Keukeleire sprints to fifth place in Dwars door Vlaanderen

Wed 23 Mar 2016

Belgian Jens Keukeleire finished in fifth place from a sprint finish at Dwars door Vlaanderen today after some excellent work from Luke Durbridge at the front of the race in the last 80kilometres.

Overall, ORICA-GreenEDGE put in a solid performance today, giving the team confidence going into a full period of one-day races in Belgium and Northern France.

Sports director Laurenzo Lapage was happy with the result and performance of the team.

“Everything went really well for us today,” said Lapage. “We kept ourselves in good positions throughout the race and we stuck to our plan almost perfectly.”

"Svein (Tuft) did a lot of good work in the early part of the race to control the breakaway and then Luke was fantastic in the second half. After Luke did so well in making the second group it was great to see Jens also fight his way into the leader's group in time for the finish.

“Jens executed a fantastic sprint and was close to making it onto the podium. I am really pleased. Today’s performance sets us up nicely for the races coming at the weekend.”

How it happened:

A grey and sombre morning at the start in Harelbeke, with the riders observing a minute’s silence for the victims of Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussles. The race got underway as heavy rain began to fall with the peloton wearing black armbands in a respectful showing of solidarity.

The first 30minutes of racing passed very quickly with a fast average speed of over 45kph. Finally, a breakaway group of six riders formed and developed a lead of seven minutes after one hour of racing. ORICA-GreenEDGE along with Lotto-Soudal moved to the front of the peloton and began to control the advantage of the escapees.

Due to the disruption of travel arrangements in the wake of Tuesday’s events, some of the teams were not able to compete with a full roster of riders, whilst Giant-Alpecin had to pull out altogether. After 100kilometres of racing Etixx-Quickstep began to work intently at the front of the bunch with the time gap dropping to five minutes.

With 80kilometres to go the peloton started to race in earnest, crashes began to occur on and off the cobbled sections and the advantage of the breakaway fell to under three minutes. An attack by Jonas Rikeaert (Topsport-Vlaanderen) and a LottoNL- Jumbo sprang from the peloton and gained a lead of 40seconds over the field with six riders still two minutes further up the road. Durbridge bridged across to the two chasers as the race approached the steep Vlakenberg climb.

The lead of the day’s breakaway began to fall significantly with Durbridge riding extremely well, working alongside his two other chase companions. With 50kilometres left in the race the peloton split behind the two leading groups, with around 30riders making up the bunch. Keukeleire and around ten other riders made contact with the Durbridge group and began to work together, one minute behind the leaders.

On the Oude-Kwaremont the lead had virtually disappeared, sitting at 34seconds for the next 20kilometres. The chase group began to fragment on the unforgiving gradients of the Paterberg but came back together again with 25kilometres to go and the now lone leader in sight. The Durbridge group caught Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) with 14kilometres left to race and five minutes later the field was back together. Almost immediately there was an attack by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) who attempted to hold out for the solo win.

Van Avermaet was caught with only one kilometre to go and the sprint finish began to take shape. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-Quicklstep) started his sprint too early and allowed the group to come around him, seven or eight riders contested the final push to the line and Keukeleire came home in fifth place behind the winner Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal).

ORICA-GreenEDGE can take many positives from today’s race into the forthcoming Flemish classics as the team line up in Belgium again on Friday for E3 Haralbeke.


Dwars door Vlaanderen results:

1.  Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) 4:47:55
2.  Bryan Coquard (Direct-Energie) ST
3.  Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) ST
5.  Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-GreenEDGE) ST


Photo by Bettini Photo.