photo credits @ Gent-Wevelgem
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) set a milestone in cycling today, marking the first rider to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem in the same season, after the Belgian rider managed to beat fellow countryman Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-Scott) in a sprint finish to claim his third consecutive cobbled classic.
Meanwhile, World Champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) rounded out the podium, after finishing 5 seconds down on the two leaders.
A crash at the start of today’s race involving riders such as Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale), briefly gave pause to the peloton.
However, it wasn’t long before a breakaway group containing Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Hugo Houle (AG2R-La Mondiale), Ryan Mullen (Cannondale-Drapac), Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Dennis van Winden (Israel Cycling Academy), Jay Robert Thomson (Dimension Data), Lloic Cheroot (Cofidis), Christophe Masson (WB-Veranclassic Aquality Protect) and Elmar Reinders (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), finally managed to ride clear.
From there, the group went on to establish an advantage of more than seven minutes over the peloton.
Behind the group however, strong winds proceeded to divide the peloton into different groups, alongside more crashes that forced some riders such as Mark Henshaw (Dimension Data) to abandon.
Back up front, the challenging climbs of the Kemmelberg and Monteberg served to fracture the breakaway group, leaving only Cheroot and Van Hecke out front alone.
The newly introduced Plugstreet in this year’s race, further served to break up the peloton even more, subsequently creating a small chase group that succeeded in reeling in all of the day’s escapees except Van Hecke, who managed to survive into the final 40 kilometers.
Shortly thereafter, another crash would plague the chase group, this time ensnaring Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Gianni Moscon (Sky), Tom Leezer, Lars Boom (both of Lotto NL-Jumbo), Florian Seneschal (Cofidis) and Zyco Waeytens (Team Sunweb).
Following the final climb up the Kemmelberg, Van Avermaet decided to attack, only to have his move quickly followed by Sagan and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo).
During the descent, Edvard Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) would also bridge their way to the three leaders, only to be joined by Keukeleire, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step) and Team Sunweb’s Soren Kragh Andersen and Michael Matthews.
With 20 kilometers to go, Keukeleire decided to commence an attack of his own, causing a split in the front group, which left only Sagan, Van Avermaet, Terpstra and Andersen able to follow.
Van Avermaet and Keukeleire capitalized on a lack of cooperation between Sagan and Terpstra, surging ahead of their breakaway companions to create a considerable lead.
With their gap now insurmountable, Van Avermaet and Keukeleire entered the finishing straight with plenty of time to spare, with the BMC rider ultimately holding off his ORICA-Scott rival to seize the victory.
2017 Gent-Wevelgem Results
BEL 1 VAN AVERMAET, Greg (BMC RACING) 5:39:00
BEL 2 KEUKELEIRE, Jens (ORICA – SCOTT)
SVK 3 SAGAN, Peter (BORA – HANSGROHE) + 5
NED 4 TERPSTRA, Niki (QUICK – STEP FLOORS)
GER 5 DEGENKOLB, John (TREK – SEGAFREDO)
BEL 6 BOONEN, Tom (QUICK – STEP FLOORS)
BEL 7 DEBUSSCHERE, Jens (LOTTO SOUDAL)
AUS 8 MATTHEWS, Michael (SUNWEB)
COL 9 GAVIRIA RENDON, Fernando (QUICK – STEP FLOORS)
ITA 10 MODOLO, Sacha (UAE Team Emirates)
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