Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol) has won the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen in a bunch sprint ahead of Baptiste Plackaert (Crelan-Euphony), Michael Van Staeyen (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo-Tinkoff) in Koolscamp, Belgium. After covering nearly 50km in the first hour a break of four riders escaped the Argos-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol lead peloton but never proved to be a real threat. As the inevitable fast finish wound up at the end of 16 laps it was Debusschere who emerged a surprise winner of one of the most sought after pro-kermesse titles on the Belgian calendar.
In chalking up his first ever professional victory, Debusschere joins a prestigious honour roll including cycling royalty such as Marcel Kittel, André Greipel, Johan Museeuw, Patrick Sercu and Eddy Merckx.
"I'm very happy with my first victory as a pro. I had been close a few times, now I finally succeeded,” said Debusschere. “It's very pleasant to win again, it has been a while. The fact that I won a bunch sprint, makes it even more special. I couldn't be happier.
"It was a pretty simple race to control. Argos-Shimano and we [Lotto-Belisol] took the lead of the bunch and kept the leaders within a reasonable distance. On a certain part of the route there was crosswind and then there's always a danger for echelons, so you had to keep in front all the time."
Kenny Dehaes was forced to pass on his mantle as the protected sprinter on the day owing to fatigue following a heavy season that has seen Debusschere's teammate win three races. Nonetheless, it proved to be a successful tactic as Lotto-Belisol took a popular win.
“But for the rest it was pretty easy in the run-up to the sprint. Kenny Dehaes and Jorne Carolus led me to the sprint and as you saw Jonas Van Genechten was my last man," concluded Debusschere.
Argos-Shimano took control coming into three kilometres to go, but with riders reaching the front easily due to the strong headwind a crash followed that held up a number of riders.
"The sprint here needed to be very well organized," third-place-getter Van Staeyen told nieuwsblad.be. "Whoever came too early in the lead, was blown back by the headwind. What was formed in front was a sort of 'scoop' so the chances of a crash just got bigger. This was shown afterwards. I heard the cracking way behind me and then you already know enough."
Four years in the making
Debusschere began his professional career with Omega Pharma-Quick-Step as a stagiaire in 2010 as a 21-year-old and soon signed on as a neo-pro for the following season. In 2012 he joined Lotto-Belisol where he will remain until 2015. Previously, a second place in the Vlaamse Pijl one-day race in 2010 had been Debusschere’s best result, thus the 24-year-old Belgian was understandably happy to take the win.
“When I was standing on the podium I realized what I had achieved. After the finish people shout to you, but then the interviews follow quickly,” explained Debusschere.
“On the podium you have a moment to yourself. It's also nice that this is the Championship of Flanders and you get a jersey at the end. It's a fun extra."
Debusschere badly injured his arm during the Tour de Suisse and it has taken him until almost the end of the season to regain his form. Debusschere now heads to Paris-Tours to close out his season.