The dream season continued for Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) as he won the Gent-Wevelgem today, beating Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) in a 2-man sprint. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) finished a few seconds further back in 3rd place.
At 249km in length, the 79th edition of the Gent-Wevelgem was a thrilling affair that had fans on the edge of their seats for the final 2 hours of racing. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were on a good day with Jay Thomson, our South African strongman, making it into the early breakaway of the day.
The action really kicked off with around 90km to go, when a big crash happened in the middle of the peloton. Unfortunately, the crash took out three of our African Team riders, Mark Renshaw, Nic Dougall and Youcef Reguigui. Because of the crash, the peloton then split into 3 groups and there was a frantic chase for many teams. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were in a good place despite losing 3 riders as Edvald Boasson Hagen, Scott Thwaites, Bernie Eisel and Tyler Farrar were up front.
With a reduced group upfront, Eisel put in a tentative attack which was quickly closed by Van Avermaet before the peloton focused on the new gravel road sectors that had been included this year. Zdnek Stybar (Quickstep-Floors) thenput in a big move on the gravel which blew the race apart. Thwaites set off after Stybar and a few others, as Eisel pulled Boasson Hagen and the remnants of the main group just behind.
Off the gravel and a general regrouping took place with the Thomson break now also caught. Our African Team now had 4 riders in a front group of around 50 riders with 45km to go. 10km later and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) put in a telling attack. Eisel knew the danger this move presented and gave everything to bring it back, once he had, he was done for the day.
The Kemmelberg was the final climb of the race and Thwaites led the peloton for Boasson Hagen into the climb. Van Avermaet attacked at the base and all the favourites tried to follow. Over the top a group of 14 riders were clear, Thwaites and Boasson Hagen both present with just 24km to go. Keukeleire then pushed the pace on the flats and dragged Van Avermaet with him. Sagan, Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb) and Matteo Trentin (Quickstep-Floors) could follow initially but our two Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders missed the split.
Thwaites did all he could to try bring Boasson Hagen back into contention, before the Norwegian tried to bridge across to the leaders alone. Keukeleire and Van Avermaet would not be seen again though. The duo dispatched the other 3 with 15km to go and sprinted it out for the win. Our two African Team riders were caught by the peloton before the finish and could not contest the sprint for 6th after their early efforts.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – Rider
It was a hard race and the finale began quite early today. I managed to be up in the front, in a good position and was riding well. Scott and Bernie were doing a really good job as well. I was feeling a bit hunger flat when there was a split. I still tried to close the gap, and I used all the energy I had left. At the end, I didn’t have anything left for the sprint. It was a really hard race.
Roger Hammond – Sport Director
The guys were riding well and in a good position over the Kemmelberg. They just missed that move with Keukeleire and that was fatal. I think everybody at that point was on their limit. The thing is if you guys those guys 2 centimetres, well, you can see the result today. The team rode really well today though. They rode with power and passion and we were in the bike race until 10km to go. If you have 2 guys capable of winning the race that close to the finish, it’s a good place to be in, so there is a lot positives we can take from today.