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Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) wins the World Ports Classic opener.
Breakaway given advantage by mistake
The solo victory of Topsport Vlaanderen's Jelle Wallays in stage 1 of the World Ports Classic: a stunning display of determination and power? A gross miscalculation by the chasing teams? Or something more nefarious?
The 165km stage from Antwerp to Rotterdam should have been one for the sprinters, and even if the 2.1-ranked event meant that riders had no radio communication with their team cars, gaps given by the timers should have allowed the peloton to rein in the five-man escape in time for a bunch sprint.
However, the peloton was left literally shaking their heads in disbelief when they crossed the line 26 seconds after Wallays, the general classification of the flat, two-stage event nearly decided.
What went wrong?
Sporza.be posted a photograph comparing the race route signs at a roundabout with 46km to go, showing the breakaway following signs down one exit, but by the time the peloton came through the arrows were pointed a different direction, and the bunch was led off course.
The end result was a 1:20 gap that ballooned to 4:40 by the time the bunch was back on track.
“It was a strange stage because the break was led in the wrong direction, while the field did the original route and the breakaway therefore got a huge advantage in the finale," Saxo-Tinkoff directeur sportif Steven De Jongh said.
Credit, however, still goes to Wallays, who soloed for 23km and still maintained his healthy advantage at the line.
"Wallays did a very strong finale and regardless of the precarious situation, he was very hard to catch for the sprinters."
Lotto Belisol sprinter Andre Greipel took out second on the stage, but was disappointed to not be stepping into the race lead.
"Have to say that @jellewallays @jellwas pretty strong 2day but sad that the bunch had not the gap infos," Greipel wrote on Twitter.