By Owen Rogers
Former Belgian champion Yves Lampaert won the final northern classic of the year with a six kilometre solo move in a wind ravaged race.
The Belgian rider was part of an eight man group which formed in the final 15km of the Three Days of De Panne, and attacked with three team mates in the group behind no one would commit to a concerted chase.
Alpecin-Fenix rider Jonas Rickaert did his best to bring team mate Tim Merlier for a sprint, but was unable to close the gap, Lampaert taking the win by 21 seconds. Inside the final kilometre Lampaert’s Deceuninck-Quickstep team mate broke clear and finished second, with Merlier winning the sprint, taking third place.
The race was ravaged by brutal winds, with Tour of Flanders winner Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) the most notable casualty. The Dutch champion was part of the final selection, and was close to the grass verge, sheltering from the wind when he was edged into a ditch as a gust caused a ripple in the leading group.
Though he appeared dazed, Van der Poel was conscious and was helped into the team car.
How it happened
Near gale force winds whipping across the flat lands of northern Belgium promised a fitting close to the 2020 northern classics season. Sure enough, not long after the peloton rolled out of Brugge for what was scheduled to be a 202.6km race to De Panne, the wind played its irresistible hand and the peloton was split to pieces, a period of complete, glorious chaos following.
With only 25km done a group was leading the race by 1.30, and over the ensuing kilometres that shrunk and grew repeatedly, changes of direction taking their toll. With nearly 52km ridden in the first hour, and just after they reached three and a half laps of the 46km closing circuit, 23 riders led the race but around one minute.
With the peloton’s deficit settling stubbornly around 50 seconds, Hugo Hofstetter (Israel Startup Nation) made it 24 men from 13 teams, though that soon changed when Frederik Frison (Lotto-Soudal) crashed out.
Though the pace eventually settled on the first lap and the peloton were unable to close the gap, the leaders working well together, and it was only the second time round, well inside the closing 100km that the gap began to close.
However, with the conditions deteriorating and the wind strengthening to around 50kph, race direction, in conjunction with team and the race jury, decided to shorten the final lap to 31km, a decision which seemed galvanise the 22 man leading group. What had been an advantage of only 20 seconds, was soon approaching one minute as the race entered its final 50km.
With Deceuninck-Quickstep and Alpecin-Fenix far stronger than the other squads in the the group which was unbalanced so, with 38km remaining, they upped the pace again, further reducing it to just 15 riders, a gap forming when Piotr Havik (Riwal Securitas) crashed after being caught in a gust of wind.
With the peloton out of contention, a period of relative calm followed until, deep in the final lap the two squads combined again to split the group further, though they only managed to distance Hofstetter and Alpecin-Fenix’s own Alexander Krieger.
It was here that Van der Poel was edged into a roadside ditch while trying to shelter as Deceuninck-Quickstep pushed the pace up in more crosswinds.
Seven riders emerged from the chaos, including four from the Belgian squad, but also sprinters Matteo Trentin (CCC-Liv) John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Van der Poel’s team mate Tim Merlier, with a father Alpecin-Fenix rider, Jonas Rickaert getting back in.
Lampaert made his first move 8.6km from the line, before Declerq also had a go, both moves forcing Rickaert to work. When Lampaert made the race winning effort the group was unable to respond, though Declerq tried more than once before finally pulling clear to ensure a one-two for Deceuninck-Quickstep.
Three Days Brugge Depanne: Brugge - Depanne (188.7km)
1. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep in 3-57-12
2. Tim Declerq (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep at 21 sec
3. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix at 22 sec
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
5. Jempy Drucker (Lux) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Matteo Trentin (Ita) CCC
7. Bert van Lerberghe (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep
8. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ
9. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quickstep at same time
10. Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix at 28 sec
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