Laporte triumphs hand in hand with Van Aert
Frenchman Christophe Laporte was victorious in the Vanackerestraat in Wevelgem after a two-man escape with teammate Wout van Aert. Vanmarcke won the sprint for third place.
It was in the pouring rain that the riders started their journey through Flanders Fields. After about 13 km, the early breakaway was made: Askey (Groupama – FDJ), Jacobs (Movistar Team), Fretin (Team Flanders-Baloise), Van Boven (Bingoal WB), Joyce (Human Powered Health) and Van Hoecke (AG2R Citroën Team) got away together. The latter left the group riding at the front not much later. The first race hour was fast; no less than 47 km stood on the clock after one hour of cycling.
After 54 km, Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën), Wallays (Cofidis) and Fedorov (Astana Qazaqstan Team) tried to close the gap with the leading group. Teunissen (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Van Poucke (Team Flanders-Baloise), Van Keirsbulck (Bingoal WB), Reinders (Team Jayco Alula), Biermans (Team Arkea – Samsic) and Dujardin (TotalEnergies) also took early flight from the peloton. With 168 km to go, we then had a group of 14 riders in front formed in three steps.
Their maximum lead was 3’26”, but once in the Moeren, Soudal Quick-Step opened the throttle and the lead of the frontrunners dropped to below 3 minutes. Because of the rain, falls were also part of the story of the race. Ganna and Kwiatkowski (INEOS Grenadiers), among others, had to abandon the race after a fall. For his part, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin – Deceuninck) suffered a flat tyre just before the first passage through the hill zone.
On the first climb of the Kemmelberg, it was Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) who accelerated away. He was joined by Vermeersch (Lotto Dstny), Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), Turner (INEOS Grenadiers), Turgis (TotalEnergies), Laporte (Jumbo-Visma), Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Resell (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) and Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).
On the Plugstreets, it was European champion Jakobsen chasing the head of the race. At the front, the chasers joined the leading group. Not long after Jakobsen ran into a chasse-patat, the leading group and peloton also melted back together just before the second climb of Monteberg. At 55km from the line, everything was redone.
On the second climb of the Kemmelberg it was favourite Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) who unleashed his devils. He accelerated and was only joined by teammate Laporte. The two started a clutch time trial towards Wevelgem. On the third and final climb of the Kemmelberg, Van Aert went to test his legs. Teammate Laporte had to let go, but was able to rejoin Van Aert at the top.
The teammates eventually rode smoothly to a lead of more than 2 minutes and decided the win in the streets of Wevelgem. In the background, it was Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates), Frison (Lotto Dstny) and Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech) who looked for third place from the chasing group.
At the front, meanwhile, it was Laporte who completed the party. He celebrated hand-in-hand with teammate Van Aert. In the background, it was Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) who was still able to cross to the chasing group. In a finish of dying swans, it was experienced rider Vanmarcke who drew the longest straw for 3rd place.