Italian Luca Paolini (Katusha) topped off an event-packed edition of Ghent-Wevelgem in Belgium on Sunday, taking a solo win after attacking from a small lead group. Briton Geraint Thomas continued his strong classics season with a third place.
Paolini launched a perfectly-timed move in the final few kilometres of the race and capitalised on a poorly-organised chase to secure a memorable lone victory.
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There was barely a quiet moment during the race, but things really wound up when Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal) put in a lengthy bid for glory, after following an attack by Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) on the first pass of the Kemmelberg climb. As Tjallingii faded, Roelandts continued solo.
Behind, the peloton split into pieces on a wet and windy day in Belgium. Crashes and crosswinds caused chaos with only 39 riders making it to the finish line, with 160 abandoning for a variety of reasons.
A seven-rider chase group formed consisting of Paolini, Thomas, Terpstra, Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Daniel Oss (BMC), Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal).
At one point Thomas was blown sideways off the road but somehow managed to regain contact with the chase group after quickly remounting.
Roelandts put in a mammoth effort, staying out front alone for around 50 kilometres. As he hit the final 20 kilometres, the effort started to visibly hurt and his advantage came tumbling down as the chase group upped its pace. The acceleration of the chasers was too much for Oss, who dropped out of the group.
A badly-timed puncture also saw Terpstra drop back from the chasers just as they caught Roelandts, but he managed to get a quick wheel change and get back on – and then promptly attacked, followed by Paolini.
Thomas took up the pursuit, with Vandenbergh as a passenger, getting back in touch with Terpstra and Paolini with 10km to go. Debusschere and Vanmarcke also managed to bridge across to once again make a lead group of six with 7km to go.
Paolini was the first to attack, as the five remaining riders looked at each other, initially unwilling to lead the chase. Terpstra and Thomas then accelerated away from the other three to try and get back in touch with dangerman Paolini, but the chase was in vain as the 38 year old crossed the line solo.
Etixx-QuickStep must be ruing its tactics this season, having again had a numerical advantage and again coming away without a victory.
Ghent-Wevelgem 2015 (WorldTour)
1. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha
2. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx-QuickStep
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky
4. Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx-QuickStep
5. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
6. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
7. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
8. Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing
9. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
10. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo