrek - Segafredo0:00
3NAESEN OliverAG2R La Mondiale0:00
4VAN DER POEL MathieuCorendon - Circus0:00
5VAN POPPEL DannyTeam Jumbo-Visma0:00
6PETIT AdrienDirect Energie0:00
7TRENTIN MatteoMitchelton-Scott0:00
8SELIG RüdigerBORA - hansgrohe0:00
9MOHORIČ MatejBahrain Merida0:00
10DEBUSSCHERE JensTeam Katusha Alpecin0:00
11KRAGH ANDERSEN SørenTeam Sunweb0:00
12BARBERO CarlosMovistar Team0:00
13BENOOT TiesjLotto Soudal0:00
14TURGIS AnthonyDirect Energie0:00
15KEUKELEIRE JensLotto Soudal0:00
16KÜNG StefanGroupama - FDJ0:00
17STUYVEN JasperTrek - Segafredo0:00
18ROWE LukeTeam Sky0:00
19VIVIANI EliaDeceuninck - Quick Step0:00
21GAVIRIA FernandoUAE Team Emirates0:00
22GILBERT PhilippeDeceuninck - Quick Step0:00
23TERPSTRA NikiDirect Energie0:00
24JANSEN Amund GrøndahlTeam Jumbo-Visma0:00
25TEUNISSEN MikeTeam Jumbo-Visma0:00
26LANGEVELD SebastianEF Education First0:00
27HALLER MarcoTeam Katusha Alpecin0:00
28VERMEERSCH GianniCorendon - Circus0:00
29VAN AERT WoutTeam Jumbo-Visma0:07
30WYNANTS MaartenTeam Jumbo-Visma0:08
31BAUER JackMitchelton-Scott0:11
32SAGAN PeterBORA - hansgrohe0:13
33PEDERSEN MadsTrek - Segafredo0:23
34GAUDIN DamienDirect Energie0:24
35ŠTYBAR ZdeněkDeceuninck - Quick Step1:19
36VAN GESTEL DriesSport Vlaanderen - Baloise1:38
37THEUNS EdwardTrek - Segafredo3:30
38SÜTTERLIN JashaMovistar Team5:28
39LAPORTE ChristopheCofidis, Solutions Crédits8:45
40JANS RoyCorendon - Circus8:45
41VAN POPPEL BoyRoompot - Charles8:45
42DUPONT TimothyWanty - Gobert Cycling Team8:45
43BALLERINI DavideAstana Pro Team8:45
44SINKELDAM RamonGroupama - FDJ8:45
45BOL CeesTeam Sunweb8:45
46EENKHOORN PascalTeam Jumbo-Visma8:45
47PLANCKAERT BaptisteWallonie-Bruxelles8:45
48TOUZÉ DamienCofidis, Solutions Crédits8:45
49LE GAC OlivierGroupama - FDJ8:45
50PLANCKAERT EdwardSport Vlaanderen - Baloise8:45
51WALSCHEID MaxTeam Sunweb8:45
52DE VREESE LaurensAstana Pro Team8:45
53MAES NikolasLotto Soudal8:45
54VLIEGEN LoïcWanty - Gobert Cycling Team8:45
55HALVORSEN KristofferTeam Sky8:45
56BOASSON HAGEN EdvaldTeam Dimension Data8:45
57BOOM LarsRoompot - Charles8:45
58DE BONDT DriesCorendon - Circus8:45
59DILLIER SilvanAG2R La Mondiale8:45
60ROELANDTS JürgenMovistar Team8:45
61MARCATO MarcoUAE Team Emirates8:45
62VANDENBERGH StijnAG2R La Mondiale8:45
63DECLERCQ TimDeceuninck - Quick Step8:45
64VAN HOECKE GijsCCC Team8:45
65KUZNETSOV ViacheslavTeam Katusha Alpecin8:45
66SCHÄR MichaelCCC Team8:45
67DÉMARE ArnaudGroupama - FDJ8:45
68DENZ NicoAG2R La Mondiale8:45
69BURGHARDT MarcusBORA - hansgrohe8:45
70JUUL-JENSEN ChristopherMitchelton-Scott8:45
71VAN LERBERGHE BertCofidis, Solutions Crédits8:45
72LAENGEN Vegard StakeUAE Team Emirates8:45
73VENTURINI ClémentAG2R La Mondiale8:45
74STANNARD IanTeam Sky8:45
75SCULLY TomEF Education First8:45
76MOSCON GianniTeam Sky8:53
77LAMPAERT YvesDeceuninck - Quick Step8:55
78SIX FranklinWallonie-Bruxelles8:55

Results provided by ProCyclingStats.