Weekend Wrap: Breakthrough wins for Van Avermaet and Stuyven

Armitstead wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Stevens smashes Hour Record, Colbrelli fastest in Lugano, Vakoc takes double wins in France, Astana dominate Langkawi

Van Avermaet wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

After so many near misses Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) finally landed a major spring victory with the win in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian produced a rounded an efficient display, marking several moves before unleashing a winning sprint against Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal).

"I'm never really winning that much and it's the first race in Belgium so far, so I'm pretty happy with this victory. If I could choose one, I would have picked, definitely, this one," Van Avermaet said at the finish. 

The day was also marked by the UCI carrying out 139 checks on bikes - both in the men's and women’s races – for mechanical doping. All bikes were cleared for racing. Read the full race report, right here.

More from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Armitstead wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

All eyes were on Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) as she made her 2016 debut in Belgium on Saturday and the world champion delivered, leading her team to an impressive one-two with Chantal Blaak in second. Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) rounded out the podium.

Armitstead attacked several times in the race with her last acceleration enough to see off Gracie Elvin (Orica AIS).

"That wasn't the plan," a breathless Armitstead told Cyclingnews moments after her solo effort. "That wasn't the plan at all. When I was away I was almost hoping they would catch me. I was out there way too long." Read the full race report, here.

Stuyven wins Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

Jasper Stuyven emulated Trek-Segafredo teammate Fabian Cancellara at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, attacking inside 30km from the finish to arrive solo in a move reminiscent of the Swiss rider's past performances in the classics. The Belgian was notified by sports director Dirk Demol back in December that he would be leading Trek-Segafredo at 'opening weekend' and duly delivered a day after he crashed and "lacked the guts to fight on the Taaienberg" in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. 

Stuyven made his winning move on approach to the final lap, hitting the peloton hard and extracting a 16 second gap over the front group that contained the likes of Tom Boonen, Julien Vermote, Luke Rowe, Pim Ligthart, Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet. Riding through the streets of Kortrijk inside the final 10km kilometres, Stuyven fought the headwind to arrive solo, despite almost crashing on a left-hand corner approaching the finish line, raising his arms in triumph.

"Today I was always riding in the first groups. If there were splits I made the cut. Today I forced other riders in defensive positions," Stuyven said at the post-race press conference in Kuurne.

The sprint for second place was won by Katusha's Alexander Kristoff, runner-up in consecutive years now, ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) 17 seconds in arrears. Stuyven's first professional victory came at last year's Vuelta a Espana where he took the stage 8 sprint win despite a fractured scaphoid.

Read the full race report, right here.

More from Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

Stevens smashes women’s UCI Hour Record

In what may have been the finest hour of her career, Evelyn Stevens (Boels Dolmans) set a new benchmark for the women’s UCI Hour Record at 47.980 kilometres at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Centre Velodrome.

She beat Australian Bridie O’Donnell’s previous benchmark of 46.882km set at the Super-Drome in Adelaide in January. UCI President Brian Cookson later congratulated Stevens on her victory.

"I would like to congratulate 'Evie' on her achievement tonight. Bridie O'Donnell's record stood for five weeks and we have already seen two attempts this year despite only being in February."

Stevens missed Jeannie Longo's UCI Best Human Effort record of 48.159 by just 179 metres. Longo set that record in 1996 prior to the 2014 UCI rule change to unify Hour Record and Best Human Effort classifications. Longo's time was set using the "Superman" position that is no longer permitted, as stated in a press release from USA Cycling following her event.

Vakoc takes double victories in France

Etixx-QuickStep may have had a poor showing in Belgium’s opening weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, but Petr Vakoc more than made up for it by winning back-to-back races in France.

The Czech youngster won Classic Sud-Ardèche on Saturday and then La Drôme Classic on Sunday, becoming the first rider to ever win both events in one season.

At Classic Sud-Ardeche, he won ahead of Julien Simon (Cofidis, Solutions Credits) and Olivier Pardini (Wallonie Bruxelles - Group Protect) in a small lead group sprint. The next day at La Drome Classic, he won a two-up sprint ahead of Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale), while Arthur Vichot (FDJ) took the sprint for third place six seconds later.

"I am extremely happy to score another victory, 24 hours after the one in Classic Sud-Ardèche. It's really incredible," Vakoc said in a team press release.  "If yesterday I was under pressure, today I was more relaxed."

Vakoc will debut at Strade Bianche on March 5.

Colbrelli wins 70th edition of GP Lugano

Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) doesn't want to be pigeonholed as a pure sprinter and he proved as much by winning SuisseGas Gran Premio Città di Lugano from a small breakaway that made it to the finish line after a challenging, hilly race.

The Italian followed attacks over the day's finale two ascents until he was among roughly eight riders vying for the victory. Not even when the odds were against him could he be stopped, winning the breakaway sprint ahead of Lampre-Merida teammates Diego Ulissi and Roberto Ferrari.

Luck was not with two riders who had to be rushed to hospital after being involved in high-speed crashes. Colbrelli's teammate Edoardo Zardini will spend the night at the hospital in Lugano after fracturing four vertebrae. Arnold Fiek (Christina Jewelry) was released from hospital with bruises.

Astana dominating Le Tour de Langkawi

The fifth stage of the Tour de Langkawi takes place Monday with Astana the team of the race so far with three stages wins and Miguel Lopez in the leader's yellow jersey. Over the weekend, Andrea Guardini won his 20th career stage at the Malaysian race on Sunday, a day after Lopez took control of the GC with a solo win atop Cameron Highlands on Saturday, having also won the opening stage of the 2.HC event.

The Colombian climber won stage 4, 30 seconds ahead of compatriot Daniel Jaramillo (UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling), with Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data) at 35 seconds. Stage 5 was another day for the sprinters although Lopez saw his lead cut by six seconds with Janse Van Rensburg clawing back time on the Astana rider with three stages to come.

Stage 6 of the race stages the peloton from Putrajaya to Rembau over 147.6 kilometres. Cyclingnews will continue to have stage reports and news from the race until its conclusion on Wednesday.

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