It was an epic battle for the 99th Ronde van Vlaanderen which Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) would eventually ride away with. Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quickstep) was 2nd across the line with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) rounding out the minor placings.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung were again involved in the early racing as race debutant Matt Brammeier made the 7 rider break of the day. The move took a bit of time to go clear as a number of teams were trying to place a rider in the all-important escape. Once the move had been established, the peloton allowed Matt and co. to take a maximum of 7 minutes lead.
After 150km of racing MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung came into a bit of misfortune when Youcef Reguigui crashed pretty hard on a cobbled section. Our Algerian speedster was in quite some pain but got up to continue. Youcef would later abandon with a painful shoulder. It was later revealed that all was okay for the Tour de Langkawi champ.
Matt and his breakaway companions would eventually be reeled in just before the 2nd time up the Oude Kwaremont. It was a good day out for the Irishman though as Matt also won the Sint-Eloois-Winkel sprint, taking home his body weight in Beer. The business end of the race came in to play with around 25km to go when Terpstra and Kristoff attacked a group of 25 favourites.
When the decisive move of the day went, MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung had Tyler Farrar and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg in the 2nd group on the road. It was all over for them though with the majority of the firepower up the road already. Terpstra and Kristoff would not be caught with Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) crossing the line a handful of seconds after the duo.
Matt Brammeier – Rider
I had to go pretty deep to get into the break. We did more than 50k’s in the first hour I think. Getting into the break was my objective for the day and also its kind of my specialty so I put everything into it. I never quite recovered from that effort and after that I just tried to go as deep into the race as possible. As soon as I was caught by the peloton I was a spent force and my race was soon over.
I am really happy with how I rode in my first Ronde, it is our teams mission to put 5000 kids on bicycles through Qhubeka this year so it was great to put our message out there again. I think I can be proud of myself and I’m pretty sure I will look back on today as one of my best days on a bike. The atmosphere and support out there was pretty insane, what a day!
Youcef Reguigui – Rider
I had pretty good legs today. Unfortunately, when we hit the cobbles with 110km to go I touched wheels and crashed. I managed to get back in the peloton but once the adrenalin wore off and I felt the pain I had to abandon. Thankfully it is nothing too serious.