Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) proved his incredible strength at Scheldeprijs today as he powered away from the rest of the field with an impressive solo attack.
The Norwegian broke away from the leading group with 7km still left in the race, and without a counter-attack forthcoming, he managed to build a gap of over 20 seconds as he crossed the line. Comfortably crossing the line in first-place, no other rider had an answer to deal with Kristoff.
Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) benefitted from his team's tactics on the day to finish second, while Sam Welsford (Team DSM) rounded off the podium. However, neither rider was strong enough to stick with Kristoff on his insurmountable attack.
Elsewhere, Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) finished over three minutes behind the leaders, on what proved a miserable day for the sprinter.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The oldest race in Flanders, Scheldeprijs traces 125km of Dutch roads across the windy Zeeland region, showing the riders opting for echelon formations to deal with the crosswinds. Finishing with three laps and the traditional run into Schoten, riders had the best part of 200km to complete.
An Alpecin-Fenix duo of Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier and a Bora-Hansgrohe quartet - which included Sam Bennett, Ryan Mullen, Danny van Poppel and Jordi Meeus - were among 13 riders who created a comfortable gap in the peloton early in the race. Their lead continued to rise over the 130km they led the race, and as the riders approached the final lap of Schoten they had built up over two minutes over the chasing group.
Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) failed to respond with his teammates when the 13-strong leaders pulled away, and with 30km left in the race he gave his teammates a knowing pat on the back. The Dutchman seemed to accept at that moment that the chance to reel the leaders in had gone, having worked incredibly hard for over 60km to try and bring the deficit down.
With 13km left, Ryan Mullen and Daniel McLay (Arkéa Samsic) opted to accelerate and create some chaos, but Sam Bennett looked like he was lagging considerably at the back of the front pack. A flat tire further compounded the Irishman's misery, as he was dropped from the leaders.
Multiple riders continued to launch attacks heading into the final 10km, but none failed to stick until Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) shot off from everyone with 7km left, with the rest of the leaders failing to react. Arguments ensued as they tried to decide who should quell the attack, with Tim Merlier once again riding for his Alpecin-Fenix teammate Philipsen.
Kristoff managed to maintain his lead, however, as the Norwegian simply powered away from everyone else along the flat roads. His lead grew and grew, rising to 23 seconds with just 2km left in the race, with little response coming from the group chasing him.
Eventually, the Norwegian crossed the line 24 seconds ahead of second-placed Van Poppel and third-placed Welsford, though he could have commanded an even more resounding result had he unnecessarily continued to power towards the line.
Tim Merlier even managed to offer Kristoff congratulations once he had finished, commending him for the unbelievable effort no one else had an answer to today at Schelderprijs.
SCHELDEPRIJS 2022: TERNEUZEN - SCHOTEN (198.7KM)
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, in 4-04-54
2. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 24s
3. Sam Welsford (Aus) Team DSM, at same time
4. Casper van Uden (Ned) Team DSM, at 26s
5. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
6. Daniel McLay (GBr) Arkéa Samsic, at 28s
7. Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, at same time
8. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
9. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
10. Ryan Mullen (Ire) Bora-Hansgrohe
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