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Greg Van Avermaet out sprints Peter Sagan to defend Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title

Jack Elton-Walters
25 Feb 2017

Sep Vanmarcke came third as Greg Van Avermaet beat Peter Sagan to win his second Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) successfully defended his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title as he got the better of his breakaway companions Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) to take the win.

The top three finishers had been away in a range of groups and splits since they followed an attack up the Taaienberg. The rider who attacked then was Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), but the pace soon got the better of him and he was out of contention.

With 42.1km to go, Sagan, Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke and Alexis Gougeard caught and joined the day's original breakaway. At the same time, a large chase group formed - which included Ian Stannard (Team Sky) - and the expectation was that they'd get back on terms with the leaders.

However, the gap never got below about 25 seconds and held for many kilometres at 30 seconds.

In the front group, the next attack came from Vanmarcke, which put the riders from the initial break in all sorts of bother and before long the eventual podium group of three was away and clear once they'd shifted Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) and Justin Jules (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect).

Heading up the Lippenhovestraat, the last significant cobbled sector of the race, the select group of three began to work well together and despite the size and potential firepower of the chasers, this looked to be the winning move.

Behind them a group of 12 containing Stuyven, Luke Rowe (Team Sky) and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) - but importantly no sign of Stannard - were still dangling at 30 seconds behind the leaders.

This gap was maintained and barely threatened, then with under 10km to the finish line when it started to increase as the chasers lost heart and stopped working well together.

Into the finish funnel, Sagan was on the front of the trio with 300 metres to go and it was Vanmarcke who tried his luck first. That attack came to nil and Van Avermaet took it up.

Sagan chased but couldn't get back on terms and Greg Van Avermaet crossed the line first to defend his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title.

Tom Boonen crashes at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The most decisive event of the race came with 62.6km left to the finish, when a crash took down a large number of riders.

Within the group of riders to come off and hit the cobbles were Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin).

The latter looked particularly uncomfortable as he was helped up by a soigneur, while the former mounted a new bike and began to ride again.

Despite that, later in the race news came through that Boonen had abandoned. He looked to be uninjured so his swansong at Paris-Roubaix looks to still be on the cards.