Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) made his first win of 2016 a big one, taking out a hectic bunch sprint in a photo finish ahead of Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie). Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) was third.
On a day marked by mourning for the victims of the Brussels bombings, the Belgians could celebrate their resilience with Debuscchere's success. The Lotto Soudal rider rode a cagey finale, biding his time as the peloton caught late attacker Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in sight of the line.
Fernando Gaviria started the sprint perhaps too early, and after his Etixx-Quickstep team did much of the chasing he finished a distant 10th. Debusschere blasted up the left side, carrying a huge turn of speed to pass Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo), Filippo Pozzato (Southeast) and finally Theuns and Coquard, all in the final 100 metres.
It was an uncomfortable experience for the peloton to race in light of the serious nature of the attacks on the country by terrorists, and Debusschere reflected on the feeling of grief that afflicted the country.
"I'm really satisfied with this victory, but you cannot be deeply happy at the moment. I think everyone in Belgium is shocked and don't feel 100 percent in these times. I'm satisfied I could take the victory because I've worked hard for this. I hope everyone can pick up our lives again, and get back to their jobs like they used to do, I hope they get through this really quick."
Debusschere seemed an unlikely winner as the peloton rounded the final corner with Trek-Segafredo leading out last year's runner-up Edward Theuns ahead. The former Belgian champion was outside of the top 10 as they closed in on Van Avermaet and he had to come from a long way back. The sprint seemed to go on forever, as Gaviria hit the front with 200m to go but quickly faded. Coquard hit out with 100m to go and started to prepare his victory salute only to see the red blur of Debusschere flying past on his left.
"I didn't expect to pass everyone. I was hoping for a podium coming out of the last corner because I was so far away. I could manage to go to the front and win, so that's super nice."
How it unfolded
The peloton was not in full force for the start of the 199.7km route from Roeselare to Waregem, as a number of riders were waylaid by travel difficulties resulting from the bombing of the Zaventem airport in Brussels. The entire Giant-Alpecin team withdrew because only three of their riders were available to start, and Movistar were down to four.
Two riders didn't start: Gerald Ciolek (Stolting) due to illness and Yves Lampaert (Etixx-Quickstep) due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. A total of 161 riders rolled off the line after a moment of silence, most of them wearing black armbands for the bombing victims.
A rapid start to the race meant the breakaway took some kilometres to form, but after half an hour of flat-out riding the peloton was ready for a rest and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Jesper Asselman (Roompot - Oranje Peloton), Alex Kirsch (Stölting Service Group), Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18), Igor Boev (Gazprom-Rusvelo), and Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty - Groupe Gobert) were allowed to go free.
The six quickly built up a lead of almost eight minutes, but as they entered the second half of the race, filled with cobbled climbs and sections of pave, the leaders began to suffer.
The back-to-back Kattenberg and Holleweg with 90km to go halved the advantage of the leaders, while unsuccessful attacks from the peloton by Preben van Hecke and Kevin Van Bilsen started to drive wedges into the peloton behind.
Etixx-Quickstep worked diligently to control the pace, bringing back the attackers and steadily reeling in the leaders down to just over three minutes at the Haaghoek section of cobbles.
But an attack from Mike Teunissen (LottoNl-Jumbo) put a spanner in the works, and though he nearly crashed in a sharp left turn, he pulled out enough of a gap to be tempting to those wishing to form a second move.
Jonas Rickaert (Topsport Vlaanderen) came across, and soon after former u23 time trial world champion Luke Durbridge flew across, making it three chasers gaining steadily on the six leaders between the Berendries and the Valkenberg climbs.
The chasing peloton was in tatters, but the gaps between the leaders and the next group were both shrinking, though the trio with Durbridge was slowly clawing its way toward the leaders.
The Eikenberg and Taaienberg with 60km to go began to crack the lead group, with Gougeard losing contact first, and Boev joining soon after. Up over the Oude Kwaremont with 35km to go, Van Melsen left his previous companions behind and forged ahead alone with four climbs still remaining.
On the Paterburg, the long line of riders in the third group started to make contact with the chasers in the second group, and new attacks formed including Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) with Durbridge, Teunissen and Rickaert sweeping up Kirsch along the way.
But a group led by Van Avermaet was not giving up, and worked to claw back a gap of less than a minute to the larger group ahead. At the Holstraat with 15km to go the leaders were Nikolas Maes (Etixx-Quickstep), Durbridge, Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Giacomo Nizzolo, Loic Vliegen (BMC), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and a tenacious Van Melsen, who had been swept up by the chasers.
A lack of cooperation in the leading group led to all of the groups within shouting distance coming together with 10km to go. With just the Nokereberg standing between them and the finish line, there was little impetus to attack until Van Avermaet launched his move with just under 9km to go.
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner opened up an impressive gap, and flew around the turns to gain a dozen seconds on the chase on the Nokereberg and it seemed he was en route to yet another win this year, but a furious chase by Etixx-Quickstep and Trek-Segafredo put paid to his efforts.
Trek-Segafredo led into the final turn with three riders at the fore, and seemed only to lead out young favourite Fernando Gaviria, but the distance and heavy racing schedule seem to have sapped the Colombian's speed, and his sprint fizzled as soon as it started. Coquard, in his first race back from injury, put in a surprising bid for victory, but started to celebrate too soon and was pipped on the line by Debusschere.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal||4:48:27|
|2||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie|
|3||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|4||Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela|
|5||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge|
|6||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|7||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Tinkoff Team|
|8||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18|
|9||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|10||Fernando Gaviria (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|11||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|12||Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie|
|13||Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|14||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|15||Mads Pedersen (Den) Stölting Service Group|
|16||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|17||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|18||Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|19||Loic Vliegen (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|20||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|21||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|22||Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton|
|23||Tim Declercq (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|24||Stefan Kueng (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|25||Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|26||Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team|
|27||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge|
|28||Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling|
|29||Alex Kirsch (Lux) Stölting Service Group|
|30||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Direct Energie|
|31||Vegard Breen (Nor) Fortuneo - Vital Concept|
|32||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|33||Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|34||Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal|
|35||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:11|
|36||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:12|
|37||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:00:38|
|38||Daniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept|
|39||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|40||Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|41||Alexander Porsev (Rus) Team Katusha|
|42||Leigh Howard (Aus) IAM Cycling|
|43||Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-GreenEdge|
|44||Sondre Holst Enger (Nor) IAM Cycling|
|45||Ralf Matzka (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|46||Kenneth Van Bilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|47||Raymond Kreder (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton|
|48||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-GreenEdge|
|49||Roy Jans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|50||Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Stölting Service Group|
|51||Juan Jose Lobato (Spa) Movistar Team|
|52||Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC Racing Team|
|53||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|54||Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|55||Kenny De Haes (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|56||Floris Gerts (Ned) BMC Racing Team|
|57||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff Team|
|58||Ivan Savitskiy (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo|
|59||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|60||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling|
|61||Simone Ponzi (Ita) CCC Sprandi Polkowice|
|62||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team|
|63||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|64||Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff Team|
|65||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|66||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|67||Andrei Solomennikov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo|
|68||Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice|
|69||Nico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale|
|70||Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Soudal|
|71||Vladimir Isaychev (Rus) Team Katusha|
|72||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) IAM Cycling|
|73||Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton|
|74||Simone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|75||Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Bora-Argon 18|
|76||Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|77||Tom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|78||Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale|
|79||Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Direct Energie|
|80||Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek-Segafredo|
|81||Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|82||Juraj Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team|
|83||Ryan Anderson (Can) Direct Energie|
|84||Yohann Gene (Fra) Direct Energie|
|85||Robert Wagner (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|86||Steven Tronet (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept|
|87||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team|
|88||Dmitrii Kozonchuk (Rus) Team Katusha|
|89||Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|90||Marco Haller (Aut) Team Katusha|
|91||Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|92||Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar Team|
|93||Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||0:00:50|
|94||Twan Castelijns (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|95||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton|
|96||Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|97||Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept|
|98||Stijn Devolder (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|99||Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton|
|100||Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|101||Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|102||Tom Bohli (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|103||Benoit Jarrier (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept|
|104||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha|
|105||Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|106||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|107||Berden De Vries (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton|
|108||Shane Archbold (NZl) Bora-Argon 18|
|109||Michel Kreder (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton|
|110||Damien Gaudin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|111||Nils Politt (Ger) Team Katusha||0:01:46|
|112||Stijn Steels (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||0:03:20|
|DNF||Bartlomiej Matysiak (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice|
|DNF||Adrian Kurek (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice|
|DNF||Kai Reus (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton|
|DNF||Eugert Zhupa (Alb) Southeast - Venezuela|
|DNF||Mirko Trosino (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela|
|DNF||Mirko Tedeschi (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela|
|DNF||Giuseppe Fonzi (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela|
|DNF||Matteo Draperi (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela|
|DNF||Andrea Dal Col (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela|
|DNF||Liam Bertazzo (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela|
|DNF||Josef Cerny (Cze) CCC Sprandi Polkowice|
|DNF||Eryk Laton (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice|
|DNF||Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|DNF||Mamyr Stash (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo|
|DNF||Evgeny Shalunov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo|
|DNF||Sergey Nikolaev (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo|
|DNF||Roman Maikin (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo|
|DNF||Viktor Manakov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo|
|DNF||Igor Boev (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo|
|DNF||Jonas Tenbrock (Ger) Stölting Service Group|
|DNF||Michael Carbel Svendgaard (Den) Stölting Service Group|
|DNF||Michael Reihs (Den) Stölting Service Group|
|DNF||Rasmus Christian Quaade (Den) Stölting Service Group|
|DNF||Boris Vallee (Bel) Fortuneo - Vital Concept ,|
|DNF||Jean-Marc Bideau (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept|
|DNF||Franck Bonnamour (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept|
|DNF||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge|
|DNF||Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica-GreenEdge|
|DNF||Jay McCarthy (Aus) Tinkoff Team|
|DNF||Michal Kolár (Svk) Tinkoff Team|
|DNF||Michael Gogl (Aut) Tinkoff Team|
|DNF||Erik Baska (Svk) Tinkoff Team|
|DNF||Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Iljo Keisse (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|DNF||Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|DNF||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Svein Tuft (Can) Orica-GreenEdge|
|DNF||Oliver Naesen (Bel) IAM Cycling|
|DNF||Vicente Reynes (Spa) IAM Cycling|
|DNF||Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Jonas Ahlstrand (Swe) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Julien Morice (Fra) Direct Energie|
|DNF||Romain Cardis (Fra) Direct Energie|
|DNF||Timo Roosen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|DNF||Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Maxime Daniel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Sergey Lagutin (Rus) Team Katusha|
|DNS||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|DNS||Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Stölting Service Group|
Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.
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