Podium: Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini - Selle Italia) in first, Mathew Hayman (Sky) in second, Borut Bozic (Astana) in third
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Runner-up Bozic and Bazayev make it into key breaks
Borut Bozic capped an aggressive performance from Team Astana to finish second in Dwars Door Vlaanderen. The Slovenian formed part of the race wining group along with teammate Maxim Iglinskiy over the final set of climbs in the 199-kilometre race before taking second place behind Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia). Mathew Hayman (Team Sky) rounded out the podium.
However while Bozic, 32, crowned Astana's day, much of the team's success owned to Assan Bazayev, who infiltrated two main selections during the race. Bazayev crashed out of the Classics in 2010, and needed plastic surgery after he hit his face while descending the Berendries during the Three Days of De Panne.
Three years later and he was racing up and over the same claim.
"Assan Bazayev was our secret weapon at the front today," said Astana's directeur sportif Stefano Zanini. "He was in both big breakaways and that allowed our guys to relax in the early part of the race."
Even when Bazayev was brought to heel in the closing phase of racing, Astana were able to position key men in the most important break of the day. Both Iglinskiy, fresh from his strong performance in Milan-San Remo and Bozic latched onto Gatto as the Italian reeled in Hayman and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step).
Later, when Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) launched what looked like a race-winning move, it was Iglinskiy who joined forces with Vandenbergh and Sky's Ian Stannard in closing the gap to the Frenchman.
"At five kilometres to go, Voeckler attacked and Max did a lot of work to bring him back. We had two guys in the final selection, and they did a lot of strong teamwork together to put Bozic on the podium," Zanini said.
At the finish, Bozic thanked his teammates but admitted that Gatto was the strongest rider in the race.
"Gatto closed down the gap on the Paterberg alone. That was when I saw he was the strongest today," he said. "We raced really well as a team. Bazayev went in the break and that allowed us to relax."
"The race got hard after 130km. That was when Max and I took the responsibility to go to the front."