John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) finished a bike-length back in second place, while Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) continued his effervescent spring form by taking third.
Kristoff, who won the Tour of Flanders solo in 2015, launched his sprint early after riding the Jumbo-Visma train in the final kilometre. Jumping to the wheel of Adrien Petit (Direct Énergie), he hit the wind with 250 metres to go and had no equal in the race to the line.
It was a sprint finish that had looked far from inevitable for much of the day, with the peloton shattering in the crosswinds during the first hour. A large group including Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) got away after 50km of furious racing, eventually whittling down until the escapees were brought back with 20km to race.
The flat run-in was commanded by the sprinters' teams, including the well-represented Deceuninck-QuickStep, who were keen to keep it together until Wevelgem. Attacks flew in the final 15km, but it was impossible to escape the inevitability of a bunch sprint.
After a group of four attackers were finally caught in the final kilometre, it was Jumbo-Visma who led out the sprint. Kristoff appeared from behind the wheels to launch himself from long to take his second win of the season.
"Fernando [Gaviria] did a great race and was in the front all day, but he told me in the last 10km that he didn't feel good," Kristoff said after the finish. "So he said, 'OK, go for the sprint yourself', because normally I would lead him out.
"I found a good wheel and at the end I was the strongest in the sprint. It's a huge victory for me and it kind of saved my spring. I can see my shape is coming good for Flanders. This is slightly easier than Flanders, but to get this victory - it's one of the biggest victories in my career."
The wind, and of course, the climbs, had a big effect on the race, with Kristoff mentioning how his team's tactics were adjusted as a result.
"I was in the second group and we had Fernando in front," he said. "It was good racing by him to stay in front so we could take it easier in the back I knew Kemmelberg would be crucial, so I tried to attack and anticipate it before. I managed to come in the front over Kemmelberg, and I knew I was safe, being in the first group.
"But of course I was tired. It was a hard day from the start, but I saw everybody was really on the limit, so I knew I always have a good sprint when everybody is tired."
How it unfolded
The 175 riders at the start in chilly Deinze rolled away from the market square to start the race, but they wouldn't be together for much longer. During the first hour of racing, the peloton powered through crosswinds towards the Belgian coast. When turning left at Gistel towards the coastal town of Nieuwpoort the peloton split into several groups.
The star-studded first group was 20 strong. Several teams had multiple riders in the move, including Peter Sagan, Pascal Ackermann and Rüdiger Selig for Bora-Hansgrohe; Wout van Aert, Maarten Wynants, Mike Teunissen, Taco van der Hoorn and Danny van Poppel for Jumbo-Visma; John Degenkolb, Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven and Edward Theuns for Trek-Segafredo.
Other riders to make the break were European champion Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Dutch champion Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Jan Willem van Schip (Roompot-Charles), Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Nokere Koerse winner Cees Bol (Team Sunweb) and Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
Before turning away from the coast and into a favourable tailwind, Jumbo-Visma lost Van der Hoorn and Van Poppel from the front after Van Poppel suffered a mechanical. Even with the loss of two riders, the leaders blasted through De Moeren at over 60km/h [the first two hours were raced at 52km/h], extending their advantage from 50 seconds to 1:20.
Heading towards the French border and the first climbs of the day, Lotto Soudal and CCC Team took control of the peloton, and the gap slowly started to come back down again.
With a first passage over the Baneberg and Kemmelberg, the lead group started to fall apart. First Van Schip dropped, followed by Selig, Ackermann, Declercq, Degenkolb and Wynants.
Accelerations in the peloton from in-form Zdenek Štybar, Yves Lampaert (both Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) on the Kemmelberg and Monteberg reduced the advantage for the 12 remaining leaders to 35 seconds with 70km left to race.
Cooperation among those 12 leaders vanished on the wide roads following the Kemmelberg, and suddenly only Sagan, Teunissen, Trentin and Theuns remained out front. The quartet hit the first 'plugstreet' gravel section 59km from the finish 45 seconds ahead of 'peloton', which at that point consisted of less than 40 riders.
The gap remained the same over the following gravel sections, but soon afterwards, at 52km from the finish, Luke Rowe (Team Sky) put in an impressive effort to solo across the gap.
Perhaps inspired by Lowe making it up to the lead group, Kristoff clipped off the front of the chasers with 41km to go. He was midway to the leaders by the Baneberg, while over the top Van Aert and Van der Poel attacked with another 'cross champion - Zdenek Štybar - closing the move down.
Jumbo-Visma then took to the head of the peloton. Not to work though, with their man Teunissen up front. They acted as a rolling roadblock as the gap edged back up over 50 seconds.
On the final climb of the race, the Kemmelberg, Trentin put the pressure on in the lead group as Sagan looked to struggle. Further back, Štybar and Van Aert attacked, catching Kristoff before the trio were dragged back.
Heading into the final 30km, the five-man lead group was 35 seconds up the road, with sprinters Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) lurking in the chase group.
The QuickStep trio of Štybar, Lampaert and Gilbert duly went to work for their sprinter, bringing the gap down to 20 seconds by Ypres and the famous Menin Gate. It was over for the break shortly after, with the five men absorbed with 19km to race.
On the flat run-in, which saw the riders belted by crosswinds, short-lived attacks from Niki Terpstra (Direct Énergie), Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education First) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) demonstrated how hard it would be to break away from the group. With a number of teams interested in keeping things together for a sprint finish, it would take something special to get away.
A small group clipped off with 6km to go, with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Jack Bauer (Mitchelton-Scott), Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Jumbo-Visma) and Langeveld going on the attack. They hung out front until the final kilometre, when Deceuninck-Quick Step's superdomestiques took over.
But, as was the case last spring, it once again wouldn't be Viviani's race. The Italian was nowhere in the final sprint. Instead, it was Kristoff who prevailed, his powerful sprint proving unmatchable.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates||5:26:08|
|2||John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2R La Mondiale||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Jens Debusschere (Bel) Team Katusha Alpecin||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Anthony Turgis (Fra) Direct Energie||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-Fdj||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Fernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) UAE Team Emirates||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick-Step||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Direct Energie||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Marco Haller (Aut) Team Katusha Alpecin||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Corendon-Circus||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma||0:00:07|
|30||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma||0:00:08|
|31||Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott||0:00:11|
|32||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:13|
|33||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo||0:00:23|
|34||Damien Gaudin (Fra) Direct Energie||0:00:24|
|35||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Deceuninck - Quick-Step||0:01:19|
|36||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:01:38|
|37||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||0:03:30|
|38||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team||0:05:28|
|39||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:08:45|
|40||Roy Jans (Bel) Corendon-Circus||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Roompot-Charles||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-Fdj||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Cees Bol (Ned) Team Sunweb||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Damien Touze (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-Fdj||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Edward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Maximilian Richard Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Sky||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Dimension Data||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Lars Boom (Ned) Roompot-Charles||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Corendon-Circus||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Ag2R La Mondiale||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Movistar Team||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Ag2R La Mondiale||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick-Step||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) CCC Team||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-Fdj||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Nico Denz (Ger) Ag2R La Mondiale||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Clement Venturini (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky||0:08:53|
|77||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick-Step||0:08:55|
|78||Franklin Six (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) CCC Team||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Stijn Steels (Bel) Roompot-Charles||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) CCC Team||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Szymon Sajnok (Pol) CCC Team||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg)||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck - Quick-Step||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot-Charles||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Moreno Hofland (Ned) EF Education First||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Simon Sellier (Fra) Direct Energie||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First||Row 88 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jan Willem Van Schip (Ned) Roompot-Charles||Row 89 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Julius Van Den Berg (Ned) EF Education First||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Logan Owen (USA) EF Education First||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First||Row 95 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot-Charles||Row 96 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 97 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 98 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 99 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro Team||Row 100 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana Pro Team||Row 101 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||Row 102 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain-Merida||Row 103 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Julien Duval (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale||Row 104 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Adam Blythe (GBr) Lotto Soudal||Row 105 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida||Row 106 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Pawel Bernas (Pol) CCC Team||Row 107 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Bahrain-Merida||Row 108 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Lotto Soudal||Row 109 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 110 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 111 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Senne Leysen (Bel) Roompot-Charles||Row 112 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida||Row 113 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida||Row 114 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Eduard Prades Reverter (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 115 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Bagdonas Gediminas (Ltu) Ag2R La Mondiale||Row 116 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Corendon-Circus||Row 117 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 118 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Casper Phillip Pedersen (Den) Team Sunweb||Row 119 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Florian Stork (Ger) Team Sunweb||Row 120 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Koen De Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||Row 121 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Alex Frame (NZl) Trek-Segafredo||Row 122 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo||Row 123 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Wallonie Bruxelles||Row 124 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates||Row 125 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||Row 126 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Justin Jules (Fra) Wallonie Bruxelles||Row 127 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||Row 128 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lukas Spengler (Swi) Wallonie Bruxelles||Row 129 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb||Row 130 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Corendon-Circus||Row 131 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb||Row 132 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team||Row 133 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Aime De Gendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team||Row 134 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Tom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team||Row 135 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team||Row 136 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team||Row 137 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 138 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Milan Menten (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 139 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 140 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 141 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 142 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles||Row 143 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lionel Taminiaux (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles||Row 144 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Stijn Devolder (Bel) Corendon-Circus||Row 145 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Dimension Data||Row 146 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-Fdj||Row 147 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Pim Ligthart (Ned) Direct Energie||Row 148 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-Fdj||Row 149 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Mathieu Burgaudeau (Fra) Direct Energie||Row 150 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 151 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 152 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 153 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Callum Scotson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 154 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 155 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Taco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||Row 156 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jaime Castrillo Zapater (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 157 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Team Dimension Data||Row 158 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 159 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Dimension Data||Row 160 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-Fdj||Row 161 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Team Dimension Data||Row 162 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Julien Vermote (Bel) Team Dimension Data||Row 163 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Filippo Fortin (Ita) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 164 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Zico Waeytens (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 165 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Harry Tanfield (GBr) Team Katusha Alpecin||Row 166 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Team Katusha Alpecin||Row 167 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Mads Schmidt Würtz (Den) Team Katusha Alpecin||Row 168 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Willem Jakobus Smit (RSA) Team Katusha Alpecin||Row 169 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 170 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Team Sky||Row 171 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Christopher Lawless (GBr) Team Sky||Row 172 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Filippo Ganna (Ita) Team Sky||Row 173 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lars Bak Ytting (Den) Team Dimension Data||Row 174 - Cell 2|
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