photo credits @ WTFK
Jumbo-Visma’s Christophe Laporte led home his teammate Wout van Aert to make it a one-two victory for Dutch squad in today’s Gent-Wevelgem Classic.
After the day’s early break, along with a group of attackers, were reined-in after 55 kilometers of racing, Laporte and van Aert seized the chance to go clear on the second of three ascents of the Kemmelberg.
Despite a determined effort by an elite group of chasers, the duo’s advantage only increased as the kilometers rolled by, making it clear that they would stay away for the victory
The Belgian worked hard on behalf of his teammate, even waiting on the last ascent of the Kemmelberg and leading the Frenchman into the final kilometers.
If it wasn’t already obvious from the work Van Aert had put in, conversations in the final 10 kilometers decided who would win, and so the pair enjoyed the final run to the line, holding hands and waving back to the team car, before Laporte edged ahead at the finish to take the win and with it the first major Classic title of his career.
“We decided we’d take it to the finish,” Laporte said after crossing the line. “Wout asked me if I wanted to win. It’s incredible. It’s a pleasure. This has happened only once before in my career. I want to thank Wout for everything.
“I’ve never won a Classic before and now I’m so proud. I think of my family and my little boy – it has taken so much sacrifice to get to this point.
“There was still 50km to go when we attacked. We made a lot of efforts together. We did everything to go to the finish together. It was hard for me to follow Wout. It was just incredible to be with him and I’m so proud to do so much of it with him
Van Aert was more than happy to take second place, rounding out a dominant team display, while Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech) was the quickest finisher from a late group escaping from the chase.
The Belgian got the better of Frederik Frison (Lotto-Dstny) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) to grab third, 1:56 down on Laporte and Van Aert, while the remains of the chase trailed home at 2:04.
“We just rode full on until the last 8-10km maybe,” Van Aert said. “Then we were quite sure we had the victory. I won on Friday and my eyes are on the races that are coming. Christophe also had a difficult start to the season with a sickness and he’s such a team player that it was an easy decision.
“It’s incredible. Only a few days ago we talked about the 2022 E3 Saxo Bank Classic, and we said to each other that we should realise it’ll probably never happen again. Only a few days later we’ve done exactly the same thing. It’s hard to believe that it’s possible at this high level, but I think it’s all the hard work coming together and it’s such a nice feeling to do this together.”
The race started fast. With the first climb not expected for 165km, a five-man breakaway formed, featuring Groupama-FDJ’s Lewis Askey, and cruised at 46.5km/h for the first two hours. Two chasing groups then joined, swelling the breakaway to 14 riders after the first 100km.
At the race’s halfway point, Soudal Quick-Step drove splits in the bunch, taking advantage of the wind which tore across the open country plains. A few crashes came here, with Łukasz Wiśniowski (EF Education-EasyPost), Michał Kwiatkowski and Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadies) all forced to withdraw.
Reigning champion Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) was also among those who hit the deck, but the Eritrean was able to remount his bike and catch back up with the peloton.
When the climbs finally arrived, the breakaway held an advantage of just one and a half minutes.
On the penultimate ascent of the Kemmelberg, the sixth of the day’s nine climbs, van Aert launched the race-winning move, flanked by teammate Laporte. Behind, a small group attempted to chase, but couldn’t break free from the peloton.
The Jumbo-Visma duo led by a minute onto the final climb – the tougher, steeper side of the Kemmelberg – where van Aert began to distance Laporte. The Frenchman then clung on as his team-mate hurtled through the flat roads, stretching out their advantage to over two minutes towards Wevelgem.
Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) tried to attack on the run-in to the town, but neither could distance themselves from the chase.
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