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After a crash had split the peloton to pieces, Jans took his first win of the year in the final European race, Nationale Sluitingsprijs, by beating Dupont and Hofland in a reduced bunch sprint

Photo: ©Kramon

CIRCUS-WANTY GOBERT

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MORENO HOFLAND

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NATIONALE SLUITINGPRIJS

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TIMOTHY DUPONT

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11.10.2016 @ 17:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Roy Jans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) ended a difficult season on a high as he claimed his first win in the final European road race of 2016, the Nationale Sluitingsprijs. After a big crash had split the peloton, he emerged as the fastest in the 20-rider sprint, narrowly distancing Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Timothy Dupont (Veranda’s Willems).

 

After a great 2015 season, Roy Jans had secured a leadership role in the Wanty team for 2016 and the team was keen to build a lead-out train for their promising Belgian sprinter. Things got off to a great start as he sprinted to several third places in Qatar and Oman in February.

 

However, things soon started to unravel and several health issues set him back. While he was on the sideline, his teammate Kenny Dehaes took a couple of wins and it seemed that he had slipped down in the internal sprint hierarchy.

 

However, Jans refused to give up and he slowly returned to top form. At the end of July, he was back on track at the Tour of Denmark and since then he has been knocking on the door for that elusive victory. Last week he got very close when he finished second behind John Degenkolb at the Münsterland Giro but at the start of his final race, Nationale Sluitingsprijs, he was still empty-handed.

 

Impressively, Jans managed to save his season in the very last event as he took his first big one-day win in the final race of the European season. On a day when a big crash left 20 riders to battle it out in a sprint, he beat pre-race favourites Moreno Hofland and Timothy Dupont in a close battle.

 

The 83rd edition of the Nationale Sluitingsprijs was held on the well-known 16.25km circuit in Putte-Kapellen that was covered 11 times for an overall distance of 183.59km. It was completely flat and without any real technical challenges, meaning that a bunch sprint was the expected outcome.

 

As forecasted, the riders had perfect conditions at the start, and they got the race off to a brutally fast beginning. It took almost two laps before it eight riders, Danilo Naplitano (Wanty), Brian Van Goethem (Roompot), Mike Teunissen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Gerry Druyts (Crelan), Arjen Livyns (Veranda's), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Sjoerd Kouwenhoven (Metec) and Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen), managed to escape but when they crossed the finish line for the second time, they already had a lead of 1.45. After the third lap, it had grown to 2.38 in a quick first hour during which the riders covered 47km.

 

Baptiste Planckaert's Wallonie team took control, and so it was Thomas Deruette and Julien Stassen who ensured that the gap was still only 2.30 after 55 kilometers of racing. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) also helped, and together they had brought it down to two minutes over the next 10 kilometers. At the same time might, Wallays had to spend energy to rejoin the peloton after a mechanical.

 

The gap dropped steadily, and when it was down to just 1.10, Wallays attacked. At first only Teunissen, Napolitano and Livyns could follow him, and soon the group was down to just two riders, Wallays and Teunissen.

 

With 55km to go, the two leaders were 40 seconds ahead of their chasers and 1.40 ahead of the peloton. Cofidis took over the pace-setting in the peloton and they quickly brought Druyts back after he had been dropped from the chase group.

 

At the end of the 8th lap, the gaps were 58 seconds and 1.10 respectively and it didn’t take long for the peloton to bring the chasers back. Emiel Vermeulen’s 3M team started to contribute to the chase and during the next lap, Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) and a 3M rider did the work.

 

The 3M rider swung off and it was left to Rossetto to lead the peloton until they got to the finish line where Timothy Dupont (Veranda’s Willems) beat Amaury Capiot (Topsport Vlaanderen) in the battle for third place in the intermediate sprint.

 

Rossetto kept riding on the front until 26km remained where the attacking started. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) took off and together with Michael Goolaerts (Lotto Soudal) and a few more, he bridged the gap to the leaders. The Lotto Soudal stagiaire countered immediately and while the rest of the group was caught, the young Belgian opened a 10-second advantage.

 

Rossetto again led the chase and while he rode on the front, the drama started. A big crash in the front end of the peloton involved riders like Davide Martinelii, Dimitri Claeys, Kenny Dehaes, Jelle Mannaerts and Dennis van Winden and split the peloton to pieces, leaving just 20-30 riders in the main group.

 

A Crelan rider used the chaos to bridge across to Goolaerts but the duo were soon brought back. A Wanty rider made a failed attempt before Rossetto and David Boucher (Crelan) led the peloton to the finish for the penultimate time. Capiot beat Dries De Bondt (Veranda’s) in the intermediate sprint before a big peloton led by Roompot arrived around 20 seconds later.

 

Just after the passage of the line, Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Boris Dron (Wanty) and Gianni Marchand (Cibel) attacked and the trio quickly got a 10-second advantage. Veranda’s Willems started to chase with two riders and Topsport Vlaanderen also put a rider on the front to work for Capiot.

 

The hard work didn’t pay off immediately as the gap had gone out to 20 seconds as they hit the final 10km. That prompted Wallonie to lend a hand too and the gap finally started to come down. Zhihui Jiang (LottoNL-Jumbo) took turns too and the gap had dropped to 10 seconds with 6km to go.

 

The gap was unchanged when the front trio hit the final 4km and the hard chase from Boucher, Tosport and Veranda’s Willems didn’t really pay off. The gap was still seven seconds with 2.5km to go.

 

Stybar was the only surviving Etixx rider and he made his expected move at this point. He quickly bridged the gap to the trio but as he had the rest of the peloton in tow, it all came back together.

 

Marchand countered the move immediately and managed to build a small advantage before Stybar went again. Together with a Lotto rider, he made it across to the leader. However, Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) suddenly came flying past the trio and when Frederik Frison (Lotto Soudal) made the junction, a front duo had been established with a small advantage of 5 seconds.

 

The two Belgians were still ahead as they passed the flamme rouge but as a Wallonie rider was chasing hard, the pair was brought back. Stybar tried to make another surprise attack but it was impossible to get clear. Instead, Jans, Moreno Hofland and Timothy Dupont started their sprints almost simultaneously and it was the former who gradually moved clear to take the win.

 

With the Nationale Sluitingsprijs done and dusted, there’s just one race left in Europe. On October 23, the time triallists will battle it out in the final event, Chrono des Nations.

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