Belgium Tour Stage 2: Boonen Wins Knokke-Heist Bunch Sprint!
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Tom Boonen won the Knokke-Heist group arrival at Baloise Belgiun Tour for the second consecutive year, beating Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) at the end of the 178.5km 2nd Stage on Thursday.
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Nikolas Maes set the tempo on the front of the peloton going into the final few hundred meters, and Boonen launched with great position just a few riders back, on the wheel of Demare. Despite a brief uphill kick in the final meters, Boonen launched and held his power until the line. Yves Lampaert, the top GC rider for Etixx - Quick-Step going into the stage after placing 8th in the prologue, also crossed in 9th place.
Five riders of Etixx - Quick-Step moved to the front in the final few kilometers as they made sure to bring back Sander Cordeel (Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace) in time for the final kilometer. Cordeel went solo out of the original breakaway when the gap was dropping to less than 30 seconds. Despite a fight for good position in time for the sprint, Etixx - Quick-Step placed Boonen perfectly to get his first win of the 2015 season.
Boonen's victory is the 29th on the road for Etixx - Quick-Step this year.
Julien Vermote crashed during the stage, but without consequences.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to 201.1km Stage 3, from Knokke Heist to Herzele. The parcours is up and down and includes a local circuit, with climbs like the Wolvenberg, Valkenberg, Leberg, and Berendries.
"Today we had the first road stage of Tour of Belgium, a classic stage that is almost the same every year," Boonen said. "It was pretty windy but the wind was not in the right direction to split the group with echelons and make any big gaps. So we decided to go for the sprint instead. I think everyone did a perfect job helping me out. In the end I made the right decision to stay with Demare, just let him do his sprint. I waited for the last 50 meters when the road started to go uphill to pass him. I like this finish. It isn't so explosive, which suits my skills. I'm also really happy with the win today because I am coming back from some bad luck in the first part of the season with my injury. I had to work hard to get back to this kind of condition and I will continue to build on it day-by-day. I've won this stage five times and I will do my best for a good result again tomorrow."