Gent-Wevelgem review: Sagan wheelies his way to victory

Gent-Wevelgem logoPeter Sagan rode to success in Gent-Wevelgem, accelerating out of an elite breakaway group in the closing kilometres to take a solo victory and – in typical Sagan style – wheelie over the line. Following behind were Borut Bozic and Greg Van Avermaet, who finished second and third respectively.

Peter Sagan 2013 Gent-Wevelgem

Not one for finish line understatement! (image courtesy of Cannondale)

Race summary

Interestingly the race started with a strong group of favourites getting off the front of the peloton, containing Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and three of his teammates, including Mark Cavendish. Also escaping was a Sky trio headed by Bernie EiselAndre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), Lars Boom (Blanco), Daniel Oss and Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale).

However, there was a key rider missing – Fabian Cancellara. The RadioShack-Leopard favourite didn’t make the group, meaning that his team quickly looked to shut it down, and did so before it could cause real problems. In the notorious Belgian crosswinds few moves stuck for long, though one which did was launched by Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) just inside the 90km mark. Going with the Spanish Classics specialist were Assan Bazayev (Astana) and Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ), with the trio opening up a gap of over a minute in just a few kilometres. The peloton behind had been whittled down to around 60 riders, with Cancellara and then Boonen withdrawing in quick succession inside the final 70km – the latter having fallen, complaining about being pushed into a kerb by another rider.

With not much happening for the next few kilometres, the action resumed with 56km to go as IAM’s Heinrich Haussler attacked out of what was left of the peloton. A chase group formed and caught him quickly, with the lead trio being swept up soon after. It left 13 riders leading, in what was an extremely strong group. Sagan had made the split, as had Eisel and BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet.

Lotto Belisol had their representative in Jens Debusschere, though he punctured and dropped out of the group, meaning the Belgian team took up the peloton’s chase with the hope of delivering Andre Greipel to the finish. Despite having their men Eisel and van Avermaet in the escape, Sky and BMC were also contributing to the work in the peloton, with Ian Stannard (Sky) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) buzzing around frustratedly behind, as well as Blanco’s Boom.

However, the chase was never really organised effectively enough to close the gap, which continued to stay at a little over a minute. With 20km remaining the deficit was around 1½ minutes, and whilst over the next 16km – just before Peter Sagan made the winning move – it was cut to just half a minute, it wasn’t enough.

After Stijn Vandenbergh (OPQS) made the first move with 4km, Sagan quickly jumped onto his tail and then attacked himself. As if being the stand-in Cancellara, the Slovak time-trialled his way to the victory, eventually coming across the line on one wheel, 28 seconds ahead of  Borut Bozic (Astana) and van Avermaet  in the group behind. There was simply no stopping him.

Analysis & opinion

As is usually the case in all good Classics, Gent-Wevelgem was a strange, unpredictable sort of race, seemingly with any coherent strategy the teams may have  produced blown away in the crosswinds. The tone was set with the unusually strong and large breakaway group which got away early on, before being quickly shut down.

Riders didn’t seem to know whether or not they should go with the breakaways, and, as is so often the case when crosswinds blow up, it was a case of he who dares wins. Teams were left unsure whether or not they should bring the break back, bearing in mind some had teammates up the road but had their race favourites in the bunch. This led to some non-committal chasing from the confused peloton, and in the end played right into the hands of Peter Sagan and those who were actually up the road.

It was a miserable day for Tornado Tom (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

It was a miserable day for Tornado Tom (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

It was interesting to see Sagan attack so early at the finish, as if to flex his muscles ahead of the Tour of Flanders. He was probably the fastest finisher and easily the strongest rider in the escape group, and there was no real need for him to go so early – other than a sheer demonstration of just how strong he is at the moment. He won’t race Paris-Roubaix, though will ride Flanders, and could well cause an upset there.

On the Roubaix and Flanders note, it was bizarre to see both pre-race favourites retiring today. For Fabian Cancellara there should be no real problems, especially after he  showed his excellent form with the win at E3 Harelbeke on Friday. For Tornado Tom Boonen, things are a little more concerning. Not only is he in slightly shaky form, but he retired after injuring his knee in a crash. Hopefully it won’t keep him out.


1. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) 4:29:10

2. Borut Bozic (Astana) +0:28

3. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) same time

4. Heinrich Haussler (IAM) s/t

5. Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

6. Mattieu Ladagnous (FDJ) s/t

7. Bernhard Eisel (Sky) s/t

8. Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t

9. Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard) s/t

10. Andrey Amador (Movistar) s/t

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Dwars door Vlaanderen review: Gatto by a whisker

Dwars door Vlaanderen logoOscar Gatto timed his finish to perfection, sprinting past a tiring Thomas Voeckler and taking him just metres before the line in Waregem. Slovenian Borut Bozic and Aussie Mattew Hayman were second and third as a devastated Voeckler faded to fifth.

While not quite as thrilling as Sunday’s epic Milan-San Remo, it did reinforce the ambitions of a number of teams and riders. And it’s yet another race won by a ProConti team: Kitty’s beloved glow sticks, Vini Fantini. I thought it appropriate that, despite the cold and wet weather, the Italian victor was wearing just a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. I wonder if the spectators were chanting “Are you Belgian in disguise?”

2013 podium l to right Bozic, Gatto, Hayman (image courtesy of Sky)

2013 podium (l to r) Bozic, Gatto, Hayman (image courtesy of Sky)

Race summary

Dwars door Vlaanderen is a race of two halves: the first one flat, the second hilly and cobbled. It’s one of the warm-up events – a semi-Classic – for the forthcoming cobbled Belgian Classics. Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was back wearing the number one bib and with plenty of firepower on his team to help defend his title.  Not so a number of other one-day specialists who, still suffering from the exigencies of Milan-San Remo, had opted out of competing in the cold, wet conditions so typical in Belgium at this time of year.


Probably in an effort to keep warm, the attacks came thick and fast in the opening kilometres of the race. Initially 13 riders, all from different teams, made the initial break but the peloton was in no mood to let anyone off the leash. A number of those riders persisted and eventually a group of 14 slipped the reins on the Nieuw Kwaremont.

Cofidis’ Romain Zingle led solo over the Berendries, then a group from the original break including Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) and Mathew Hayman (Sky) – bridged, steadily buiulding an advantage of around 90 seconds with 70km left to ride. With no one taking control of the bunch and its pace disrupted by a number of minor crashes, a couple of counter-attacking salvos were fired, largely by Europcar.

Steegmans launched what he hoped would be the decisive attack on the Steenbeekdries. Hayman and then Saramotins joined him. The leading threesome were still about a minute up the road as the peloton approached the Knoteberg for the second time.

Hayman took a flyer from the leading trio and built a small advantage on to the Oude Kwaremount with 25km to go. Behind him, Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana), showing no after-effects from his endeavours at the weekend, had launched an attack from the chasing bunch and was followed by a group including Gatto, Borut Bozic (Astana), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Stijn Vandenbergh (OPQS), Ian ‘Hard as Nails’ Stannard (Sky) – another protagonist from Sunday – and Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE). Vandenbergh took charge of the pace-setting only to end up pursuing Hayman on his own as riders were shelled out the back of this chasing group.

With teammate Hayman up front, Stannard initially tried to block the chase but finally led the small chasing pack in pursuit of the leading duo who were soon to be joined firstly by Gatto, then the remaining seven riders making it a ten-man leading pack with 14km still to race and only a 30-second advantage over the peloton.

After the final climb, the Nokereberg, both Keukeleire and Stannard tried unsuccessfully to distance the others. Finally, Voeckler launched one of his trademark attacks amid much face-pulling and he managed to gain just under 20 seconds on the hotly pursuing nine-man pack with only 3km on the flat remaining. Was Tommy home and dry? Vandenbergh and Stannard had other ideas. They slowly whittled away at his lead, providing Gatto, Bozic and Hayman with the perfect launchpad in the dying metres.

After the race, the victor Gatto admitted:

Coming into the last kilometre, I thought Voeckler would make it, to be honest. I took Stannard’s wheel because I had seen how strong he was at Milan-San Remo on Sunday. He went to the front inside the final kilometre which meant that I had to launch my sprint from a long way out.

While a disappointed Voeckler explained:

I started getting cramps in the last 100 metres. I thought I was going to make it, but I could see Stannard pulling in the last kilometre. It’s a pity but that’s racing.

Indeed it is, Tommy!

Analysis & opinion

This is typically one of those races where a rider who’ll be expected to ride in support of his team leader in the upcoming Classics is given an opportunity to ride for himself. Coming so close after an epic Milan-San Remo, and also held in inclement conditions, is it any wonder that the hard men of the peloton prevailed? While it was something of a war of attrition, the podium did feature a rider (Hayman) who had been in the break for most of the day. The other two had remained alert to the possibilities and joined what was to prove the decisive break engineered by Iglinskiy. Many of those who animated the race also figured prominently at the weekend and one would have to conclude they’re in fine form for the forthcoming challenges. Bring on more of those cobbles!

Decisive attack led by Maxim Iglinskiy, look out for him in forthcoming races (image courtesy of Astana)

Decisive attack led by Maxim Iglinskiy. Look out for him in forthcoming races (image courtesy of Astana)


1. Oscar Gatto (Vini-Fantini) 4:43:22

2. Borut Bozic (Astana) same time

3. Mathew Hayman (Sky) s/t

4. Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

5. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) s/t

6. Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t

7. Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t

8. Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) s/t

9. Ian Stannard (Sky) +0:05

10. Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:12

Link: Official website