John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) sprinted to victory at the Gent-Wevelgem spring classic today. The German rider beat Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) into 2nd place and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was 3rd.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung ticked all the right boxes throughout the days racing bar the sprint finish, when misfortune again got the better of the team as a rider from Wanty – Groupe Gobert fell onto Gerald Ciolek just as the sprint opened up. Ciolek somehow managed to stay upright but lost all momentum, eventually crossing the line in 17th place.
The first box was ticked though by Jaco Venter. The young South African rider slipped into the main break of the day with Sebastian Lander (Team BMC), Marcel Aregger (IAM Cycling), Manuel Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty – Groupe Gobert). The 5 leaders opened up a gap of just over 10 minutes on the peleton with Venter being seen to take big turns on the front.
With a number of big teams having missed the break, Lotto-Belisol, Cannondale, Giant-Shimano and Europcar all assisted with the chase throughout the day. This made it difficult for the break to hold the gap once the Hellingen climbs started. Eventually all the riders were back in the fold after spending just under 200km in the break.
The peloton that caught the break was largely reduced though because of a number a crashes that occurred in the peloton. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung had nearly all its riders except Ciolek held up by a fall at the most inopportune time, just before the Kemmelberg. Thankfully Sbaragli and Konovalovas were able to get back to the main group to assist Ciolek in the final kilometers.
Venter deserves a special mention though as after spending nearly 200km in the break, he could still be seen riding on the front with 5km to go, keeping Ciolek out of the wind.
Rider – Jaco Venter
“It was a real hard in the break from km 0 until the Kemmelberg. I was fighting to get over the top before the bunch got to us but that didn’t happen. So i had a hard time trying to stay in the group and somehow i got to the front group to try help Gerald in the final but it was really crazy with lots of crashes.
I am happy with today though. I stayed out of danger and i was feeling good to be part of the race in such a big Belgian classic and with all the people cheering and going crazy next to the road.”
Directeur Sportif – Jens Zemke
“The boys were showing good spirit today. Again we got a rider in the break and 4 of our guys made it to the final so we were in a position to compete for a result. They deserved a better result than what they got though.
The team now leaves for 3 days back home and they will come back next week feeling fresh and ready. Jay and Martin will be fighting it out against the big names in De Panne on Tuesday though.”
Gent-Wevelgem (Belgium) – (30 March/UCI WT) Team Lineup
Staff: Jens Zemke (Directuer Sportif), Dr Jarrad van Zuydam (Doctor), Ian Blackburn (Soigneur), Yvonne Houweling (Soigneur), Heiko Henrici (Mechanic), Werner Lenk (Mechanic), Stevie Christaens (Mechanic)