Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in Belgium on Sunday with a typically explosive sprint finish.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) finished behind in second, while Sky’s Elia Viviani managed third.
This is the second time the Manxman has won this particular classic, having previously been successful in 2012. As on that occasion, Cavendish triumphed in a bunch sprint. Having managed to get on the wheel of Kristoff as he opened up his sprint, Cavendish emerged from his slipstream to glide past the Norwegian and win relatively comfortably.
Kristoff’s Katusha team had appeared to have done everything right in the run-in to the finish, having led at the front of the peloton for most of the final 30km, and with their final lead out man placing Kristoff at the front of the bunch to start his sprint. But Cavendish’s speed was too much for him, and he had to settle for being runner-up.
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) had threatened to prevent the expected bunch-sprint finish with a strong attack with just under five kilometres to go. Despite riding into a headwind, he managed to open up a lead of 10 seconds, but was caught just after the one kilometre to go banner.
Earlier, the race had been split into two groups after Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) applied pressure on the Oude Kwaremont. He was joined by a handful of Etixx teammates – including Cavendish – and several other big names such as Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), the previous day’s Het Nieuwsblad winner Ian Stannard (Sky) and Kristoff to form a lead group of around twenty.
The group managed to build a lead of one minute and had looked as though they may avoid being caught, but was dragged back by the chasing group with 35km to go thanks largely to the work put in by MTN-Qhubeka.
Despite having worked hard to make the split, Cavendish clearly had very fresh legs in the finale. His form looks encouraging for his next targets, including the upcoming Milan-San Remo.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2015, 196km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx-Quick Step
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Sky
4. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
5. Daniele Colli (Ita) Southeast Pro Cycling
6. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC
7. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
8. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka
9. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Roompot
10. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) IAM Cycling all same time