photo credit @ Twitter
Amidst rain and heavy wind, Luca Paolini (Katusha) claimed this year’s Gent-Wevelgem today, in a solo victory, 11 seconds ahead of his closest rival – Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick Step).
Despite losing contact with his fellow escapees during the second climb of the Kemmelberg, Paolini succeeded in escaping from a late breakaway group during the final 5 kilomters, that left Terpstra and Geranit Thomas to chase the Italian rider in earnest.
However, Paolini managed to open up enough of a gap- to hold off his rivals to the finish.
“This is a surprise but I’m so happy to have won,” Paolini said. “I don’t think I was the strongest but I played my cards. I knew they’d be waiting for the sprint and so I tried to get away with five kilometers to go.”
“It was a very difficult day out there. I crashed twice and changed my bike. But I knew the route and know were to stay up front. After my bad luck I was lucky. It was so bad that we weren’t sure if we could carry on. But were up in the north and this is real cycling. The strongest survived today.”
A sizable number of about 40 forty riders finally came to form a lead group, as the race began to make its way back into Belgium, and over the first of the two passages of the Kemmelberg.
Martin Tjallingi (LottoNL-Jumbo) was the first rider to break clear of the group over the climb of the Casselberg, subsequently building up a slight gap of 25 seconds over the chase – before hitting the Kemmelberg.
With 75 kilometers remaining, Roelandts managed to bridge himself to the lone escapee.
And, from there, Roelandts decided to make a go of it alone, quickly building up almost a one minute gap over the chase.
Behind, a group containing, Thomas, Terpstra, Vanmarcke, Daniel Oss, Vandenbergh and Debusschere managed to breakaway from the field, and form a small chase group of their own. Paolini quickly followed.
As the race neared the second passage of the Kemmelberg, Roelandts was still out front alone – holding onto his one minute lead.
Once the race reached the Kemmelberg, Roelandts had managed to increase his lead to 1:45 over Thomas et al.
From there, Roelandts struggled up the Kemmelberg for the second time, as his gap began to dwindle.
At that point, Terpstra could no longer contain his enthusiasm, and led a furious pace in pursuit of Roelandts.
Terpstra led the chase up the Kemmelberg, while Thomas carefully marked his wheel. At one point, Paolini began to fall of the pace, while Oss completely lost contact.
With 35 kilometers remaining, Roelandts’ advantage remained at two minutes, but it quickly began to dwindle as Terpstra continued to push things from behind. And, a further 6 kilometers later, Roelandts’ lead had been reduced to just 49 seconds.
With 17 kilometers remaining, Roelandts was caught by the chase, where Terpstra and Paolini wasted no time jettisoning their breakaway companions.
From there, Thomas launched a furious countermove, and later made the juncture back to Terpstra and Paolini. Vandenbergh tried to do the same, but failed. That left Debusschere and Vanmarcke to try and follow.
With less than 8 kilometers remaining, Debusschere and Vanmarcke succeeded in making their way back to the leaders.
However, before things were able to stabilize, Paolini decided to attack during the final 6 kilometers. And, a further 2 kilometers later, the Italian rider was irretrievable.
At that point, Terpstra and Thomas made a valiant attempt to try and catch Paolini, subsequently dropping the others. But, at that point they had lost too much ground to Paolini.
After a couple of glances over his shoulder to check things behind, Paolini crossed the finish comfortably ahead of his rivals to seize the victory.
Gent-Wevelgem 2015 Results
ITA 1 PAOLINI, Luca (KATUSHA) 6:20:55
NED 2 TERPSTRA, Niki (ETIXX – QUICK STEP) + 11
GBR 3 THOMAS, Geraint (SKY)
BEL 4 VANDENBERGH, Stijn (ETIXX – QUICK STEP) + 18
BEL 5 DEBUSSCHERE, Jens (LOTTO SOUDAL) + 26
BEL 6 VANMARCKE, Sep (LOTTO NL – JUMBO) + 40
BEL 7 ROELANDTS, Jurgen (LOTTO SOUDAL) + 1:52
ITA 8 OSS, Daniel (BMC RACING) + 4:15
NOR 9 KRISTOFF, Alexander (KATUSHA) + 5:12
SVK 10 SAGAN, Peter (TINKOFF – SAXO)
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