A breakaway of six riders was able to stay away in the 189.1km opening stage of Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde on Tuesday, in a stage where the opening 14.5km were neutralized due to expectations of high winds. The Belgian race comes just two days after extreme winds affected Gent - Wevelgem.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the stage as one of the six breakaway riders that crossed 34" ahead of the peloton. Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) finished 2nd, and Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) was 3rd.
Debusschere was the only rider who finished with the breakaway out of the original seven-rider group that gained an advantage after more than 100km of racing. Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal) bridged to that group, and eventually Bak and Debusschere only remained ahead. But four other riders including Kristoff, Devolder, Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), and Sven Erik Bystrom (Katusha) bridged to those two with a little more than 20km to go.
The gap eventually went out to more than 40 seconds, and the gap remained at 34" with 2.6km left in the stage.
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Fabio Sabatini finished 23rd.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to 217.2km Stage 2 in Zottegem.
"I had not so good luck today," Guillame Van Keirsbulck, defending winner of the race, said. "I had a flat tire on the Haaghoek, I was sitting around 10th position. We decided to go on the Haaghoek and the Leberg with a small group, but for me it was a bad moment. Nobody knew I had a flat and I had to wait for the last men of the peloton to get a new wheel. It was too long of a wait. I tried to go to the front again but it was impossible to come back. I did my best to minimize time gaps, but it was just bad timing. It's too bad this has affected my chances to defend myself as the winner of this race, but the race is not yet over. Tomorrow will be another difficult day with the wind, and we will try to do something good as a team."more information
Etixx - Quick-Step has announced the selection that will participate in Driedaagse de Panne - Koksijde, a 539.2km race from March 31st until April 2nd. The race includes 201.6km Stage 1, with 13 Belgian climbs (Hellingen) along the parcours from De Panne to Zottegem, but the race then descends into the finish. Stage 2 in Zottegem consists of 217.2km of racing, with five hellingen in the middle of the parcours including the Kemmelberg, but a local circuit of three laps and an undulating final kilometers before a flat finish. Finally, Stage 3a and 3b on the same day include a 111.4km Stage 3a with plenty of ups and downs, but the race has ended in a sprint in past years. Stage 3b, a 14.2km ITT, is far from simplistic. The seaside time trial could include wind as a factor and the parcours features several out-and-backs, with roundabouts connecting them.
The selection if Etixx - Quick-Step includes Iljo Keisse, winner of Ronde van Zeeland Seaports, Yves Lampaert, winner of Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen overall, Fabio Sabatini, Julien Vermote, Mark Renshaw, and the defending overall winner Guillaume Van Keirsbulck.
Gent - Wevelgem is typically known as a sprinter's classic, but due to incredibly bad weather, including crosswinds that blew riders off bikes and all over the road, the race was far from conducive for a group arrival.
Luca Paolini (Katusha) won the 240km race on Sunday solo, attacking out of a seven rider group. The group included Etixx - Quick-Step rider Niki Terpstra, who was 2nd, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), finishing 3rd, and Stijn Vandenbergh, crossing in 4th. The group caught solo rider Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) with 17.7km to go after he had been away — after catching and dropping Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo)— since 74.9km to go. He gained a maximum advantage of more than two minutes, but it was not enough to hold off a group that included Paolini, Thomas, Daniel Oss (BMC Racing Team), Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal), Terpstra, and Vandenbergh.
By the time the small group closed in on Roelandts the peloton was well out of contention, and was reduced to a small number. Oss had lost contact in the process of chasing down Roelandts.
Terpstra suffered a mechanical around the time Roelandts was caught, but made his way back to the group and attacked immediately. From that moment until the final winning move of Paolini there was attack after attack, with Vandenbergh and Terpstra both present and accelerating several times. Paolini rode away from the group with 6.3km to go and was able to hold his advantage until he crossed the line solo. Terpstra tried an attack with 5.5 and 3.5 kilometers to go, but both were marked and the gap to Paolini could not be closed. Debusschere and Vanmarcke were both distanced during the attempts to chase. Terpstra and Thomas crossed behind Paolini together, and Vandenbergh not long after those two.
Many riders crashed and abandoned the race early on. Others simply lost contact as the race was split into many echelons at one point, then was split into two groups, followed by two groups becoming one peloton with less than 100km to go. Etixx - Quick-Step still had Matteo Trentin, Zdenek Stybar, Terpstra, Vandenbergh, and Nikolas Maes present at the moment the two groups rejoined.
"I had some bad luck I had to work through at this race," Terpstra said. "When we reached the Casselberg, and I had a flat on top. But at that moment there was 10 groups due to the wind. There were no cars behind us, so I took a wheel of someone standing there with a spare and I pursued. Then we started catching group-by-group and we worked together so we could come back to the first and we did it. Then in a key moment moment when a select group formed in the front with Vandenbergh, Thomas, and others, I hesitated a bit and I lost the momentum to be together with them. At a certain moment when the gap was almost a minute I decided to go and it is not even just a a time trial to make it to the group. It is really full gas, maximum effort, until you can catch them. Otherwise you won't make it. I was able to catch them, even though it cost me a lot. I tried my best to recover at that point. Then I had another flat tire in another key moment. But OK, even with these things in my legs already, I have to say Paolini deserved the victory today. He was already going so fast when he attacked and there was a tailwind. We would have had to do almost 65 kilometers per hour to catch him. It was really hard. He simply did the right attack in a good moment. So all I could do in the end was my best for a second place, and I have to say I am happy with my sprint. I made the best of my situation I think. I felt strong and now I know what I can do if I am there in the final. Considering everything, including the conditions which were crazy and riders blowing off the road, I am happy I stayed on the bike and was there to decide this hectic race. We also showed again that we have a strong team who can be there in the actions. The first step after this race is to recover, then fine tune the condition before De Ronde. My condition is there and we will see what I can do going forward."
Mark Cavendish crashed twice, the second time in a big crash involving teammates Lukasz Wisniowski and Martin Velits. Velits and Wisniowski withdrew from the race, with a confirmed fractured right collarbone for Velits. Wisniowski fell hard on his right knee and the pain was too much to continue. More information will be available about those two riders in the next days.
Cavendish was able to chase back and made it with a front echelon when the race was split into small groups in brutal crosswinds. But someone made contact with the front wheel of Cavendish, damaging it and causing him to stop with a mechanical. At that moment, between two crashes and already using energy to chase back two times, it was too late to return to the group and he also withdrew from the race.
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Rigoberto Uran confirmed a 5th place GC finish after placing 7th in the 126.6km Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 7 on Sunday, as the race came back together with 13.5km to go and ended in a bunch finish.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won the stage, and Richie Porte (Team Sky) won the overall. Uran contested the sprint after being well protected by his team all day.
Bryan Coquard (Europcar) was 2nd in the group arrival, and Sergei Chernetski (Katusha) was 3rd.
Gianluca Brambilla also finished 10th in the stage.
Etixx - Quick-Step finished 2nd in three different stages: Uran in Stages 3 and 5, and Julian Alaphilippe in Stage 6.
"We were really full gas today, from the start until the finish line," Uran said. "We tried to do something to maybe help me move up in the overall classification, but the speed in the local circuit was too high, so we focused on defending out position. The team was strong around me and I'm happy with their great support today.. Considering my 5th place finish in the GC, I was also 3rd at Tirreno-Adriatico. So for me these results are in line with my progress at this point of the year. When compared to last year this is a completely different situation. I maybe had one situation in the queen stage where in the last kilometer I missed my chance to be on the overall podium. But it is like that in cycling, where the race can be decided in a brief moment. I think we did a great job as a team and we can come out of this race satisfied. Now I go back to Colombia to recover and then I will begin training. I want to train in the mountains but also on my time trial bike. Then I will come back to Europe for Tour de Romandie and I will ride this race in function of the Giro d'Italia, the big objective of my year. As a team we believe we are in good way to do something good for the next months. We have to keep working hard and do our best to keep up this good momentum."more information
Etixx - Quick-Step riders Julian Alaphilippe and Carlos Verona made a 21-rider breakaway at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 6 on Saturday, and Alaphiippe placed 2nd after launching early in the small group sprint and being pipped at the line by Sergei Chernetski (Katusha).
Etixx - Quick-Step riders Julian Alaphilippe and Carlos Verona made a 21-rider breakaway at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 6 on Saturday, and Alaphiippe placed 2nd after launching early in the small group sprint, but being pipped at the line by Sergei Chernetski (Katusha).
Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) was 3rd. Verona placed 10th, 3" down in the breakaway that was down to about 13 riders going into the final kilometers thanks to relentless attacking, including some accelerations from Verona. The breakaway maintained gap of around two and a half minutes as they headed toward the last kilometers of the race. Alaphilippe saved his energy in anticipation of a sprint toward the back of the group, but always keeping with the accelerations.
Steven Kruijswijk (Lotto NL - Jumbo) tried to go solo, but was caught inside 1km to go. Georg Preidler (Giant Alpecin) then tried his own attack, which was short lived as Alaphilippe went over the top of him in an attempt to win solo. Alaphilippe was caught just meters before the line.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to a final, 126.6km Stage 7 in Barcelona on Sunday. This stage includes a local circuit with Category 3 climb Alt de Montjuic.
Rigoberto Uran remains in 5th GC, 18" down.
"Today the team decided to be part of the action and make it into the breakaway," Alaphilippe said. "We thought after some very hard stages in the previous days it would be the right day to go. There was a lot of wind when we entered, but we went full gas and we stayed at that level the whole day. But it was really nice to be in this breakaway, as we collaborated really well. In the final I had good legs. Carlos tried attacking with about 12km to go in the stage, but it was brought back and after that it was just constant attacking until the last kilometer. I was looking at Preidler because to me he was the freshest. When he attacked I decided to make my move and take the risk to follow him. I caught him and countered immediately. I thought I could win in that moment, but they passed me at the line. To be honest, I'm really sad about it. It was a great chance and I lost it. In cycling these opportunities don't happen often. Last year I had another stage where I was 2nd, but it was my first year as a professional and it was easier to accept the result. This time it is a hard 2nd place to accept. But I have to turn the page and be optimistic. My condition is there. During the winter I had problems with my left knee and together with the team I decided to take the time to recover, and then I worked again to find the right fitness level. The team gave me a chance to ride in Paris-Nice and, as a French rider, this was a big boost of morale to ride in a French race alongside riders like Michal Kwiatkowski, Tony Martin, and Tom Boonen. When the team then asked me to ride this race I was over the moon. I am thankful for my selection at this race and I hope to finish my job tomorrow for Rigo, in the best way possible, and stay motivated for the Ardennes Classics and support our leader there."
"Today we have another 2nd place at this race," Sport Director Brian Holm said. "But the good news is it's clear Julian has come back strong after his knee problem. He showed his potential today and he was really close to victory. For him, it is just a question of time. The fact that we finished 2nd three times in Catalunya shows our strength as a team. Now we will stay focused for the stage of tomorrow. Rigo has been a great road captain and we are putting our full support behind him all the way to the finish line."more information