Hugo Hofstetter broke down in tears after coming out on top in a reduced bunch sprint at the Wallonie cobbled Classic, Le Samyn, on Tuesday.
The Israel Start-Up Nation rider stayed in the leading group, following the right wheels and leaving it late to pass Aimé De Gendt (Circus-Wanty Gobert), winning the sprint relatively comfortably.
Behind Hofstetter and De Gendt was a surprise with 22-year-old David Dekker (SEG Cycling Academy) out sprinting the likes of Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling) to take third place.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step controlled the day trying to set up a sprint finish before their fast-man Álvaro Hodeg was dropped on the final lap.
After that, all the focus was on defending champion, Florian Sénéchal, who managed fifth place in the end.
Frenchman Hofstetter has started this season well and is looking strong in the Classics. He managed sixth place at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday (March 1) along with a top 10 on a stage of the Vuelta a San Juan.
How it happened
A break of six riders that included Brit, Adam Kenway (Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK) got away early on the 201.9km route, but they were caught soon after starting the 26.9km long finishing circuits
The peloton broke down early on the finishing laps with Deceuninck-Quick-Step controlling the pace along with NTT Pro Cycling.
The usual Le Samyn rain started to come down as the peloton split up more and more as they took on the cobbled sections.
The open roads between sectors saw Deceuninck pepper the peloton with attack after attack but none managed to drag anything away.
Two-time winner Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) was dropped on a cobbled sector with 56km to go due to a puncture. While he did manage to get back on as the lull in pace brought the peloton back together, he didn’t manage to make the decisive split.
Sénéchal pushed on the hardest sector and pulled a break of about 20 riders clear, but Circus-Wanty Gobert then had the numbers over Deceuninck and took control.
Sénéchal, along with Alex Kirsch (Trek-Segafredo), David Dekker (SEG Racing Academy) and Michael Gogl (NTT Pro Cycling), then went clear just before the start of the final lap but were brought back going into the final lap of the circuit.
A large peloton went into the final lap. Álvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who was well placed and being worked for, couldn’t handle the pace on the cobbles and lost contact, leaving it up to his team-mates.
Tim De Clercq (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) tried several attacks which were all brought back, before settling in to try and work for Sénéchal.
The final few cobbled sectors split the race to leave just 12 riders up the road, including defencing champion, Sénéchal and sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling).
Kirsch tried various late snipes off the front but didn’t manage to make any move stick.
The Rue de Belle Vue, the final cobbled sector of the circuit, obliterated the group breaking it into two groups of four and seven, dropping Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) out of contention.
The two groups came back together going into the last kilometre where Kirsch tried one last attack.
Clément Venturini (AG2R La Mondiale) went into the last corner in the lead where he was forced to open up his sprint early.
De Gendt and Dekker got by first before Hofstetter powered by in the last 50 metres to take the win.
It’s the French sprinter’s second career win after he took a stage in the Tour de l’Ain.
Le Samyn 2020: Quaregnon to Dour (201.9km)
1. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation
2. Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert
3. David Dekker (Ned) SEG Cycling Academy
4. Clément Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
5. Florian Sénéchal (Fra) Deceuninck-Quick-Step
6. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling
7. Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo
8. Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
9. Tim De Clercq (Bel) Deceuninck-Quick-Step
10. Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Team Total Direct Energie