Stunning second for Keukeleire at Gent-Wevelgem

Sun 26 Mar 2017

Vuelta a Espana stage winner Jens Keukeliere produced one of the rides of a lifetime to take second at Gent-Wevelgem today.

The ORICA-SCOTT rider made the elite selection in the final 40kilometres of an epic race before attacking into the finale with eventual winner Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

The two Belgians held off the chasing peloton for 20kilometres as they led the race into the finishing straight with Van Avermaet just getting the better of 28-year-old Keuekleire in the two up sprint.

“I’ve been feeling really good the last couple of years in these classics,” said Keuekeleire at the finish. “I get a lot of confidence from the team and I appreciate it a lot. I haven’t really gotten the biggest results, but still they show confidence in me and I’m really happy to be able to show that I can get results in these races.”

“I came really close today and I think if you can come second you can also win and I think that is the same for Flanders. With ORICA-SCOTT we have won four out of the five monuments and the only one missing is Flanders so it would be nice to go win that one.”

“There was a cross tailwind at the start,” said Sport director Laurenzo Lapage. “That made for a lot of nervous racing and a lot of crashes, thankfully we have a lot of experience within the team and we knew where we had to be to avoid the problems.”

“Jens did fantastically well, he lives around here and knows the roads like the back of his hand. He knew where the key move was going to happen and made sure he was up there it’s great when you have guys with good legs riding with confidence.

“Once you’re there you’ve got cards to play and I said to Jens, these other guys are fighting each other so you’ve got to go and you’ve got to be aggressive. Van Avermaet is one of the best riders in the world right now and Jens can have no disappointments after going head to head with him and coming second.

“It’s great for the team with Flanders and Roubaix coming up on the back of such a positive result today. If you don’t race you don’t get the chance to compete for the win and I’m sure for Jens it will come sooner rather than later.”

How it happened:

Large crowds filled the start area in Deinze for the 79th Gent-Wevelgem this morning, with the riders rolling out of the neutral zone in bright spring sunshine.

Despite numerous earlier attempts a nine-rider breakaway formed after 40kilometres, with the peloton content to let them develop a six-minute advantage after just over one of hour of racing.

As anticipated the crosswinds kicked in as soon as the race hit the flatlands of West Flanders, immediately causing splits in the peloton with Quick-step Floors putting the hammer down in the front group and the break at four minutes.

The peloton came back together behind the nine leaders with around 150kilometres remaining, the pace eased off and the gap shot straight out past seven minutes, the maximum it would reach all day.

Fifty kilometres and a fair few crashes later the race was split by echelons and the increased pace of BMC on the front. The gap to the leaders was now down below four minutes.

The pace remained high and a number of counter attacks further reduced the head of the peloton as the remnants of the breakaway were caught inside the final 40kilometres.

The last time over the Kemmelberg and the front spilt once more with an elite group forming including Keukeleire for ORICA-SCOTT alongside Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Into the last 15kiloemtres and Keukeleire and Van Avermaet were alone off the front with Sagan and two others chasing 15seconds behind and the reduced bunch a further 50seconds back.

The duo held on, rotating brilliantly into the finishing straight with peloton breathing hard down their necks before the jockeying began for the sprint with Van Avermaet just passing keukeliere at the last moment for the win.

Gent-Wevelgem results:

1. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC-Racing) 05:39:00

2. Jens Keuekeleire (ORICA-SCOTT) ST

3. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 00:00:06

Photos courtesy of ©