Earlier in the race, the notable move came from Kevin van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) who launched a solo attack and held off the chasing second group for quite some time, but as the gap reduced it became clear that he would not last until the finish.
With just over 16km left to race, van Melsen was caught by Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Nikolas Maes (Etixx-Quick Step), Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Loic Vliegen (BMC Racing) and Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge). The original leader managed to cling onto the six pursuers as they came past, but did not show at the front of the group again.
Once in the lead this group pushed out their advantage for 25 seconds with 15km to the finish.
After only a kilometre out front Durbridge launched the first attack and after a bit of cat and mouse the group was back together. The change of pace caused them to lose time and the peloton pushed on for the catch.
Next to try his luck was Vliegen, but Benoot was wise to the move and the group came back together. While the leaders looked at each other, the peloton reduced the gap to 12 seconds with 12km to go.
The messing around in the lead group took its toll on their advantage and a small group from the reduced peloton made the junction with 10.8km to the finish.
Having made it back to the front group, Van Avermaet wasted little time and went off the front on his own just before the Nokereberg.
Despite Terpstra taking up the chase, Van Avermaet pushed his advantage out to 15 seconds as he passed under the 5km banner. Sensing the danger of this move the peloton pushed on, reducing the gap by seven seconds in 2km.
Terpstra continued to lead the chase as the riders passed under the red kite. Van Avermaet faded and the sprinters came through.
Dwars door Vlaanderen 2016 (199.7km)
1. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
2. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Énergie
3. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
4. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Southeast-Venezuela
5. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
6. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Tinkoff
8. Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18
9. Mike Teunissen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
10. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Etixx-Quick Step
Women’s Dwars door Vlaanderen
Ahead of the men’s race, the women took to the course. In-form world champion Lizzie Armitstead was absent from the race as she was at a launch event for the Women’s Tour de Yorkshire.
The women’s Dwars ended with Wiggle-High5 taking the top two steps on the podium. Amy Pieters won the sprint from a small front peloton and her teammate and local Belgian Jolien D’Hoore came over for second.
British rider and former Wiggle team member Eileen Roe rounded out the podium in third.
With 8km to go there was a lead group of 12 riders with a gap of 40 seconds over the chasing peloton. Topsport took up the chase and the gap started to drop.
The gap dangled at 10 seconds before the peloton was able to close in on the leaders until making the catch with 2km remaining.
A larger group of 36 riders then contested the sprint, out of which Pieters – who had been in the front group during the split – emerged victorious.