Alexander Kristoff gave Intermarché-Wanty Gobert another major success after Biniam Girmay's win in Gent-Wevelgem, taking a rare solo victory to win the Scheldeprijs with a seven-kilometre long late attack.
Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the sprint for second ahead of Sam Welsford (Team DSM) from a dejected chasing group that could not match the experienced Norwegian when he attacked across the cobbles into a block headwind with 7.4km to go. He then turned into an open crosswind section along the Schelde that shattered the chasing group.
Kristoff's move echoed the early part of the race when crosswinds shattered the peloton in the first hour of racing. Kristoff was part of a group of just 14 riders that held off a nearly race-long chase from a 16-rider group containing defending champion pre-race favourite Fabio Jakobsen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl). The gap between the two groups hovered around one minute for the better part of 150 kilometres until the leaders finally broke their spirits in the rainy closing laps.
With three minutes on the Jakobsen group inside the closing 10km, Bora-Hansgrohe launched numerous attacks, having the most riders in the lead bunch, but a puncture from Sam Bennett disrupted their chase just before Kristoff rocketed away with his cagey winning move.
"It was a hard race," a soggy and exhausted Kristoff said in the post-race interview. "In the finale Bora and Alpecin were attacking on the last lap. I was suffering to cover all the moves because I was alone after my teammate crashed out. So in the end of the cobbles I thought to give it a try to get away. Nobody followed me and so I pushed everything I had."
Normally a winner from reduced bunch sprints in hard races, Kristoff showed that the trust that Intermarché put in him was well worth it and demonstrated to his rivals that at 34, he still has plenty of life left in his career.
"I had good legs in the final, and I felt good all day," Kristoff said. "It's nice to win solo, it's one of only a few solo victories I've ever taken. It's a special one.
"I saw that Bora had a lot of riders, so for sure they didn't want [the chasers] to come back, but it was close at one point. There was a battle between the Bora riders and Alpecin. Bora had the manpower but also had to work extra, it's not always best to have the most riders. Today I managed to do it on my own today."
Between Kristoff's and Girmay's victories, the newest WorldTour team has gone a long way toward avoiding relegation in the 2023 WorldTour.
"We've had a really good Classics season and a great season so far. I think we can already be happy with our season," Kristoff said.
How it unfolded
The Scheldeprijs, a mid-week Pro Series race of 198.7 kilometres started out from Terneuzen in the Netherlands and crossed underneath the Westerschelde waterway via its 6.6km tunnel to the former island of Zuid-Beveland. The stiff winds of the Zeeland did not disappoint in the first hour of racing, quickly smashing the peloton into echelons with some key favourites missing out on the move.
When the dust cleared, there was an elite front group with defending champion Jasper Philipsen and teammate Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), Rüdiger Selig (Lotto Soudal), Alexander Kristoff and Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Sam Bennett, Jordi Meeus, Ryan Mullen and Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis), Cees Bol, Casper van Uden and Sam Welsford (Team DSM), Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Daniel McLay (Arkea-Samsic), Søren Wærenskjold (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team).
A chasing group came together with sprint favourite Fabio Jakobsen and three QuickStep-AlphaVinyl teammates: Michael Mørkøv, Zdenek Stybar, Stijn Steels (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) as well as outside favourite Arnaud De Lie and two teammates Brent Van Moer and Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal). With them were Luca Mozzato and Julien Morice (B&B Hotels-KTM), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), (Lotto Soudal), Emils Liepins and Daan Hoole (Trek-Segafredo), Luka Mezgec (BikeExchange-Jayco), Szymon Sajnok (Cofidis), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Alpecin-Fenix), Tobias Andresen (Team DSM), and Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
The front group lost two riders, with Gerben Thijssen touching wheels and crashing - in a moment of horror as he nearly was run over by the commissaires car - out of the leading group. A bit earlier, Cees Bol had suffered a puncture and lost touch, limiting DSM's desire to contribute to the pacemaking. After a wickedly fast first hour of racing at 50kph, the gap between the two front groups was 1:20.
The efforts from the chasing group started to pay off in the later stages, and with 90km to go it had come down to just around a minute. But the distance between the two went the other way as the race headed toward the three closing circuits of 17.2km. Although the lead group lost Warenskjold, their gap continued to go out even as Lotto Soudal and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl put their protected sprinters to work to close it down behind.
A light rain began to fall toward the end of the first circuit and the gap held steady as riders settled in to get their last gels or bottles and begin planning for the sprint. However, by the 25km to go mark, the lengthy chase and miserable weather had dampened the motivation of the chasing group and the gap doubled to almost two minutes.
With one 17.2km lap to go, Bora-Hansgrohe, the team with the most riders in the leading group, led the front group and, as the rain fell harder, Lotto Soudal brought their dejected chasing group across the line 2:10 behind.
Irish champion Ryan Mullen put himself in charge of keeping the 14-rider lead group rolling through and could rely on Meeus for help setting pace as the team protected sprinters Bennett and Van Poppel. When the carrot didn't work, Mullen tried the stick, lining out the group with 13km remaining, causing a small split at the front and putting Bennett into a little trouble at the back.
Van Uden, Merlier and Vanbilsen stayed with Mullen while Kristoff quickly shut down the gap to the quartet. Mullen continued to pour on the pressure and, after a consultation between Van Poppel and Bennett, who still swung like a broken screen door at the back, Meeus took over pushing the pace despite Bennett's suffering.
Van Poppel, followed the wheel of Kristoff as Mullen counter-attacked, bringing Merlier and Van Uden with him and forcing Theuns to close down the gap. As soon as they were caught, Van Uden, racing with the WorldTeam as a guest from the Development squad, countered. Bennett, clearly not intending to sprint, came forward to chase and eventually, with help from Meeus, Van Uden was caught inside 9km to go.
Bennett was soon out the back with a slow rear-tyre leak and took a new bike with 8.3km to go. The leaders had three minutes on the chasers, after all. His teammates took their foot off the gas, but Vanbilsen surged.
When that acceleration failed to create a split, Kristoff - his neon yellow jersey and helmet shining in the rain-darkened Belgian landscape - flew away on the cobbles and entered the cross-headwind stretch along the Schelde with a solid advantage on a disorganised chasing group.
As the saying goes, age and treachery overcome youth and skill and Kristoff, using the weather to his advantage, gained 16 seconds as he passed 5km to go.
Gulping air and swaying side to side as he willed his legs to churn a huge gear, Kristoff continued to ride away from the chasers, only daring to take a quick peek back as he neared the 3km banner and still had 23 seconds in hand. With 2km to go it was out to 27 and it was clear that even a counter by McLay and Welsford would fail.
Kristoff could celebrate what was an unusual coup for what is known as the sprinters' classic.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||4:06:02|
|2||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:24|
|3||Sam Welsford (Aus) Team DSM|
|4||Casper van Uden (Ned) Development Team DSM||0:00:26|
|5||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|6||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis||0:00:28|
|7||Daniel McLay (GBr) Arkea-Samsic|
|8||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|9||Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|10||Ryan Mullen (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|11||Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|12||Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|13||Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|14||Arnaud De Lie (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:03:32|
|15||Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|16||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|17||Tobias Andresen (Den) Development Team DSM|
|18||Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|19||Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis|
|20||Emils Liepins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo|
|21||Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|22||Luka Mezgec (Slo) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|23||Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:03:35|
|24||Stijn Steels (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|25||Michael Mørkøv (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team||0:03:37|
|26||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|27||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:03:39|
|28||Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM||0:03:57|
|29||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team||0:04:14|
|30||Daan Hoole (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||0:06:23|
|DNF||Andrea Peron (Ita) Novo Nordisk|
|DNF||Umberto Poli (Ita) Novo Nordisk|
|DNF||Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Sandy Dujardin (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Jonas Abrahamsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Stian Edvardsen-Fredheim (Nor) Uno-X Dare Development Team|
|DNF||Lars Saugstad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Søren Wærenskjold (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Mitchell Mc Laughlin (Irl) EvoPro Racing|
|DNF||Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Stephen Clancy (Irl) Novo Nordisk|
|DNF||Matthijs Büchli (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Jente Boons (Bel) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Stijn Daemen (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Bram Dissel (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Vincent Hoppezak (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Jochem Kerckhaert (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Michaël Van Staeyen (Bel) EvoPro Racing|
|DNF||Daire Feeley (Irl) EvoPro Racing|
|DNF||Eamon Franck (USA) EvoPro Racing|
|DNF||Dylan Guinet (Fra) EvoPro Racing|
|DNF||Syver Wærsted (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Samuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Enrico Zanoncello (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Maurice Ballerstedt (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Edward Planckaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Dorian De Maeght (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Karl Patrick Lauk (Est) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Sasha Weemaes (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Matyas Kopecky (Cze) Novo Nordisk|
|DNF||Jens Reynders (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Declan Irvine (Aus) Novo Nordisk|
|DNF||Davide Gabburo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Christophe Noppe (Bel) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Donavan Grondin (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Markus Pajur (Est) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Hamish Beadle (NZl) Novo Nordisk|
|DNF||Robbe Ceurens (Bel) Novo Nordisk|
|DNF||Gil D´Heygere (Bel) Minerva Cycling Team|
|DNF||Ruben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Conn Mc Dunphy (Irl) EvoPro Racing|
|DNF||Marco Haller (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Miguel Heidemann (Ger) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (Col) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Martin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|DNF||Alexandre Delettre (Fra) Cofidis|
|DNF||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Pascal Ackermann (Ger) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Alexandre Balmer (Swi) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Alex Edmondson (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Sam Bewley (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Kelland O’Brien (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Campbell Stewart (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM|
|DNF||Nico Denz (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM|
|DNF||Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Felix Groß (Ger) Uae Team Emirates|
|DNF||Jannik Steimle (Ger) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Maarten Verheyen (Bel) EvoPro Racing|
|DNF||Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Thomas Joseph (Bel) Minerva Cycling Team|
|DNF||Matthew Van Schoor (Bel) Minerva Cycling Team|
|DNF||Jorre Debaele (Bel) Minerva Cycling Team|
|DNF||Gilles Borra (Bel) Minerva Cycling Team|
|DNF||Enrico Dhaeye (Bel) Minerva Cycling Team|
|DNF||Yentl Vandevelde (Bel) Minerva Cycling Team|
|DNF||Lionel Taminiaux (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Luca Colnaghi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Jordy Bouts (Bel) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Adrien Lagree (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Ethan Vernon (GBr) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Sacha Modolo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Raphael Parisella (Can) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Cedric Beullens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Barnabás Peák (Hun) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Iker Bonillo Martin (Spa) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNS||Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
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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 former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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