Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka took to the start of Gent-Wevelgem with former winner Edvald Boasson Hagen, who once again proved to be in good shape at the moment. After suffering some bad luck at the E3 Harelbeke last Friday our African team was looking forward to finish the weekend off with a better result.
The 242 kilometer long classic from Deinze to Wevelgem got off to a fast start with four riders going clear only a few kilometers into the race. They quickly built up a lead of 11 minutes. With the wind being a key factor on the narrow Belgian country roads, the peloton picked up the pace after around 80 kilometers.
Our African team managed to place four riders in the front group of the peloton as the inevitable split was forced by 34 riders. Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar, Matt Brammeier, and Nic Dougall were part of that group. Over the following kilometers the group opened up a gap of 1 minute, moving closer to and eventually catching the 4-man-break with around 100 kilometers to go.
At that time our African team seemed to be one of the strongest of the day. With 70 kilometers to go, it was Trek to come to the front, racing for their captain Fabian Cancellara. The American team tried to help our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka to shut down a series of attacks. However, the group decided to let Viatcheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) go. The Russian built up a lead of 50 seconds before Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) tried his luck on the Baneberg. With around 40 kilometers to go he was quickly chased down by Boasson Hagen and the rest of the favorites.
Our Norwegian national road race champion stayed in the mix at that time but unfortunately wasn’t able to go with Cancellara on the Kemmelberg, only a few kilometers later. It was the Swiss classics specialist who forced the final split together with reigning World Champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Vanmarcke. The trio rode across to Kuznetsov, while Etixx-QuickStep tried to organize the chase behind.
Going into the final kilometers it was clear that the winner would come from the 4-man-lead and in the end it was Sagan who got the better of Vanmarcke and Kuznetsov at the finish in Wevelgem. Boasson Hagen crossed the line together with the chasers 11 seconds later.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – Rider
It was a hard day. The team did a really good job, though. They always stayed at the front with me and were up there when the peloton split. The guys were riding really well. Of course, I’d have liked to finish a bit further up in the final but that’s racing. I was in the right position on the Kemmelberg but it was just too hard to follow Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan, and Sep Vanmarcke when they attacked.
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx – Sports Director
It’s a bit a day with mixed feelings. The guys rode really well today, but with Jay Thomson and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg suffering punctures just before the peloton split we were 2 riders down going into the final 100 kilometers. Tyler, Matt, and Nic made the best out of it, pushing the pace in the peloton. I’m really happy with the way they raced today. They kept Edvald out of the wind for most of the day, so he was up there in the end. He was sick last week and I think that cost him the final bit to finish with todays best.