A windy day again. A dry one - so far. 12 riders get off - they are Capiot, De Troyer, Dougall, Druyts, Dufrasne, Engoulvent, Mortensen, Pfingsten, Pozzo, Sütterlin, Tedeschi and Vingerling. The peloton agrees and the gap is already 7', 190km to go.
But the break-away has to face a strong headwind, the peloton comes closer.
Still they pass the Kemmelberg ahead, 87 km to go. TFR put the squad in front pulling for Stijn Devolder.
63 km to go gap is dramaticly decreased, under 1', but few km later it starts increasing again. The impression is that the peloton is keeping the break-away on control.
It's a quite boring race. 40 km to go something happens: van Keirsbulck get off the peloton with Boom, Porsev, Vanlandschoot, Zhupa and Vermeulen. Others bridged, the group gets caught, counter attacks follow... As a result the break-away's advantage is down to 19''. Christoph Pfingsten tries to go solo but he can't.
Now it's just three local laps of 12.9 km to the finish. The break-away already crossed once the line. We sea a cold sea and a large desert beach. The gap is up againg, 33''. FDJ and Team Sky are off the front. At the 2nd passage on the line the break-away is almost caught and riders are trying to bridge from the peloton, including De Bie and Bonnet.
20 km to go the race explodes: Bak in Blue Jersey is leading the move. A new front group formed, then they are all together again, while Martin Mortensen tries to stay away. Coenen and Malaguti joins, they have a slight gap. Starting the final lap their advantage is 20". Team Qhubeka is pulling the peloton. Sprinters want their sprint.
6 km to go Team Sky takes the lead. All together 3 km to go. Trains, shoulders against shoulders and eventually heads against heads.
Kristoff. And Viviani. Tough sprint!
"I must really thank my team today. I did not feel so strong but in the end they delivered me perfectly and I could take it home. It was quite technical coming into the end and I lost Jacopo a little bit so I was on Sacha Modolo’s wheel and could start from his wheel. I was leading from the front for a long time and no one could come around so it was a nice victory. I knew it was a hard race today and there would not be many fresh legs at the end. I will try to keep the jersey but the real goal is on Sunday".
Bora Argon 18 DS Enrico Poitschke:
“When Kristoff wins, Viviani is second and we sprint to the podium, we haven’t done anything wrong. Given the competition here, scoring a third place is a great result. We definitely wanted to be part of a larger break-away group, so our sprinters could save some energy in the field. Christoph did exactly that, also with his attacks in the finale. The guys back in the peloton tried to keep a good position and to protect our sprinters, like Shane and Michael. On the final kilometers, the guys found quickly each other and thus they could prepare the sprint optimally. That was a top performance from the whole team”.
TFR DS Dirk Demol:
“We were down to six for the start as it was impossible for Boy [van Poppel] to take the start today with an infection in his eye. The plan was simple: to protect Stijn the maximum today as we are still in the running [for the overall win] with the TT the last day. We can’t say for sure we will win but we can be on the podium, and you never know with Stijn, so I ordered the boys to keep him up front, and be around him all day to give him the maximum protection. And what the boys did today shows they are ready for the big Classics.”
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 5:33:32
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
3 Shane Archbold (NZl) Bora-Argon 18
4 Antoine Demoitie (Bel) Wallonie-Bruxelles
5 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka
7 Raymond Kreder (Ned) Team Roompot
8 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Etixx - Quick-Step
9 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica GreenEdge
10 Rafael Andriato (Bra) Southeast Pro Cycling
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 9:32:43
2 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:16
3 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Soudal 0:00:17
4 Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Team Katusha 0:00:26
5 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky 0:00:48
6 Gerry Druyts (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Continental Team 0:00:50
7 Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:00:52
8 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:54
9 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka
10 Raymond Kreder (Ned) Team Roompot