Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise’s Jelle Wallays edged out Etixx – Quick-Step‘s world champion Michal Kwiatkowski in a four man breakaway group to win Dwars door Vlaanderen.
His teammate Edward Theuns followed in second with Dylan van Baarle and Kwiatkowski rounding out the top four.
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After several earlier breaks and frenetic racing into each section of cobbles, Kwiatkowski put himself in the decisive move of the day when he forced a group away with Wallays and Theuns and Cannondale-Garmin‘s van Baarle.
The group of four pushed out an advantage of over a minute with more than 30km to go, but for a while it looked like the impetus was with the second group on the road who worked well together to reduce the deficit to 43 seconds with 20km to go. The lead group then managed to hold a lead of between 40 and 45 seconds for the next 5km before the chase group really took up the pace and whittled the gap down to 30 seconds across a short number of kilometres.
Despite their progress, disarray soon enveloped the chasers and they stopped working effectively. Seemingly frustrated that the chase group were no longer gaining on the leaders, Vyacheslav Kuznetsov took to the front to drive the pace. With no one coming through to do their turn, the Katusha rider pushed on by himself. His bid to bridge to the lead group was short lived, however, and with 5km to it became clear that barring disaster, the winner would come from one of the lead four.
Still riding together until 1.1km to go, the lead group’s advantage had grown and they were now not going to be caught. Wallays attacked just before the flamme rouge, and Kwiatkowski and van Baarle decided to argue over who should chase, rather than chasing. As Wallays looked back at the unassailable gap and prepared to raise his arms in victory, his team mate Theuns kicked away from his WorldTour opposition and sprinted hard for the line. Van Baarle reacted and almost took second place, but Theuns proved too strong and held on to make it a Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise 1-2.
Dwars door Vlaanderen, 200.2km
1. Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise in 4-35-59
2. Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at 2 seconds
3. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin, st
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx – Quick-Step, at 4 seconds
5. Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step, at 1-20
6. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 1-29
7. Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, st
8. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, st
9. Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, st
10. Alexey Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha, st