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Greg Van Avermaet wins Gent-Wevelgem to take hat-trick of Classics

Pete Muir
26 Mar 2017

The Olympic Champion beats the World Champion once again in 2017

Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing won Gent-Wevelgem to complete a hat-trick of Classics, having won E3 Harelbeke just two days before, and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February.

The Belgian Classics specialist held off Orica-Scott’s Jens Keukeleire in a final sprint for the line, with last year’s winner, Peter Sagan, leading the chasing group home to take third place on the podium.

The 249km race is often known as the ‘Sprinters' Classic’ owing to its flat final run-in, but 11 climbs along the way (including two visits to the cobbled 23% Kemmelberg) and crosswinds tend to mean it favours the strong Classics riders.

The likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Tom Boonen have both won multiple times.

Sunny weather made it this year’s race less attritional than recent years, but there were still a number of crashes as the riders in the main peloton fought for position on narrow roads.

The cobbled sections were this year joined by three ‘Plugstreet’ sectors – dirt roads that kicked up clouds of dust and provided attacking opportunities.

Despite attempts to break up the main group by the likes of Bernhard Eisel (Dimension Data), Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors), the majority of the favourites were still together when the last remnants of the original breakaway group were mopped up with 40km to go.

The definitive move came on the second climb of the Kemmelberg, when Van Avermaet attacked, taking Sagan and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) with him.

They were joined by a bunch that included Edvald Boassen Hagen (Dimension Data) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb), creating a group of 14 at the front.

With 20km to go, the front group split again, with Sagan and Van Avermaet dragging Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) and Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) with them.

Eventually, Van Avermaet and Keukeleire pulled ahead as the other three argued amongst themselves.

Sagan’s trio chased hard in the final 10km, but couldn’t catch the two up front, and they had a comfortable gap by the time they arrived at the flamme rouge.

Van Avermaet led out, and managed to outsprint Keukeleire in the final metres to take his third Classics win of the year and move to the top of the UCI world rankings.