Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took a convincing sprint finish to win the 2015 Tour of Flanders ahead of breakaway companion Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) while Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) led home the remnants of the chasers and was forced to settle for third.
Kristoff and Terpstra jumped clear after the ascent of the Kruisberg, with the Dutch rider first to open up a gap on the rest of the race favourites.
Despite never holding more than a thirty second lead and a late counter attack from Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), the leading duo survived until the finish. Coming into the final kilometre Terpstra sat back and forced Kristoff to the front but the 2014 Milan-San Remo winner held his nerve and comprehensively took the sprint to secure the second Monument of his career.
"I'm really happy to win, it's a really good feeling," Kristoff said. "My family is here today, and it was a big dream and my big goal this season and I managed to do it.
"At the end, I came with Niki, and he didn't really want to work with me, but I understand that. In the end I could still beat him."
Kristoff is the first Norwegian to win the Tour of Flanders but coming into the race he was among the red-hot favourites having enjoyed an incredible start to the season already. His performance matched that of his Katusha team – measured, calculating and almost faultless.
Even when the Norwegian saw several of his teammates involved in crashes the game plan remained the same with the squad wisely intent on keeping their leader out of trouble for as long as possible. Every effort appeared rehearsed and refined and whereas Team Sky looked impressive but ultimately short of numbers when it mattered most, Kristoff rounded out the display with a textbook finishing – latching onto the Terpstra express when most of his rivals looked intent on holding back and then working with the Dutchman. Even Terpstra’s understandable lack of commitment in the finale could not break Kristoff from his stride.
Van Avermaet and Sagan’s late cameos glossed over the larger chase group who fought tooth and nail on the final ascents of the Paterberg and Kwaremont but had little shared agreement or power to bring back the leading duo.
How the race unfolded
After a slightly delayed start due to a farmer’s protest the 199 riders for the Tour of Flanders were able to roll out from the historical market square of Bruges and head south towards Kortrijk and the Flemish Ardennes hills near finish town Oudenaarde.
After 20 kilometres of racing five riders managed to distance the peloton, with Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), Damien Gaudin (AG2R), Ralf Matzka (Bora), Matthew Brammeier (MTN Qhubeka) and Dylan Groenewegen (Roompot Oranje Peloton).
Clément Venturini (Cofidis) briefly featured in front but dropped back into the peloton. Brammeier won the bonus sprint in Sint-Eloois-Winkel, winning his 73kg weight in the local ‘Steene Molen’ beer.
A counter-attack with Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto-Soudal) and Marco Frapporti (Androni) bridged up to the five leaders, creating a group of seven. The Sky-led peloton allowed the group the distance and they collected a lead of nearly seven minutes when approaching Zwevegem, this year’s ‘village of the Ronde’, after 60 kilometres of racing.
As the peloton started to hit the first climbs the gap was coming back down.
Bradley Wiggins crashed, probably in the first crash of the day, just before the first ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. A few bike switches later he was back in the peloton where his teammates set the pace behind the seven leaders.
There were several counter-attacks during the first of three loops near Oudenaarde. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) featured in almost all of them. Nevertheless none of these attacks managed to gain distance on the peloton. Meanwhile, Paolini, Sagan, Degenkolb and Pozzato were confronted with flat tyres but they all kept cool and returned to the front.
On the wider roads towards the cobbles of the Haaghoek a Shimano service car tried to overtake the lead group but while doing so the car sideswiped Jesse Sergent. The incident was similar to the crash that took out Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland in the 2011 Tour de France.
Sergent, a 26-year-old rider from New-Zealand, was forced to abandon the race, bringing the lead group down to six riders, with about three minutes on the Sky-led peloton.
In Schorisse there was another incident with a neutral car from Shimano. This time they rode into the back of the FDJ team car. As a result the FDJ-car took down their own rider who had been visiting the team car. Two damaged cars, an injured FDJ-rider and a furious Marc Madiot was the outcome of another avoidable incident.
On the tenth climb of the day, the Kaperij, there were a few accelerations. In front Bak and Gaudin distanced their breakaway companions.
André Greipel was again trying to anticipate the moves from the team leaders, without gaining much distance as the pace in the peloton increased when approaching the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont.
Belgian champion Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) led the peloton on the climb with the break finally caught at the top of the ascent.
Greipel kept trying to sneak away, this time just before the famous Koppenberg. On the steep cobbled climb several riders were dropped, including Wiggins, while Devolder and Thomas were leading the peloton, bringing Greipel back. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) attacked after the Koppenberg and created a gap of half a minute. Greipel and Chavanel tried the same but without success.
With 36 kilometres to go the finale started. On the Taaienberg the big guns started firing with a first move from Terpstra. Once over the top Van Avermaet attacked and eventually a large group distanced the peloton.
While riding towards the third and final loop Lutsenko was again on the attack, together with Van Avermaet and Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida). They were caught before hitting the Kruisberg. When entering the final loop only 26 riders were left in front. The biggest absentee was Sep Vanmarcke. While Tersptra and Kristoff attacked the lead group Vanmarcke was spotted trying to bridge up with the main group after the Kruisberg but the Belgian was unable to make contact.
With Terpstra and Kristoff clear the onus was on Giant-Alpecin, Lotto Soudal, Team Sky and BMC to lead the chase and when the gap dropped to around 15 seconds a juncture looked possible.
However when Thomas attacked he found a determined Stybar glued to his wheel and with the final climbs out of the way the rest of the field were racing for third.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha||6:26:32|
|2||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|3||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:00:07|
|4||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo||0:00:16|
|5||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:00:36|
|6||Lars Boom (Ned) Astana Pro Team|
|7||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin||0:00:49|
|8||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|9||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|10||Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling|
|11||Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|12||Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|13||Stijn Devolder (Bel) Trek Factory Racing|
|14||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky|
|15||André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal||0:02:28|
|16||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team|
|17||Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team|
|18||Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|19||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge|
|20||Nelson Santos Simoes Oliveira (Por) Lampre-Merida||0:02:34|
|21||Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling||0:03:02|
|22||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||0:03:11|
|23||Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:03:23|
|24||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|25||Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|26||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling|
|27||Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|28||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team|
|29||Grégory Rast (Swi) Trek Factory Racing|
|30||Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|31||Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|32||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing|
|33||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha|
|34||Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team|
|35||Oliver Naesen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|36||Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team|
|37||Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team|
|38||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team|
|39||Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica GreenEdge|
|40||Paul Voss (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|41||Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|42||Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|43||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica GreenEdge|
|44||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|45||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling|
|46||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|47||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli|
|48||Marco Haller (Aut) Team Katusha|
|49||Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|50||Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky|
|51||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|52||Luca Paolini (Ita) Team Katusha||0:03:29|
|53||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|
|54||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team||0:03:35|
|55||Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team||0:06:36|
|56||Jack Bauer (NZl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team|
|57||Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky|
|58||Tyler Farrar (USA) MTN - Qhubeka||0:07:08|
|59||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|60||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|61||Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|62||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|63||Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|64||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18|
|65||Hayden Roulston (NZl) Trek Factory Racing|
|66||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Team Roompot|
|67||Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka|
|68||Marco Bandiera (Ita) Androni Giocattoli|
|69||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|
|70||Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Team Roompot|
|71||Thomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|
|72||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|
|73||Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo|
|74||Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) Team Europcar||0:07:32|
|75||Jarl Salomein (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||0:09:17|
|76||Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|77||Alexander Porsev (Rus) Team Katusha|
|78||Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Team Katusha|
|79||Tim Kerkhof (Ned) Team Roompot|
|80||Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Team Katusha|
|81||Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|82||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|83||Iljo Keisse (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|84||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team|
|85||Yohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar|
|86||Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|87||Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky|
|88||Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|89||Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|90||Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|91||Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||0:10:27|
|92||Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|93||Alan Marangoni (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team|
|94||Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale|
|95||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team|
|96||Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo|
|97||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|98||Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|99||Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky|
|100||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Trek Factory Racing|
|101||Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo|
|102||Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica GreenEdge|
|103||Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|
|104||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|105||Johan Van Summeren (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|106||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|107||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||0:12:55|
|108||Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|109||Stig Broeckx (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|110||Tony Hurel (Fra) Team Europcar|
|111||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica GreenEdge|
|112||Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team|
|113||Ruben Zepuntke (Ger) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team|
|114||Angelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar|
|115||Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|116||Luka Pibernik (Slo) Lampre-Merida|
|117||Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdge|
|118||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Team Europcar|
|119||Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team|
|120||Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Team Roompot|
|121||Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|122||Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo|
|123||Damien Gaudin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|124||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|125||Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica GreenEdge||0:15:02|
|126||Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Team Roompot|
|127||Kristoffer Skjerping (Nor) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team|
|128||Louis Verhelst (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|129||James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|130||Maxat Ayazbayev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|131||Berden De Vries (Ned) Team Roompot|
|132||William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|133||Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|DNF||Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|DNF||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Roompot|
|DNF||Andreas Stauff (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka|
|DNF||Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) MTN - Qhubeka|
|DNF||Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka|
|DNF||Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Trek Factory Racing|
|DNF||Ivar Slik (Ned) Team Roompot|
|DNF||Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Team Europcar|
|DNF||Sébastien Turgot (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Roy Jans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|DNF||Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek Factory Racing|
|DNF||Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Gediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar|
|DNF||Yannick Martinez (Fra) Team Europcar|
|DNF||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|DNF||Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Jesse Sergent (NZl) Trek Factory Racing|
|DNF||Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|DNF||Clément Venturini (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Bjorn Thurau (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|DNF||Adam Blythe (GBr) Orica GreenEdge|
|DNF||Ralf Matzka (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|DNF||Fabio Taborre (Ita) Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Frantisek Padour (Cze) Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Alberto Nardin (Ita) Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Marco Frapporti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Tiziano Dall´Antonia (Ita) Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Shane Archbold (NZl) Bora-Argon 18|
|DNF||Simone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|DNF||Enrique Sanz (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo|
|DNF||Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Team Katusha|
|DNF||Michael Morkov (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo|
|DNF||Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky|
|DNF||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky|
|DNF||Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky|
|DNF||Rick Flens (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|
|DNF||Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|
|DNF||Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling|
|DNF||Youcef Reguigui (Alg) MTN - Qhubeka|
|DNF||Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka|
|DNF||Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|DNF||Matt Brammeier (Irl) MTN - Qhubeka|
|DNF||Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|DNF||Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ.fr|
|DNF||Michaël Van Staeyen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Robert Thomas Wagner (Ger) Team LottoNL-Jumbo|
|DNF||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling|
|DNF||John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM Cycling|
|DNF||David Boucher (Bel) FDJ.fr|
|DNF||Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|DNF||Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|DNF||Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida|
|DNF||Gert Joeaar (Est) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|DNF||Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Dayer Uberney Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18|
|DNF||Roger Kluge (Ger) IAM Cycling|
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