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Having riding a very attentive race all day, Boeckmans made it into the 8-rider lead group on the final pave and finally beat Meersman and Laporte in the uphill sprint to win Le Samyn

Photo: Lotto Soudal

GIANNI MEERSMAN

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KRIS BOECKMANS

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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04.03.2015 @ 17:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After two second places in past editions, Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) finally won Le Samyn when he benefited from the great condition he showed in the recent Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne to deny Etixx-QuickStep the win. The Belgian made the 8-rider selection when the rival team accelerated on the final pave sector with 2km to go and finally proved his strength in the uphill sprint by holding off Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis).

 

Last Sunday Kris Boeckmans proved that he was in excellent condition when he was the only rider who could match the pace of Tom Boonen, Zdenek Stybar and Sep Vanmarcke on the Oude Kwaremont. That performance provided both his Lotto Soudal team and himself with lots of confidence for the Walloon season opener Le Samyn in which he has finished second twice.

 

Boeckmans clearly showed his intentions as he stayed near the front of the peloton all day while Trek and Etixx-QuickStep tried to make the race hard. With a new pave just 2km from the finish, the race which had traditionally been decided in a bunch sprint, turned out to be a gradual elimination but Boeckmans never seemed to be in trouble.

 

While his teammate Thomas De Gendt pressed on in a solo attempt, Boeckmans could leave it to other teams to do the hard work and his attentiveness saw him stay on the wheel of the Etixx riders almost all day. That was a good place to be in as the Belgian team accelerated whenever they hit the difficult pave on the 24km finishing circuit that was completed four times.

 

On the final lap, Etixx-QuickStep took control and brought back the many late attacks, with Lukasz Wisniowski doing a huge amount of work. In the hard fight for position, the Belgian team proved their strength as it was Stijn Vandenbergh, Niki Terpstra, Yves Lampaert and Gianni Meersman who led the peloton onto the pave for the final time.

 

Boeckmans had positioned himself perfectly on Meersman’s wheel and while the peloton splintered to pieces, he never looked in trouble. When the dust had settled at the end of the sector, only 8 riders remained as the Etixx-QuickStep quartet were joined only by the Lotto Soudal duo of Boeckmans and Tiesj Benoot and the Cofidis pair of Christophe Laporte and Steve Chainel.

 

Behind a 10-rider group with the likes of Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka), Tanner Putt (Unitedhealthcare), Maxime Vantomme and Baptiste Planckaert (both Roubaix) had formed but they never got back in contention. An FDJ rider got close to bridging the gap but it was the 8-rider front group that would battle it out on the 1.5km climb to the finish.

 

Vandenbergh finished his work and while Terpstra took over, Chainel also got dropped. Later Lampaert did his lead-out and Meersman found himself in the perfect position.

 

However, Boeckmans was still on his compatriot’s wheel and he decided to launch a long sprint. He quickly got a solid gap and even though Meersman got close in the end, he ran out of metres and had to settle for second. Laporte completed the podium.

 

Most of the riders in today’s race will be back in action on Friday when the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen kicks off with a 7km prologue. Boeckmans will be among the participants as he tries to continue his current momentum.

 

A new pave sector

This year’s edition of Le Samyn was held on a 201.2km course from Quaregnon to Dour. The first part was made up of a 102.3km journey with four smaller climbs at the midpoint but the race was likely to be decided during the four laps of the 24.7km finishing circuit. It first included an easy 1-star cobbled section and then the Cote de la Roquette which had a two-star cobbled surface. Later the riders tackled the Cote d’Audregnies before they reached the new feature on the course: a difficult 700m 3-star pave. It ended less than 3km from the finish and the final 1.5km were all uphill.

 

As it has been the case in a lot of races, the riders held a minute of silence in memory of Claude Criquelion before they headed out on their ride under a beautiful sunny sky. However, a strong wind was blowing which made for some nervous faces in the peloton. There was one non-starter as Jerome Gilbert (Verandas Willems) didn’t sign in.

 

A fast start

The race got off to a very fast start and there were lots of attack in the opening part of the race. After the first hour, no one had managed to escape. Finally, the elastic snapped when Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) took off and he was accompanied by Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) and Ludwig De Winter (Wallonie-Bruxelles) as he started to build a gap.

 

After 90 minutes of racing, the front trio had built an advantage of 4 minutes and as the peloton was in no hurry, they constantly gained time. 20 minutes later, the gap was 6.30 and with 11km to go, they started the laps of the finishing circuit with an advantage of 7.40.

 

The chase gets organized

Finally, the peloton started to chase and with 100km to go, they had brought the gap down to 5 minutes. Trek and Cofidis were among the teams that did the early work to bring back the strong front trio.

 

Etixx-QuickStep took over and they kept the gap stable at around 5 minutes. They even allowed it to grow a bit and with 64km to go, the escapees had extended their advantage to 6 minutes.

 

De Gendt attacks

In the peloton, Stijn Devolder (Trek) and Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Etixx-QuickStep) now had to ride full gas and they got some assistance from Johann van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka). Meanwhile, De Gendt made a surprising move on the Cote de la Roquette where he attacked and quickly distanced his companions.

 

The hard pace had already whittled the peloton down to less than 100 riders and now the chase work started to pay off. With the gap down to 5.30, Trek accelerated hard and it was Giacomo Nizzolo who led the peloton onto the Roquette climb.

 

Etixx-QuickStep accelerate on the cobbles

Devolder took over and got some assistance from his teammate Marco Coledan as riders now started to drop off again. Meanwhile, De Gendt got to the difficult pave sector with an advantage of 50 seconds over Smukulis and De Winter.

 

In the peloton, Trek tried to split things in the crosswinds before Etixx-QuickStep accelerated hard on the cobbles. As a consequence, the peloton was down to 25-30 riders when they exited the pave while Smukulis had used the cobbles to distance De Winter.

 

De Gendt loses ground

Etixx-QuickStep again slowed down a bit and this allowed Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) and Kevin Ledanois (Bretagne) to attack as they started the penultimate lap. The Frenchman distanced the Spaniard and he reached the next pave sector with a small advantage.

 

Etixx again accelerated and caught both Ledanois and De Winter while De Gendt was not only 3 minutes ahead. Petr Vakoc did an amazing work before Trek and MTN-Qhubeka again took over with Devolder and Van Zyl.

 

A short-lived move

A bit of regrouping had taken place and it was about 50 riders who arrived at the bottom of the Roquette together. Eugenio Alafaci set the pace for Trek while Smukulis decided to sit up.

 

Just as the Latvian was caught, his teammate Sergey Lagutin attacked and he was joined by Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie). However, MTN-Qhubeka quickly shut it down and instead Trek went back to work with Alafaci and Boy van Poppel.

 

A new break goes clear

As they approached the difficult pave, Etixx again took control with Vakoc and Lukasz Wisniowski and they accelerated hard on the cobbles.  As they exited the sector, the main group was again downt o around 30 riders and they were only 35 seconds behind De Gendt when they started the final lap moments later.

 

De Gendt decided to sit up and wait for the peloton while the attacking started as soon as Etixx-QuickStep slowed down a bit. Van der Sande, Lagutin, Jan Barta (Bora Argon 18), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Boris Dron (Wanty) and Adrien Petit (Cofidis) passed De Gendt and built an advantage of 10 seconds.

 

Etixx-QuickStep chase it down

Vakoc and Wisniowski hit the front and for a little while they kept the gap stable at around 10 seconds. Petit briefly tried to distance his companions but with the exception of van der Sande who was just following wheels, they soon started to work well together.

 

Just as they hit the Roquette climb, van der Sande punctured out of the lead group while Petit made another attack. A strong acceleration by Etixx-QuickStep brought all but the Cofidis rider back in the fold.

 

Le Bon takes off

After the climb, a 20-rider group had formed and it was Katusha who took control. Barta and Dron briefly tried to attack again. And instead Johan Le Bon (FDJ) and Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhuveka) attacked.

 

Vandenbergh, Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) and Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Argon 18) were also part of that move and they quickly passed Petit. However, Le Bon took off on his own while the rest of the attackers were caught.

 

Etixx-QuickStep take control

Le Bon was also brought back when Lluis Mas, Nizzolo, Coledan and Louis Verhelst (Cofidis) were part of the next attack. However, Coledan soon started to ride on the front to control the situation instead.

 

Van der Sande and Vandenbergh briefly made an attack before Cousin took off. He was joined by Dmitry Kozontchuk (Katusha) and they got an advantage of a few seconds. However, Wisniowski had now hit the front for Etixx and he brought them back with 4km to go. The Pole stayed in control until Vandenbergh took over just before the final pave and from there the exciting finale started.

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