Jens Keukeleire Sprints to Ninth Place at Dwars door Vlaanderen

Wed 26 Mar 2014

ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Jens Keukeleire snagged his third straight top ten finish at Dwars door Vlaanderen. The Belgian rounded out the top ten two years ago and sprinted to seventh from an elite group of ten last year. Keukeleire followed up with ninth today, eighth in the bunch kick, 16” after Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) soloed to victory in Waregem.

Keukeleire was part an elite group of 54 riders that formed over the cobbles and bergs in the animated second half of the one day Flemish classic. Mathew Hayman and Mitch Docker joined Keukeleire in the main group of chasers as various combinations of riders tested their luck and skill off the front.

“The team rode really well,” said Wilson. “We were present in most of the moves. Jens Keukeleire was very active all day, and Mat Hayman was integral to our late race chase work. The three guys we had left at the end – Mitch, Jens and Mat – rode very well together in the finish.”

A fast opening hour of racing gave way to a 22 rider break early in the second hour of the 200 kilometre day. ORICA-GreenEDGE and Movistar missed the move. The two teams immediately took up the chase, never allowing the advantage to extend beyond three minutes.

“The biggest mistake we made today was missing out on the break,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “To have nearly every team present and miss out – that was a huge error. Because of that, we had to take the initiative in the chase. We were forced to use three or four guys in the chase, which was obviously not to plan.”

The lead group split on the Eikenberg as attacks began from the bunch. Keukeleire marked several of the attacks that came from the peloton, including a particularly dangerous looking acceleration by Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) on the Taaienberg. Keukeleire led the bunch over the Oude Kwaremont. The fast pace on the uphill cobblestones shattered the peloton. The early breakaway, down to only eight riders by this point, had only 30” in hand.

The peloton overtook the breakaway on the run-in to the Paterberg, setting the stage for Terpstra to launch his race winning move. Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) attacked on the Vossenhol, and he was quickly marked by Nicki Sørensen (Tinkoff-Saxo), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step). With a teammate up the road, Steegmans did not contribute to the chase work, which saw the quartet get within 15” of Terpstra.

Hayman assumed responsibility for the chase, upping the pace of the main bunch. His efforts saw the peloton overtake Devolder, Sørensen, Valverde and Steegmans but could not close the distance to Terpstra. With the finish line looming, Hayman and Docker turned their efforts to the sprint, leading out Keukeleire in the fast finish for second place.

“Mitch and Mat did a great job to lead out Jens,” said Wilson. “I think he had a done a little too much over the day, and he sort of went backwards once he had opened his sprint.”

“This was the most active I have ever seen the team in a Belgian classic,” added Wilson. “We were present in the race from start to finish. That’s a huge positive to come out of today. With the form we saw from Keukeleire, Docker and Hayman, we have a lot to look forward to on Friday and Sunday.”