Wout van Aert, Christophe Laporte continue Jumbo-Visma’s classics crush at Gent-Wevelgem
This article originally appeared on Velo News
Jumbo-Visma continued its clean sweep of the Belgian classics Sunday as Wout van Aert dragged teammate Christophe Laporte to victory in a team one-two at Gent-Wevelgem.
The classics super-tandem kicked away as a pair on the second climb of the Kemmelberg and blitzed through a 53km time trial back to the line in Wevelgem.
Classics veteran Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Premier Tech) won the sprint for third out of the reduced peloton, more than two minutes back.
Van Aert and Laporte’s long raid for victory came just 48 hours after Van Aert scored a confirming win Friday at E3 Saxo Classic and echoed their long two-up attack for victory in Harelbeke last year.
“It’s incredible, only the other day we thought about E3 from 2022 and thought it would never happen again,” second-place Van Aert said. “Now only a few days later we do exactly the same thing. It’s impossible to think it’s possible at this high level, but it’s all the hard work coming together.”
The result also saw Laporte achieve what he came close to when he placed second behind Biniam Girmay in 2022’s Gent-Wevelgem.
“We just rode full until the last 10-8km from the finish, when we were sure we had victory,” Van Aert said. “I won Friday and my eyes are on the coming races. Christophe had a difficult start to the season with sickness and he’s such a team player that it was an easy decision [to give him the victory].”
Laporte and Van Aert’s yellow-clad crew now roar toward the Tour Flanders next weekend with victories at Omloop Het Nieuwsbland, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, E3, and Gent-Wevelgem.
Masterclass. 🐝🐝 #GWmen #GW23 pic.twitter.com/XyFwvLiKQX
-- Gent-Wevelgem (@GentWevelgem) March 26, 2023
Flandrien weather for start of ‘Flanders week’
Horizontal rain and cool temperatures saw the bunch swathed in black neoprene and Gabba jackets early Sunday ahead of a 260km trek toward Wevelgem.
Classics heavyweights Greg van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroen) and Mike Teunissen (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) made the day's early break, and the peloton looked happy to let them go as it hit "surivival mode."
Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ineos Grenadiers pair Michal Kwiatkowski and Filippo Ganna were among a handful of early abandons on the sketchy roads and foul conditions.
The race only heated up when it first hit the climb of the Kemmelberg at around 80km to go as the rain eased but the tarmac remained wet and treacherous.
Laporte, Nathan van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious), Soren Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Mads Pedersen (Trek Segafredo), and Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) were among a small bunch of hitters that darted out of the front and chased down the break.
Soual Quick-Step missed the early moves and tried to send its sprinter ace Fabio Jakobsen across, while his teammate Kasper Asgreen piled on at the front peloton.
Van Aert crushes the Kemmel
The race all came back together just in time for the second Kemmelberg - and that's where Jumbo-Visma set its powerplay in action.
Van Aert hit the afterburners up the steep cobbled slope with Laporte on his wheel. The two soon stretched a solid gap over a powerful chase group.
Jumbo-Visma's two toppers rolled together and extended the gap as the bunch behind took time to rally.
Van Aert didn't play the captaincy card over his teammate and did most of the pulling while the Frenchman suffered on his wheel. Laporte was nearly dropped by his buddy on the third Kemmelberg, but Van Aert gave him room to latch on ahead of their two-up TT into Wevelgem.
Van Aert kept Laporte on his wheel all the way through to the finish and, the two had plenty of time to plot their finish line strategy before they approached the line hand-in-hand.
Behind them, the peloton split and malfunctioned as the race rolled toward Wevelgem.
Quick-Step continued to be confounded after Jakobsen's solo move earlier and Tim Merlier tried to lead the chase as the chance of a bunch sprint blasted away.
With 20km to go, the leaders had a gap over nearly two minutes and the chasers behind clicked into a race for the podium.
Jumbo-Visma looked like it was trying to secure a podium lock with its sprinter Olav Kooij but was foiled in a late scurry of attacks that left veteran Vanmarcke to sprint for third.
Results powered by FirstCycling.com
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