Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) put in a powerful sprint from a reduced group to take victory in the 2019 Ghent-Wevelgem.
The Norwegian launched from a perfect position after jumping onto the wheel of the attacking Direct Energie rider Damien Gaudin, and launched his sprint in the middle of the road with just under 100 metres to go. No-one was able to match his speed, with John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) attempting to latch on to his wheel. They could do nothing to stop Kristoff though, who won clear ahead of former winner Degenkolb with Naesen in third.
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A sprint hadn’t looked inevitable with a four-man group getting away with 5km to go after Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) attacked.
Jack Bauer (Mitchelton-Scott), Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education First) and Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Jumbo-Visma) were the riders to join him, and they made to within the final kilometre before they were caught by the peloton having hesitated.
How it happened
Unusually an early break wasn’t able to get away in the 2019 Ghent-Wevelgem, with over 50km passing by in the 251.5km race with no attackers able to stay away.
With 197km to go though a split in the bunch saw a group of big name riders go clear, with Peter Sagan, Pascal Ackermann, Rüdy Selig (all Bora-Hansgrohe), Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Wout van Aert, Maarten Wynants, Mike Teunissen, Taco van der Hoorn, Danny van Poppel (all Jumbo-Visma), Luke Rowe (Sky), Cees Bol (Sunweb), John Degenkolb, Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven, Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), Niki Terpstra (Direct Energy), Jan-Willem Van Schip (Roompot) all in the front group.
They gained an advantage of over a minute, with Lotto-Soudal and CCC Team doing a lot of the chasing having failed to put a rider in the group
Over the Kemmelberg with 75km to go Van Aert put the pressure on to cause a reduction in numbers in the front group, but it was an uncategorised climb with 67km remaining that caused more damage, with four riders in Sagan, Trentin, Teunissen and Theuns escaping with the gap down to around 35 seconds.
That grew for them to a maximum advantage of 49 seconds with 50km to go, but the gap was narrow enough that Rowe was then able to bridge across from the peloton with 43km to go.
The now five riders in front worked well together to maintain a gap, but there was little they could do against the numbers of Deceuninck-Quick-Step, who were working hard to peg them back in service of their sprinter Elia Vivini. The gap was now drifting, with just nine seconds in hand with 20km to go.
With 18km to go they were brought back, with Rowe hanging out front for an extra kilometre in an attempted solo counter. Quick-Step continued to lead the peloton, but were down to just Zdeněk Štybar and Philippe Gilbert who were having to mark a number of attacks.
With those two now beginning to tire, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) attacked with 5km to go with Jack Bauer (Mitchelton-Scott), Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education First) and Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Jumbo-Visma) all following.
A lull in the pace from the peloton gave them around 100m advantage, and into the final 2km it looked as though they may have a chance if they could just keep their work ethic going.
Štybar and Gilbert were somehow able to muster some more energy to return to the front and pull things back, with some hesitation in the front four playing into the peloton’s hands as they were caught just under the flamme rouge.
It was now down to the sprinters to duel it out, however last year’s runner-up Viviani looked to be out of position and boxed in by other riders as they entered the final 200m.
Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) tried an early sprint to take the win, but that move gave Alexander Kristoff the perfect lead out towards the line.
By the time he had launched his powerful sprint it was too late for anyone to react in time to catch him, with John Degenkolb and Oliver Naesen only able to follow him to take podium spots as Kristoff celebrated victory.
Ghent-Wevelgem 2019 (251.5km)
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, in 5-26-04
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
3 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus
5 Danny van Poppel (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
6 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
7 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
8 Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
9 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
10 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin, all same time