Keukeleire finishes just outside the top twenty at Ronde Van Vlaanderen

Sun 3 Apr 2016

Belgian Jens Keukeleire has finished 21st in place for ORICA-GreenEDGE in an action-packed centenary edition of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

The Tour of Flanders certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the hardest races of the season today. Peppered with crashes and attacks, a high average speed gave the race an aggressive edge that did not relent all the way to the finish. The race was eventually won by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) after a series of repeated attacks in the final 20kilometres.

Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was pleased with how the team performed over the course of the long race.

“It was such a hard race today, from the beginning it was so fast,” said Lapage. “The boys did a a great job maintaining good positions at the crucial points of the race, everybody knew their roles and stuck to the plan very well.”

“We had a little bit of bad luck after the Taaienberg when the late breakaway group that Jens (Keukeleire) was in got brought back, but overall I’m happy with how the team performed.”

“In the end Jens came close to making it into the group that contested the sprint for fourth place but didn’t quite make it. The race did not let up for one moment today. Nobody had a chance to relax for 255kilometres, it’s part of what makes it a hard and iconic race.”

How it happened:

A beautiful sunny morning in Bruges welcomed the start of the 100th Ronde Van Vlaanderen, the start flag dropped at 10:40am CEST with 255kilometres and eighteen climbs ahead. The early speed of the peloton was high at 47kph over the first hour of racing.

Early attempts to form a breakaway were unsuccessful as the entire field was strung out behind a main group of around 40riders. Finally after 60kilometres a group of six riders managed to escape and as the peloton settled into a steadier rhythm the escape stretched their advantage to over four minutes.

A crash occured after the first ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, with many riders losing contact as the race sped away. The ferocious speed of the peloton over the next climb, the Molenberg, not only reduced the advantage of the breakaway but also split the main field into pieces. With 100kilometres to go many riders fell heavily in a crash involving BMC Racing and Astana, yet another indication of the high speed of the race.

Congestion on the Koppenberg meant that many riders had to unclip to make any progress which in turn led to an important split at the front of the race. The breakaway group had been losing riders for some time and now another group formed including Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNl-Jumbo) and Keukeleire for ORICA-GreenEDGE. Over the Taaienberg, the group were being chased by Ian Stannard (Team-Sky) and some fragments of the day’s early breakaway. The Sagan group was just behind the Stannard group and getting closer with every metre.

Approaching the final ascents of the Oude Kwaremont and the tortuous Paterberg the head of the race came briefly back together, until Sagan and Michael Kwiatkowski (Team-Sky) made the move that animated the final kilometres. Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) and Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quickstep) mounted the chase to make contact with the leaders. Kwiatkowski lost contact on the last of the cobbles leaving only Vanmarcke up near Sagan.

Sagan’s final attack on the Paterberg was the one that made difference, Vanmarcke cracked and dropped back to the oncoming Cancellara. Sagan made the most of the descent, tucked aerodynamically on the top tube he increased his advantage to near 20seconds. With five kilometres to go he slightly extended his lead over Cancellara and Vanmarcke, holding on comfortably to take the win. Cancellara took second after Vanmarcke graciously held back in the final metres.

ORICA-GreenEDGE are in action tomorrow at the Vuleta Ciclista Pais Vasco which runs from the  4th to 9th of April.

Ronde Van Vlaanderen results:

1.  Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 6:10:42
2.  Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) 0:00:25
3.  Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) 0:00:27
21. Jens Keuekeleire (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:01:16