Top twenty for Luka Mezgec in windy edition of Gent-Wevelgem

Sun 27 Mar 2016

Slovenian Luka Mezgec has taken 12th place for ORICA-GreenEDGE on a windy day of racing at Gent-Wevelgem.

Mezgec and Jens Keukeleire made it into the front group when the race split on the ascent of the Baneberg with Mezgec holding on to contest the sprint behind breakaway winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

Good early work from Luke Durbridge and Mitch Docker kept ORICA-GreenEDGE in contact with the front group enabling Keukeleire and Mezgec to maintain their positions for the finale.

Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was happy with the continued improvement by the squad over the course of the last week’s races.

“We positioned ourselves very well today, we were ready when the attacks came and we are showing improvement in every race,” said Lapage. “Jens (Keukeleire) did a great job trying to set things up for Luka (Mezgec) in the final kilometres and work to bring back the leaders."

“We are no longer just following or sitting on. We are getting involved in the race, fighting for our positions and this is getting better all the time.

“Luke (Durbridge) put in some turns early on because our plan is to keep him fresh for De Panne on Tuesday. Everyone was happy with this and we executed our race-plan really well today.”

How it happened:

A cloudy but dry morning in Dienze welcomed the riders to the start of Gent-Wevelgem. There were strong winds out on the course almost from kilometre zero, the early breakaway group of four riders formed and with the peloton happy to let them go, developed a lead of six minutes.

An opportunity for a nature break arrived and the group was joined by Simon Pellaud (IAM-Cycling), now a five-rider break the group forged ahead, increasing their advantage to 11minutes after 60kilometres.

Approaching the 110kilometre mark the peloton split into three groups, 20seconds separated the second two groups and the gap to the five escapees out front fell to under five minutes. Although not half of the race had been covered the split proved to be important. The first group of chasers contained about 20 riders, including Keukeleire, Mezgec and most of the pre-race favourites.

The initial breakaway of five riders were caught by the chasing group with around 100kilometres left to race. The conditions remained difficult with strong cross and head winds restricting the progress of the front group.

The peloton came back together with under 90kilometres to go with five key climbs remaining including two ascents of the Kemmelberg.

The nerves within the peloton became apparent as the race hit the Baneberg with Trek-Segafredo pushing the pace on the front of the bunch and a crash involving Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) occurring behind. Inevitably another split divided the group with around forty riders making the selection.

Strong cross-winds continued to cause difficulties especially after the first time over the Kemmelberg. Attacks began to spring from the front of the peloton with a group of five riders trying to get away before Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (Team-Katusha) escaped alone, gaining a lead of 45seconds.

The second time over the narrow Baneberg and the race was definitely on, Sep Vanmarke (Lotto-NL Jumbo) launched an attack that didn’t gain him much ground but seriously reduced the numbers of the peloton. As the leaders hit the Kemmelberg for the final ascent, Sagan attacked off the front followed by Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) and Vanmarke. Catching Kuznetsov, the four riders worked together and developed a slim advantage of 45seconds over the chasing peloton.

The group continued to work together over the final 25kilometres and despite the efforts of Etixx-Quickstep, managed to stay away until the finish.

Kuznetsov lead out the sprint after a prolonged game of cat and mouse with Sagan proving to be the strongest of the four, taking the victory by a bike length. Mezgec was the best finisher for ORICA-GreenEDGE finishing in 12th place amongst the chasers.

ORICA-GreenEDGE are in action again on Tuesday 29th March at Driedaasge De Panne-Koksijde.


Gent-Wevelgem results:

1.  Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 5:55:12
2.  Sep Vanmarke (Lotto NL-Jumbo) ST
3.  Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Team-Katusha) ST
12. Luka Mezgec (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:11