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Scheldeprijs: Alexander Kristoff powers alone to victory

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl missed the day's decisive split early in the race.

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Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) rode away from an elite breakaway to win the 110th edition of Scheldeprijs on Wednesday.

Kristoff jumped with about 7km to go after a 14-rider group fended off a chase group to win all alone in the photograph in the Belgian classic finale.

The 34-year-old Norwegian lowered his head and powered home to victory against a disorganized chase. Kristoff hit the red kite with a 24-second gap and had plenty of time to celebrate.

Danny Van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) crossed the line second, with Sam Welsford (Team DSM) third.

“It was a hard race. Bora and Alpecin were attacking in the last lap, and I was suffering because I was alone. At the end of the cobbles I thought I would give it a try and no one followed,” Kristoff said. “I just pushed everything I could, and I had good legs in the final. It’s nice to win solo. It’s one of the very few victories that I won solo.”

Kristoff snuck into the early echelons that shattered the peloton in the opening hour of racing along the wide-open Dutch coastline.

“I usually start quite slow, but I was ready from the start and I got good help from my teammates before the echelon split,” Kristoff said. “I saw Bora there with a lot of riders, but it was quite close for the chase group. Bora had the manpower, but they also had to work extra. Today I managed to do it by myself in the end, so it was a nice win for us.”

It’s another big classics win for the Belgian WorldTour team which also won Gent-Wevelgem with Binian Girmay last month.

The victory was No. 83 for Kristoff whose palmarès also includes Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Scheldeprijs in 2015.

High winds blew apart the race early on, and a group of 14 riders managed to extract themselves in the first hour of racing. It was touch and go, but the leaders cooperated to make the gap stick to the line to carry a winning gap into the final 25km to go.

Riders started attacking out of the bunch with about 15km to go. Bora Hansgrohe had numbers with four riders in the group, with Alpecin-Fenix slotting its two sprinters with Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen.

Merlier pulled clear with 10km, drawing out some chasers. Team DSM surged with 9km to go, and it was a series of counter-attacks to the line.

Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), the Irish sprinter who’s been struggling with knee injuries over the past 18 months, punctured out of the lead group with just under 9km to go.

Kristoff jumped on the cobbles with 7.5km to go as rain started to pelt the peloton, and he never looked back.

Ed Teuns (Trek-Segafredo) finally gave chase following Kristoff’s surge at 6km to go, with all the pressure on Alpecin-Fenix to take responsibility for the chase.

Kristoff opened a wedge of 15 seconds with 5km to go when Merlier finally jumped.

Welsford, a former track rider, said he was happy with a high-profile podium.

“The attacks really started in the end. I was lucky enough to chase them down, in the end, to get third,” Welsford said. “The wind was really tough. We’re lucky enough that we had a smaller group and we worked well together. It was a super-hard day out there. It’s my first year on the road and I come across from the track from Australia. Hopefully, I can be up sprinting with the best someday.”

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl missed the split, and was forced to chase all day. Despite the presence of pre-race favorite Fabio Jakobsen, the team waved the white flag with about 25km to go.

Quick-Step misses early split

Quick-Step missed the day’s decisive break early in the race. (Photo: JASPER JACOBS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

High winds and cool temperatures welcomed the peloton for the 110th edition of Scheldeprijs, one of the oldest ongoing classics on the calendar.

Winds were kicking up to 25 to 30mph in the opening kilometers across the exposed flats of the Netherlands, and the bunch fractured into echelons faster than anyone expected.

The pack split about 30km into the race, with a big tussle to remain at the front.

Several big names pulled clear, but Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl missed the move, meaning a long day chasing for the struggling “Wolfpack.”

A group of 14 riders opened a gap to set the tone for the remainder of the race.

Making the selection were Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), Alexander Kristoff (Intermarche-Gobert), Sam Bennett, and three other Bora-Hansgrohe teammates among the top riders sneaking into the group.

The gap hovered around one minute as the leaders collaborated to try to widen the gap to the chasers. Behind there was not a lot of cohesion and the group split again under pressure from the howling winds.

With about 25km to go, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl and the other chasers seemed to wave the white flag.

It was another miscue from the Belgian classics unit, a team that was once feared across the northern classics. The team is riddled with injuries and illnesses, and despite the presence of pre-race favorite Fabio Jakobsen, the team was left with nothing.

The urgency of the chase was gone, and it was obvious the winner was going to come from the leading group.

Up next on the classics calendar is Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, which slots up a week earlier than normal due to French national elections this weekend in France. Paris-Roubaix will be contested on April 17.