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Coming from far back in sixth position, Guardini flew past his rivals in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the World Ports Classic to narrowly hold off Hutarovich in a photo finish; the Italian takes the leader’s jersey

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2015










23.05.2015 @ 18:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One week after winning stage 2 of the Tour de Picardie, Andrea Guardini (Astana) confirmed that he is back in good condition after he suffered a bad crash in the Scheldeprijs when he took a narrow sprint win in the first stage of the World Ports Classic. Despite being forced to start his sprint from far back, the Italian was clearly the fastest in the bunch sprint and narrowly managed to pass Yauheni Hutarovich (Bretagne) to take both the stage victory and the leader’s jersey in the two-day sprint race.


Last weekend Andrea Guardini and Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) were involved in a close fight in the Tour de Picardie. In the French race, the Belgian came out on top as he won two stages and the overall while the Italian had to settle for a single victory.


Today it was time for the Italian to get his revenge when he lined up as one of the favourites for the two-day World Ports Classic which is usually a treat for sprinters. And this time he turned out to be faster than his Belgian rival as he managed to come out on top in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the race.


By sending Ruslan Tleubayev on the attack with Wouter Mol (De Rijke) in the finale, Astana were relieved of any chase work and could leave it to Lotto Soudal, Giant-Alpecin, Wanty and Metec to bring the duo back. In fact, it seemed that the pair had a chance to stay away when they still held a 20-second advantage with 5km to go.


However, as the sprint teams started to battle for position, it quickly became evident that there would be no glory for the attackers. Bora-Argon 18, Cult and Astana lined out their trains on the front before the Danish team took over.


The gap was now coming down quickly and this prompted Tleubayev to give it one final go. He quickly left Mol behind and was now soloing towards the finish line.


Behind, MTN-Qhubeka had organized a perfect train on the front of the peloton but they had burnt their matches too early. LottoNL-Jumbo won the battle and with 1.5km to go, they brought Tleubayev back.


Lotto Soudal were always expected to have the best train in the race and that prediction turned out to be true. Just before the flamme touge, they hit the front and from there the Belgian team was in total control.


Tiesj Benoot, Marcel Sieberg, Jurgen Roelandts and Jens Debusschere all took turns on the front before the Belgian champion allowd Boeckmans to start his sprint from the perfect position. However, he didn’t have the speed of last week and was quickly passed by Yauheni Hutarovich who was in the perfect position on his wheel.


The Belarusian seemed to be powering to a sprint win but it was not to be. Despite having started his sprint in 6th position, Guardini narrowly managed to pass him to take the win in the opening stage. Boeckmans completed the podium.


With the victory, Guardini also takes the first leader’s jersey in the race and now holds a 4-second advantage over Hutarovich. He has a big chance to make it two in a row in the flat final stage which is again expected to end in a bunch sprint unless the wind creates some spectacle.


A flat stage

The fourth edition of the World Ports Classic kicked off with a 195km stage from Rotterdam to Antwerp and as usual in the race, it was a completely flat affair. However, the riders would spend a big part of the day along the coast in the Zeeland province where the wind was expected to potentially could cause some damage. Furthermore, the riders would tackle a short cobbled sector with 42km to go before they did the final part to Antwerp where a sprint was expected.


It was a cloudy but pretty calm day when the riders gathered in Rotterdam for the first leg of the two-day event. This made a sprint the most likely outcome and the many fast riders felt confident that they would be ready to strike when they headed out on their long ride to Belgium.


The break is formed

The race got off to a fast start with several attacks before the early break was finally formed. At the 37km mark, Andreas Stauff (MTN-Qhubeka), Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen), Wesley Kreder (Roompot), Baptiste Planckaert (Roubaix) and Ronan van Zandbeek (De Rijke) had been given an advantage of 3.40.


However, the peloton was in no mood to let them get much of an advantage and after 55km of racing, the gap had already been reduced to 2.20. A little later, Wallays beat van Zandbeek and Kreder in the first intermediate sprint at the 73.5km mark.


The peloton splits

It was a very fast start to the race and when the break reached the feed zone at the 98km mark, they had averaged 48km/h. Things didn’t get any slower as they suddenly reached a windy section. The peloton split into several groups and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) was one of the riders who found himself left behind.


The faster pace brought the escapees back and the nervous racing continued. Astana, MTN-Qhubeka, LottoNL-Jumbo and Lotto Soudal were all very active in trying to split the gield but it turned out to be impossible to create more major splits.


Lotto Soudal attack on the cobbles

When the peloton slowed down, the attacking started again as a De Rijke rider took off but Benoot quickly took control for Lotto Soudal. As they now approached the cobbled section, it was one big sprint to the final turn and it was the Belgian team which won the battle.


Sieberg, Boeckmans and Debusschere all took huge turns and when they were back on the tarmac, a small 15-rider group had gone clear. However, the pace went down and it came back together.


Lots of attacks

An Astana rider launched an immediate attack and got a small gap. The attacking continued but Benoot managed to bring everyone back.


The Belgian talent went on the attack himself and was joined by Wallays and Rudy Barbier (Roubaix). Theys sprinted for the seconds in the second intermediate sprint where the Frenchman was faster than Benotto.


Tleubayev takes off

The trio sat up and instead Tleubayev took off. Gert Dockx started to ride on the front for Lotto Soudal but it was impossible to control the situation. While Barry Markus (LottoNL) fought his way back from a puncture, Mol bridged the gap to Tleubayev.


A Wallonie rider started a new series of attacks but Sieberg brought it all back together. More attacks came from riders like Alessandro Bazzana and Robert Wagner but no one managed to escape.


The chase gets organized

With 25km to go, the gap was 10 seconds and there were still lots of attacks. That was the signal for Lotto Soudal to take control with Benoot and he now started to ride tempo on the front.


With 20km to go, the gap had gone out to 25 seconds and Dockx had now taken over the pace-setting. However, he lost ground and with 15km to go, the gap was 35 seconds.


More teams start to work

This prompted Giant-Alpecin to put Thierry Hippond on the front and with 12km to go, they had brought the gap down to 30 seconds. Giant again stopped their work and instead it was the Wanty pair of Frederik Veuchelen and Tim De Troyer who started to work with Dockx.


Metec also lend a hand but the escapees turned out to be hard to catch. With 5km to go, the gap was still 20 seconds but as the lead-out trains came to the fore, the group was brought back and Guardini could sprint to the win.



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