Jasper Philipsen won a stormy edition of the Classic Brugge-De Panne out of a select group of riders on Wednesday afternoon, sprinting past Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) and Yves Lampaert (Soudal Quick-Step) to victory.
The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider was part of an elite quartet which clipped off the front with 15km to go; Frederik Frison (Lotto Dstny) was the other member.
These four were originally part of a bunch of 18 which formed with 63km to go in the crosswinds and rain of West Flanders, which was race-deciding.
Earlier, a separate split in the peloton had left 36 riders up the road as the weather blew De Panne apart, a split which meant some riders and teams never saw the front of the race again, with about 107km of the race to come.
Gusts of up to 45km/h meant tension was always high in the peloton, with the break caught with well over 100km of the day left.
Once the final 18 went up the road, which was created as much by Philipsen as the others, it was race over for everyone else; then when the final four went, it was always likely that the fastest finisher would win, which always looked like Philipsen in this case.
Soudal Quick-Step will be disappointed with their third place, after they had three in the 18, including European champion Fabio Jakobsen.
How it happened
The 47th edition of the Classic Brugge-De Panne - although just the sixth that is a one day event rather than over three days - kicked off in typical Flandrien conditions on Wednesday, with wind and rain combining to make all the riders thoroughly soaked by the end of the neutralised start.
An early attack by four riders, Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa Samsic), Louis Bendixen (Uno-X), Jens Reynders (Israel-Premier Tech) and Milan Fretin (Flanders Baloise), was soon joined by three other attackers Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-EasyPost) and Louis Blouwe (Bingoal WB) and Johan Meens (Bingoal WB).
The break's advantage over the peloton slowly grew, although it always seemed unlikely that it would be allowed any major time on a blustery day over a flat course.
Riders were already dropping from the peloton with 160km to go, with Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) one of the earliest casualties.
The break became five with 141km to the finish, as Meens and Blouwe were both shed by the front group. At about 93km into the race, Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) and Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar) were involved in a crash, although both returned to the peloton.
With 107km to go the first decisive split in the peloton occurred, a move which meant the remainder of the break was quickly swept up. There were 36 riders in this move, including four from Uno-X, Soudal Quick-Step and Lotto Dstny.
Movistar, UAE Team Emirates, Groupama-FDJ, Astana Qazaqstan, Bahrain-Victorious, Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, TotalEnergies and Bingoal WB were all missing from the front group, while other favourites for the win like Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal Quick-Step) and Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) were also absent.
The peloton joined together with 68km to go, but it was much reduced. Another split created chaos with 63km to De Panne, with the 18 riders in the front group this time making their advantage count.
As the wind blew, riders were all over the road, in multiple groups, and those not in the first 18 found their day suddenly over. Yet again there were multiple teams, this time nine, without representation at the front of the race, and the gap gradually crept up to over two minutes.
Some squads found themselves with multiple options, most obviously Soudal Quick-Step with Yves Lampaert, Bert Van Lerberghe and Jakobsen, while others like Dylan Groenewegen of Jayco-AlUla had just themselves.
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was constantly active, and this activity was rewarded when, with 15km to go, he was one of three riders that forced their way off the front, along with Kooij and Lampaert. Frederik Frison (Lotto Dstny) joined the race-defining move to make it four.
Despite just twenty seconds between the quartet and the chasers, the group made it stick. Heading into the final, Frison made a last-gasp attempt at an attacker, before Lampert opened up the sprint.
With the knowledge of his superior speed, Philipsen waited, then rounded his fellow Belgian and Kooij to take the win.
Results: Classic Brugge-De Panne 2023 (211km)
1. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Deceuninck, in 4-38-52
2. Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
3. Yves Lampert (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step, both at same time
4. Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto-Dstny, at 1s
5. Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Soudal Quick-Step, at 21s
6. Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Deceuninck
7. Cedric Beullens (Bel) Lotto-Dstny
8. Stian Fredheim (Nor) Uno-X
9. Juan Sebastián Molano (Col) UAE Team Emirates
10. Marijn van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost, all at same time
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