Kristoff blows away rivals for Gent-Wevelgem win
Alexander Kristoff won the Gent-Wevelgem title to add to a prestigious list of wins already in his palmarès with an Unstoppable sprint for the UAE team Emirates Norwegian
Cobblestones, gravel, narrow roads and steep, steep climbs. Gent-Wevelgem has all the hallmarks of a great Spring Classic. The 252km parcours has it all, and the ten difficult climbs are where the action really happens. Saving the best until last, the hardest climb of the day is the Kemmelberg, a cobblestone climb with sections hitting a ferocious 22% gradient, but with 35km still to race after cresting this hill, the prize would go to the rider who could tackle the undulating terrain and still have enough in the tank to contest the finale.
The high pace made it hard for a break to stick, although many attempts came in the early stages.
It was the high speed and aggression that saw the breakaway form, with a strong group of twenty splitting the peloton, Peter Sagan, Pascal Ackermann and Rüdiger Selig from Bora-hansgrohe joining this move. While their lead of 1:30 was slim, it was the sheer strength of this group that made them such a threat. With Pascal and Rudi keeping the Slovak National Champion safe, the break covered the bulk of the day’s climbs with ease, and with 35km remaining, a small group of five was all that was left, with Peter driving the pace in this select group. However, in spite of their best efforts, the catch was made with 18km to go, and while attacks came and went, nothing really stuck, the peloton always looming large behind. Once one attack was brought in, another went out, but it was all back together for the finale.
Strong winds pulled apart the race today but the Norwegian Kristoff was able to always maintain his position on the small climbs and cobble sections. He attacked to anticipate the the last time up the Kemmelberg climb and positioned himself for the eventual victory.
Heading towards the line, every major name was in the group and UAE Team Emirates had two representatives with Kristoff and Fernando Gaviria, and Kristoff gave the team its first big classic one-day race and it’s 11th victory of the season. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) placed second and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) third.
VIDEO: 2019 Gent-Wevelgem Highlights
“I remained at the front of the group with Gaviria.“ Kristoff said. “At 10 kilometres out, we spoke and agreed that I would make this sprint and try to win. In the sprint, I was the strongest and that’s even if I was a little bit tired but all the riders at the front of the group raced hard and fast from the start. I pulled out a big win that carries a lot of weight in the spring classics. "The team has improved a lot and I’m benefiting from the work that I’ve done with my trainers and with training rides a little shorter but more intense, and the results are starting to show. The change is paying off. I’m also content because I feel my condition is improving and it’s a good signal ahead of the Tour of Flanders.”
"It was a beautiful and exciting Gent-Wevelgem but a very hard one! We were going over 50km/h in the first two hours and when the strong winds created splits, I decided to take the opportunity and jump in the big break, together with Pascal and Rudi. They did a great job, worked hard and when we were left just four of us in the group, I gave my best to help stay ahead of the peloton. It wasn't possible and in the finale I didn't have the legs to go for the bunch sprint." – Peter Sagan
2019 Gent-Wevelgem Top 10
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates 5:26:08
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
3 Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2R La Mondiale
4 Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus
5 Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
6 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
7 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
8 Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
9 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
10 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Team Katusha Alpecin