It was a fast and intense start to racing, with 44 kilometers covered in the first hour, during which time a five-rider breakaway was allowed to go clear however, the peloton continued to keep the tempo high and initially kept the leaders on a tight leash.
At the halfway point of the 201-kilometer course, which featured 11 climbs and two cobbled sections, the breakaway’s advantage was hovering around the six-minute mark.
However, on the La Houppe climb, which marked the start of the toughest part of the race, the pace at the front of the main bunch started to increase and, as a result, the leaders’ advantage began to fall.
The action picked up with 70 kilometers remaining when Van Avermaet’s teammates hit the front of the peloton to lift the pace, bringing the gap down to under four minutes, before an injection of pace split the bunch on the Oude Kwaremont with Van Avermaet and Matteo Trentin making the front selection.
Van Avermaet and Trentin showed their strength with multiple attacks to try and drop as many riders as possible but the peloton re-grouped approaching the final 30 kilometers, by which point the breakaway had been caught.
Three riders, including Asgreen, went on the attack and gained a 30-second advantage over the peloton, which featured Van Avermaet, Trentin, Jonas Koch, Gijs Van Hoecke, and Łukasz Wiśniowski, and despite many teams chasing behind on the flat finishing circuit, Asgreen attacked again and continued to lead solo with 10 kilometers remaining.
A disorganized chase in the final two kilometers was to the benefit of Asgreen, who managed to hold on and take the win, whilst Van Avermaet tried to navigate his way to the front in the sprint for minor placings but wasn’t able to move up enough to finish inside the top ten.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I wanted to race as hard as possible because I had really good feelings today. I wanted to go away with a small group and try to finish it off in the end but I never came in this situation which is a pity. Overall, the weekend was quite good and I think we raced quite well. For me, personally, it was not the result I was hoping for. But, with Matteo’s result yesterday and the strange race today, it was hard to do better I think. My form is super good so we will see what happens in the next races.”
Sports Director, Steve Bauer:
“We hoped for a more aggressive race today. Deceuninck-Quick Step held the breakaway’s advantage steady in front because they knew they had a sprinter so they blocked the race on the tougher terrain. But, our leaders are in great shape. When the race opened up, we had Greg and Matteo who were both good but others were good too and it was late to try and make something of the race with all of the sections almost finished. Greg was good and was attacking but he was outnumbered. We know the harder the race, the better for Greg, and today was just not hard enough.”
Top 3: 1. Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), 2. Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT), 3. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates)
CCC Team top 3: 26. Greg Van Avermaet, 38. Gijs Van Hoecke, 41. Jonas Koch