Dwars Door Vlaanderen: Maes 6th, Two OPQS Make Select Group
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team riders Stijn Vandenbergh and Nikolas Maes worked their way into a 10 rider select group, and Vandenbergh led eight chasers for the final kilometers to catch an attacking Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) just 10m before the finish line at 200km Dwars Door Vlaanderen on Wednesday. Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini - Selle Italia) won the race. Borut Bozic (Astana Pro Team) was 2nd, Mathew Hayman (Team Sky ProCycling) was 3rd.
Maes finished 6th as the select group gained their gap battling several of the 13 climbs, which all were in the second half of the race. Vandenbergh showed his strength with a little more than 34km to go, attacking the peloton and catching Hayman ahead solo after OPQS teammate Gert Steegmans had lost contact with his break mate.
Steegmans had been away with a group of 14 riders since about 95km to go, but the break dwindled with each passing climb, and Vandenbergh eventually attacked when that breakaway was caught with the exception of Hayman. They were eventually also joined by Gatto. The race predictably animated during the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs.
Maes, Vandenbergh, and the others in the 10 rider escape group maintained a 55" gap to the peloton with 19km to go. They also had a 19" gap on a chase group that included OPQS teammate Niki Terpstra.
However, the select group kept building their gap, and the peloton was down to a small group of riders after many had abandoned. As it became increasingly clear that the finish would be contested by the 10 riders, Voeckler accelerated with 7km to go. Voeckler built his advantage to 17" with 3km to go, but as he passed the 1km point, he was suffering and the time difference was down to 9". Vandenbergh used up all he had in his legs catching Voeckler, rolling in completely spent from his effort.