Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) came out on top in the Handzame Classic, capping off an excellent lead-out from his team to win ahead of Antoine Demoitie (Wallonie – Bruxelles) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal).
Meersman came through the melee of lead-outs after late work from Iljo Keisse and Matteo Trentin but the groundwork for the win had been laid by the rest of the team who wrestled control from the opposition inside the closing 15 kilometres of racing, neutralizing several late moves before catapulting Meersman, 29, to his third win of the season.
The early action was dominated by a four-man break consisting of Alex Kirsch (Cult Energy), Conor Dunne (An Post-Chainreaction), Tom Wirtgen (Leopard) and Dries Hollanders (Metec) and the peloton were in no hurry to chase as they allowed the break to open a lead approaching seven minutes.
Kenny Dehaes was not able to enjoy the gentle pace setting in the bunch for long, however. The Lotto Soudal rider crashed and was taken to hospital with a suspected broken arm.
After 70 kilometres and at the head of the race, Kirsch and Co. saw their lead reach 6:25 before peloton’s reaction. When it came it was swift and merciless with minutes tumbling before only Kirsch was left at the head of the race – his advantage a handful of seconds as CCC Sprandi Polkowice prowled and marshalled at the front of the bunch.
Norway’s Vegard Breen (Lotto-Soudal) escaped and briefly worked with Kirsch before eventually leaving the Cult Energy rider stranded and alone but the peloton were never far from sight and with 15 kilometres remaining Etixx-QuickStep moved into position.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|2||Antoin Demoitié (Bel) Wallonie-Bruxelles|
|3||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|4||Andrè Looij (Ned) Team Roompot|
|5||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Roompot|
|6||Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|7||Joeri Stallaert (Bel) Team Cibel|
|8||Jarl Salomein (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|9||Dries de Bondt (Bel) Verandas Willems|
|10||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team|
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