Mads Pedersen added another Belgian one-day Classic to his palmarès after winning the sprint finish at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
The former world champion was in the large chase group that caught Mathieu van der Poel’s move in the final kilometres, before a lead-out from Jasper Stuyven allowed him to power ahead of his rivals to take the win for Trek-Segafredo.
Total Direct Energie’s Anthony Turgis was second, while Tom Pidcock managed to sprint to an impressive third after impressing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the day before.
Mathieu van der Poel had once again ruled himself out of the running for the win before the start, saying he’d be working for Tim Merlier, but found himself off the front in a race he wasn’t even supposed to be lining up for, only back in Belgium because Alpecin-Fenix had to leave the UAE Tour due to a coronavirus positive. His move was caught before the finish, however, and the Dutchman had to settle for a place other than first for a change.
How it happened
Maciej Bodnar, Patrick Gamper (both Bora-Hansgrohe), Ludwig De Winter (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Artyom Zacharov (Astana) were the first to make a move off the front after nearly 20km, the peloton letting them quickly steal a march up the road, with Tom Paquot (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) and then Jonas Hvideberg (Uno) jumping across, not wanting to miss out on a day in the break.
UAE Team Emirates were keen to take on peloton-marshalling duties, looking to protect the interests of Alexander Kristoff after his disappointment yesterday at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad when a late mechanical denied him the chance to contest the sprint.
A few riders began to slip off the back of the bunch up the Boembeek climb, as Deceuninck – Quick-Step showed themselves at the front, the escapees around six minutes ahead up the road.
Another minute had been lopped off their advantage as it ticked under 100km to go, as the peloton made their way over the short, sharp climbs towards those expected to potentially be more decisive.
Alpecin-Fenix then hit the front, a Van der Poel attack imminent? Yep, alongside Ineos Grenadiers’ Jhonatan Narvaez, the duo jumping 20 seconds ahead of the bunch. Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-Assos) then countered, but to no avail, as he was swallowed back up, Van der Poel and Narvaez soon a minute ahead.
They finally caught the day’s break on the Oude Kwaremont with 60km remaining, a minute ahead of the peloton behind, where Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal) decided to stretch their legs at the front.
Van der Poel was pulling the front group as Degenkolb tried to organise a chase group that had broken off from the main bunch, the climbing over now and Démare and Kristoff both dispensed with.
As the race behind Van der Poel fractured in the crosswinds, Trentin soon put in a massive acceleration to drag Dylan Teuns, Greg Van Avermaet and Asgreen clear with 34km to the finish, bringing their deficit to the Dutchman down to around the half minute mark.
The gap continued to fall as the chase groups scrapped behind, a Van Avermaet move bringing the escapees even closer, but Van der Poel refused to give up, continuing to put in big turns on the front.
Inside the final 10km and the gap started to go back out, though, the peloton toying with the inevitable catch to be made.
But inside 4km the cat and mouse games came to a halt. Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) came to the front before Asgreen attacked, Haussler the only rider getting on his wheel as the pair tried to pull themselves up to Van der Poel.
The Dutchman was now in their sights, and with the chase group quickly coming up behind the front of the race was all back together in the blink of an eye.
Into the sprint finish and Jasper Stuyven piloted Mads Pedersen up the left-hand side, the Dane unleashing a powerful burst to the line unmatched by his remaining rivals. Pidcock had jumped early but was never going to have the firepower to match the former world champion, the Brit still achieving a fantastic third place as Anthony Turgis took second.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2021: Kuurne to Kuurne (197km)
1. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
2. Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
3. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
4. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
5. Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation
6. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious
7. Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Ag2r Citroën
9. Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
10. Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X, all at same time