Jasper Philipsen put in a phenomenal sprint to deny Sam Bennett and Mark Cavendish after a brutal day of racing in Scheldeprijs 2021.
After crosswinds split the peloton throughout the day of racing, the 2021 edition of the sprinter's semi-Classic came down to a sprint finish from a 30-rider group.
Despite dominating the front group, Deceuninck - Quick-Step weren't able to overcome the challenge from Philipsen and his Alpecin-Fenix team, who fired the Belgian to victory at the line.
Deceuninck rider Bennett was forced to settle for second after getting boxed in the final few hundred metres, while Bennett's team-mate Mark Cavendish finished third to round out the podium.
How it happened
The 2021 edition of the sprinter’s semi-Classic Scheldeprijs was primed to be an exciting battle between some of the best sprinters in the world, most notably Sam Bennett (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Raced over a pan-flat 193.km from Terneuzen to Schoten in the Antwerp area of Belgium, with five cobbled sectors in the closing 60 kilometres.
The drama started before the flag had even dropped, as Arnaud Démare and Groupama-FDJ were forced to pull out of the race at the 11th hour after a coronavirus positive within the team, and the morning’s team presentations were cancelled due to snow.
As the racing finally got underway, the peloton split under the heavy winds after just 15km, with three large groups forming on the road.
The front group contained around 60 riders, with Deceuninck - Quick-Step represented with their strong squad.
After 50km of racing the peloton was whole once again, but almost immediately a crash in the bunch sparked another split in the group, as 13 riders went up the road, including Bennett and his lead-out rider Michael Mørkøv, as well as Ackermann and two of his Bora team-mates.
With just over 100km left to race, that lead group held a 40-second advantage over another group behind, this one 17 riders, including more team-mates for Bennett.
Around 70km from the finish the front two groups merged, giving Bora and Deceuninck dominance in numbers with six riders for Bora and five jerseys from the Belgian squad at the front of the race.
Then 50km from the finish, that 30-rider leading group crossed the finish line for the first time to take on three local laps around Schoten, with Ackermman, Bennett, Giacomo Nizzolo (Assos-Qhubeka) and Mark Cavendish all present at the front of the race.
Behind, another larger group failed to make any inroads into the gap but continued to ride at around a 90-second deficit.
The leading group crossed the finish line for the penultimate time with 17km to race, still with 90 seconds over the group behind, as the sprinters began gearing up for a sprint finish from this 30-rider group.
The fastest men represented at the front were still Bennett, Ackermann and Nizzolo, with Cees Bol (Team DSM) and Jasper Philipsen also present, as hailstorms began to batter the riders with just 10km to the line.
Deceuninck and Bora were happy to take on the work in the front group as the race entered the final 5km, keeping the pace too high for any counter attacks.
Into the technical final 2km and Deceuninck were still in control, Bennett near the head of the group with Cavendish close on his wheel, Bora and Ackermann slightly further behind.
As the race hit the final kilometre, Deceuninck continued to control the pace on the left hand side of the road as their rivals were forced to go wide to the right to try and move up.
Alpecin-Fenix suddenly surged up the right alongside Deceuninck and then moved in close against the navy blue train, which blocked Bennett in behind his man Morkov.
Philipsen then went long inside the final 200m and began to surge clear, as Bennett finally found space and launched his sprint in pursuit, with Ackermann nowhere to be seen.
Cavendish was close behind Bennett’s wheel, but it was Philipsen and Bennett who broke clear for the line.
Despite his enormous effort, Bennett was left frustrated at the line as Philipsen secured the win for his team, with Cavendish then rolling in third.
Scheldeprijs 2021, Terneuzen to Schoten (193.8km)
1. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
3. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
4. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
5. Clément Russo (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic
6. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
8. Marc Sarreua (Fra) Ag2r-Citroën
10. Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Total Direct Energie, all at same time
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