Bike racing is officially back in Belgium as the GP Vermarc Sport saw WorldTour pros hit the roads in a local Kermesse race.
The smaller one-day event covered a 15.4km-long circuit around the Rotselaar area on Sunday (July 5) and featured riders from Deceuninck – Quick-Step, Lotto-Soudal and NTT Pro Cycling.
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Unsurprisingly it was Quick-Step who triumphed, winning the first race they had entered since Paris-Nice way back in March.
It was Frenchman Florian Sénéchal who triumphed on a sunny day in Belgium, beating Alpecin-Fenix rider Oscar Riesebeek and Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling).
Vermarc Sport CEO Marc Verbeeck said: “Cycling is in our blood. Many races were immediately cancelled or moved due to Covid-19.
“Now we are slowly emerging from the lockdown, we feel that the need for competition among the Belgian elite riders is enormous.”
Before the race, a minute’s silence was held for Belgian rider Niels de Vriendt, who rode for VDM-Trawobo, after the 20-year-old died during a practice race on Saturday (July 4).
Medical staff spent nearly an hour trying to resuscitate De Vriendt but to no avail, after he reportedly suffered heart failure.
The racing went ahead on Sunday with Pieter Serry and Stijn Steels from Quick-Step forming part of a 14-man break.
On the final lap of the race, Sénéchal, Riesebeek and Campenaerts bridged across to the escapees before Sénéchal took off solo 7km from the line to take a solo win.
The 26-year-old said: “This win gives me a lot of satisfaction. Even if it’s only a kermesse, it still means a lot to us to get the victory after showing our jersey and sponsors in the best way possible. They are all affected by the coronavirus, so it was important for everybody here at the Wolfpack to show them our support with this win.”
Quick-Step are now heading to northern Italy for a mountainous training camp, as racing top-tier racing gets underway in the coming weeks.
The next big race on the calendar is the Vuelta a Burgos, which starts on July 28, before WorldTour racing returns with Strade Bianche on August 1.