Ludovic Robeet took the win at Nokere Koerse after going solo from the breakaway with a very late attack, dropping Damien Gaudin with just 2km to go.
Robeet (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) was in a breakaway of eight riders before he and Gaudin (Total Direct Energie) went clear on the hardest cobbled section in the final lap.
The Belgian attacked hard just before the road descended to the town of Nokere and then finished on the cobbled climb of the Nokereberg.
Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) crashed with 6km to go and did not contest the finish but showed that he had good legs as he continues his cobbled campaign in Belgium.
How it happened
The 2021 Nokere Koerse started in Deinze before taking in several loops around the area then heading into the local laps to finish in Nokere on the Nokereberg after 195km.
Anthonoy Julien (Ag2r-Citroën), Sebastien Grignard (Lotto-Soudal), Thibault Ferasse (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Ward Vanhoof (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Damien Gaudin (Total Direct Energie) with a maximum gap of five minutes.
The weather was atrocious with rain and strong winds, which immediately caused crosswinds with teams stretching the race early on with 95km to go, led by Uno-X and Cofidis, but the race wasn’t split hugely with just a couple of small groups dropped.
Tight roads and strong winds caused a split in the peloton once again with about 50 riders in the front group led by Uno-X, along with UAE Team Emirates, Ineos Grenadiers and Qhubeka-Assos with 62km to go.
The second group on the road was brought back as Groupama-FDJ brought back Jake Stewart to the peloton. They then waited for the penultimate lap to really up the pace on the hardest cobbled section to string things out with 40km to go with the break still holding two minutes.
Five kilometres later and the race started to split again in the peloton with a group including Eduard Grosu (Delko), Sep Vanmarke (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), but they were brought back with 32km to go with Mark Cavendish in the group as the break had 1-05 of a gap.
The break was intact as they crossed the finish line for the penultimate time with 30km to go but their gap had dropped inside a minute, but only just, at 59 seconds.
The chasing group just behind the leading peloton managed to get back on with Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Timothy Dupont (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) and Stewart all getting back in.
The pace seemed to drop out of the peloton which saw the bunch double in size letting the break’s gap go back out to 1-23 before Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) went on the attack, dragging nine other riders out of the peloton with him with 22km to go.
Delko and Uno-X tried to pace the break back but no-one else was willing to work, Theuns tried yet another attack which dragged the time between the break and the bunch down to 1-09. Israel Start-Up Nation were the next team to join along with Alpecin-Fenix rejoining the front with 16km to go.
The chase finally got organised with 15km to go just before hitting the hardest section of cobbles of Lange Aststraat, with Gaudin and Robeet dropping the rest of the break.
Behind, it was Vanmarke who went on the attack on the Lange Aststraat and went solo away from the main bunch. No team chose to chase straight away until Qhubeka-Assos and Deceuninck – Quick-Step came up to chase with 10km to go with Vanmarke caught.
The leading duo pulled out their split to 24 seconds as Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) and Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) went on the attack catching some riders from the break.
Once again, the peloton hesitated to chase as they waited for more team-mates before chasing again with Gaudin and Robeet pulling out 38 seconds on them.
With 6km to go Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) went down on his own seeing him drop out of contention.
Hayter and Mozzato caught Zoccarato as they tried to bridge across to Robeet and Gaudin but the peloton was dragging them back with 4km before getting near the two leaders. Robeet attacked Gaudin with 2km to go and managed to slowly pull out the gap.
Robeet had enough to hold on all the way to the line with Gaudin just taking second ahead of a charging peloton led by Mozzato.
The highest placed British rider was Stewart in sixth place on the day .
Nokere Koerse 2021, Deinze to Nokere (195km)
1. Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles, in 4-36-44
2. Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie, at 3 seconds
3. Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, at 5s
4. Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation
6. Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama-FDJ
7. Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Qhubeka-Assos
8. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
9. Jhonatan Narváez (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
10. Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation, all at same time.