Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) came out on top in the finishing sprint after a chaotic run-in to take victory at the Bredene Koksijde Classic. The Belgian nipped through in the dying metres to edge Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) at the line, while Sam Welsford (Team DSM) rounded out the podium close behind.
Thijssen benefitted from stellar work from his team in closing kilometres, with Intermarché-Circus-Wanty taking control at the head of the peloton during a hectic final run to the finish in Koksijde.
Narrow roads, a roundabout, and a final bend just 300 metres out all contributed to the messy finish, with UAE Team Emirates emerging on the front in the final sprint with GP Denain winner Juan Sebastián Molano leading out Ackermann.
The German launched his burst for the line up the barriers at around 125 metres to go, but he had Thijssen on his wheel ready to hit the wind in the final 50 metres.
That perfectly timed burst was enough to see the Belgian zip past Ackermann right at the line and claim his second victory of the month after the contested photo finish ahead of Caleb Ewan at the GP Monseré.
"Molano had a fantastic lead out, really fast, and I really had to try to get on the wheel of Ackermann," Thijssen said after the finish. "Pascal started his sprint and I thought I could get past him.
"I just gave everything and all my frustration from all the comments about the sprint in Monseré, whether I did win it or not. It was a bit of a middle finger to all those comments, and this is my second win of the season, a great win.
"Fucking happy," he continued. "I was a little bit disappointed about Nokere Koerse. I didn't say that I could beat Tim [Merlier] there but I was in a super good position, and they crashed in front of me and there was no way out.
"Today in the last lap I said on the radio 'let's do one more time all for me, I think I can win'. It was five riders who really gave everything for each other. They put me in a perfect place. A fantastic job by teammates."
The peloton had been all together since the 40km to go mark of the 192km race, with Tartoletto-Isorex pairing Andreas Goeman and Thomas Joseph, Thomas Kopecky (TDT-Unibet) and Timo De Jong (VolkerWessels) caught early having escaped in the opening 5km of the race.
Along the way, their advantage had reached a maximum of five minutes, while a group of four more men – Intermarché pair Laurenz Rex and Dries De Pooter, and Lotto-Dstny duo Brent Van Moer and Cedric Beullens – attempted an unsuccessful bridging move over the hills, including the Kemmelberg, at the midpoint of the race.
A mass crash at 53km to go saw riders including Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic), Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep), and Kristoffer Halvorsen (Uno-X) hit the deck, with the Lotto man forced to abandon as a result.
From then on it was a case of chasing down the breakaway and keeping the pace high for the inevitable closing sprint at the end of the flat run-in.
Teams including UAE Team Emirates, Lotto-Dstny, and Soudal-QuickStep all played their part in working at the front of the peloton. However, it was Intermarché-Circus-Wanty who would walk away with the spoils and an eighth victory of the campaign.
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