Hammer Sprint: Hong Kong - Hong Kong
Mitchelton-Scott won the Hammer Sprint at Hammer Hong Kong after it was found that two Quick-Step Floors riders had illegally earned points. Initially thought to be the winners of the Sprint, the Belgian team were relegated to second place ahead of Lotto-Soudal.
Quick Step Floors riders Dries Devenyns and Fabio Jakobsen punctured at one point during the race, falling a lap behind before re-joining with the leaders and scoring points as normal. After the race had ended, the mistake was discovered and their points taken away, resulting in the result change.
It had looked a full team effort from 'the Wolfpack' as the Belgian team sent multiple riders on the attack throughout the race. Philippe Gilbert, Dries Devenyns and Davide Martinelli were all aggressive numerous times, as Quick Step Floors riders took two or three top-ten placings on almost every lap.
Their battle with Mitchelton-Scott was race-long, coming down to the final laps as other teams never really threatened the duopoly. Matteo Trentin and Luka Mezgec were among the Australian team's most prominent riders, and proved the difference makers as the team took the victory.
"It was very hard course, lot of corners, slow ones," said Philippe Gilbert after the finish. "The bridge looked like nothing on television but it was really hard - a headwind and a gradient of 6-7% so that was a big effort every time.
"We'll give everything now and try to make a difference," he added. "We'll try to hold on - I don't think it's possible to make a big difference in the TTT because it's very short. The main difference could be this morning."
The result means that Quick-Step Floors will be chasing Mitchelton-Scott in the Hammer Chase, setting off 20 seconds behind the Australians, while Lotto-Soudal, Bora-Hansgrohe and UAE Team Emirates will be the next squads down the starting ramp.
How it happened
Ten laps of a 4.3km waterfront circuit made up the Hammer Sprint, the first part of a streamlined one-day two-race Hammer Hong Kong. The circuit was mostly flat, save for a climb up a large bridge. Otherwise it looked like a perfect day for the fast men to show their stuff. Double points were doled out at the end of laps three, six and ten to inspire the attacks and sprints.
EF Education First-Drapac took the early lead, with Tom Van Asbroeck taking the first sprint of the day. With Dries Devenyns and Philippe Gilbert finishing in third and fourth on that first lap, it was an intention-signalling result from Quick Step Floors, who were looking to take the overall title from Mitchelton-Scott.
Indeed, they sent Jhonathan Narvaez on the attack soon after, while the end of lap three saw Fabio Jakobsen, Davide Martinelli and Gilbert all up there in the standings. With the Belgian team placing several riders in the top ten on every lap and Mitchelton-Scott conspicuous by their absence, it looked like Hammer Hong Kong was only going one way.
It wasn't until lap five when the Australian squad sprang into action, sending Roger Kluge up the road. He duly took maximum points, while Matteo Trentin and Luka Mezgec also finished in the top ten to leave them fourth overall at the midway point. Their 308 points was a long way behind Quick Step's 564.
Cameron Meyer went up the road on the next lap. The Australian led the way for double points, while Mezgec took third as only Martinelli was represented in the top ten for Quick Step Floors, giving Mitchelton-Scott the lead with 639 points.
On lap seven, a mid-size group had broken away from the peloton, with all major teams represented. Gilbert snuck across to take the points with a late attack, setting up a late laps showdown between his team and Mitchelton-Scott for the victory. Next it was Devenyns' turn to go, taking the points on lap eight and putting Quick Step back in the lead on 869 points to Mitchelton-Scott's 748. It really was a two-horse race at that point, with Bora-Hansgrohe a distant third on 426 points.
Gilbert was back in pole position on the penultimate lap, though Trentin, Meyer and Mezgec placing in the top ten meant it all came down to lap ten. Up front, Trentin finished second from a select group, a result which retrospectively sealed the victory after Quick Step's relegation to second place.
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