Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) put in an impressive sprinting performance to win Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde in Belgium on Wednesday.
The Italian had looked like he was boxed in heading into the final 500 metres, but accelerated through his rivals to claim the victory.
Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the only rider to come home within a bike-length of Viviani to claim second, with Jasper Philipsen (Hagens Berman Axeon) in third.
It's the latest victory for Viviani in what has already been a successful debut season with Quick-Step Floors, with stage wins in the Tour Down Under, Abu Dhabi Tour, and two stage wins and the overall victory in the Dubai Tour.
How it happened
The day's escape group took a short while to form up after the start in Bruges. After 30km, six riders had clipped off the front of the peloton: Sean Bennett (Hagens Berman Axeon), David Boucher (Tarteletto-Isorex-SH), Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport), Brian van Goethem (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Ylber Safer (Tarteletto-Isorex-SH) and Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare).
After the opening cobbled sector of the race, the break was enjoying a significant margin over the peloton of nearly nine minutes.
By the half-way point of the 202.4km race, the gap had shrunk to just under five minutes. There was plenty of movement in the peloton, with a couple of crashes and crosswinds playing a part in creating splits.
With 50km to go, the peloton largely came back together. Up front, the break was working very well together, although their advantage dipped to below two minutes. The tall figure of Dunne was noticeable at the head of the escape, putting in strong turns.
Several teams put riders at the front of the peloton, with Quick-Step Floors, Lotto-Soudal and Bora-Hansgrohe keeping themselves in the thick of the action. Through the narrow roads into the final 40km, the peloton resembled a tadpole, with a bulbous mass of riders at the front and a long line of riders tailing off the back of them.
With 35km to go, the peloton split again after a tight corner and onto an exposed section of road between flat fields. The front group were keen to keep the split open, and so the pace was significantly increased to the detriment of the break.
As the break headed into the finishing circuit they held on to a slim 30-second lead.
Putt was the first to drop out of the escape and rejoin the peloton with 21km to go.
Lotto-Soudal hit the front of the bunch with 9km to go and forced a break in the peloton, joined by riders from Quick-Step and Bora-Hansgrohe. Several echelons formed behind them, splintering the race into pieces.
Up front, van Goethem gave one last effort at the front before they were joined by the front group from the peloton within 5km to go.
A large chase group was strung out in an attempt to make the junction with the leaders before the finish – and they achieved their aim with 4km to go.
Bora-Hansgrohe did much of the pace-making into the finish, with Quick-Step further back. Maximiliano Richeze was Viviani's lead-out man but looked to have lost his leader at one point. Viviani did not panic despite being slightly boxed in, and opened up his sprint to take the victory.
Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde was formerly a three-day race, but changed to a single day men's race for 2018 followed by a single-day elite women's race on Thursday, March 22. The event's organisers are aiming to create a two-day men's race in 2019, and are hoping for UCI WorldTour status.
Top-level racing continues in Belgium on Friday, with E3 Harelbeke.
Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde: Bruges to De Panne, 202.4km
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
2. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Hagens Berman Axeon
4. Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
5. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
6. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
7. Roy Jans (Bel) Cibel-Cebon
8. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Cofidis
9. Adam Blythe (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport
10. Eduard Grosu (Rom) Nippo–Vini Fantini
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