World Ports Classic Stage 1: Boonen Wins Following Team Effort
After Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team put all its efforts into making the front echelon group in the 201km first stage of World Ports Classic — a race in its first year — Tom Boonen sealed off the complete team effort by winning the group sprint on Friday.
Boonen came around Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) on the left side just meters before the line to take the victory. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha Team) was 3rd.
OPQS rider Andrew Fenn had been in a two-rider break until 2.7km remained, attacking out of the front group with 32km to go. He and Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank) had about 30" of a gap over the Boonen chase group at the most. Eventually, a 2nd chase group that included Greipel caught the Boonen group, setting up an exciting final sprint with the top sprinters of the race.
Even Florian Senechal, stagiaire for OPQS, was in the lead group protecting Boonen for the field sprint in the final kilometers.
"The race was super fast immediately," Boonen said after his victory. "In the first hour, the speed was something like 54km/h, but I was always in the front with the team. When the group split up, I was in the first echelon. We worked together. We lost a lot of riders on the road with the split, but then in the final kilometers we stopped pushing for a little bit and the 2nd group came back. Trentin and Keisse were in that group. All of the guys worked for me, and the result ended up perfect. I won the race — a hard race with a lot of crosswinds — so I am happy with the result. When the race is hard like that, we are a team built for those races. I like it. Tomorrow, I think it will be different. Normally there will be a headwind instead of the crosswind like today. It will be easier to control and normally there would be a bunch sprint."
PHOTO CREDIT: BelgaPicture