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Kittel becomes the first river to take three consecutive victories in the Scheldeprijs as he takes a dominant win in the bunch sprint ahead of Farrar and Danny van Poppel

Photo: Sirotti










09.04.2014 @ 18:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) wrote himself into the history books when he took what seemed to be an easy third consecutive win in the race known as the world championships for the sprinters, Scheldeprijs. Having been perfectly delivered by his Giant-Shimano team, the German opened up a massive gap to his rivals and took a dominant victory ahead of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Danny Van Poppel (Trek).


Scheldeprijs is the oldest race in Flanders but during its first 101 editions no rider had managed to win the race three times in a row. Today history was made when Marcel Kittel not only became the third rider to win the race a record third time but also became the first rider to take all those wins in consecutive years.


By many, Kittel is regarded as the fastest rider in the world and so it was only fitting that he added another win in the race that is known as the world championships for the sprinters. In the absence of archrivals Mark Cavendish and André Greipel, he made it almost look easy when he opened up a massive gap to his rivals in the high-speed sprint in Schoten.


The sprint had become a bit confused as the early 6-rider breakaway proved to be hard to catch than most had expected and the final escapee, Andrea Fedi (YellowFluo), wasn't brought back until just 2.5km from the finish. At that point, Omega Pharma-Quick Step lined out their impressive train on the front, with Alessandro Petacchi having taken over the role as lead sprinter for the Belgian team in the absence of Cavendish.


Mark Renshaw, Tom Boonen, Andrew Fenn and Gert Steegmans did a perfect job to deliver their Italian sprinter in the perfect position but Giant-Shimano had done an equally good job to drop Kittel off on Petacchi's wheel. They both launched their sprint at the same time but the difference in speed was evident.


Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) had been wise and strong to position himself on Kittel's wheel and even though he was not even close to holding onto it in the sprint, the good position and solid speed allowed him to hold off Danny van Poppel in the battle for second behind the superior Kittel. Petacchi faded back to fourth, being unable to repeat his 2009 win in the race.


Kittel's win continues the excellent classics campaign for Giant-Shimano that already includes a victory for John Degenkolb in Gent-Wevelgem. With Scheldeprijs over, the Flemish classics season is over and only on big cobbled race remains, Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. Racing in Belgium resumes next Wednesday when the riders battle it out in the warm-up race for the Ardennes, Brabantse Pijl


Final Flemish classic

As usual, the Flemish classics season came to an end with the Scheldeprijs which took place on a 201km course around the city of Schoten close to Antwerp. As usual, the course was entirely flat and consisted of a big 153km loop around Schoten and three laps of a shorter 16.3km circuit at the end. The main challenge was the potential danger from the wind and the famous cobbled Broeckstraat sector that would be tackled on each lap of the finishing circuit and an additional time for a total of four passages.


As it has been the case for most of the Flemish classics, the race took off under beautiful weather conditions. Johann Van Zyl (MTN Qhubeka) was the only non-starter after he had crashed out of last Sunday's Tour of Flanders.


A failed attempt

The race may be known as the world championships for the sprinters but many riders had the plan to try to make an upset. The race was off to a very fast start as several riders tried to get involved in the early action.


The first riders to get a significant gap were Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r), Mattia Pozzo (YellowFluo) and Daniel Summerhill (Unitedhealthcare) but the trio never got more than 8 seconds of advantage before being reeled in. Instead, Luke Rowe (Sky) and Jan Ghyselinck (Wanty) took off and this instigated the right move.


The break takes off

The duo were joined by Andrea Fedi (YellowFluo), Alessandro Bazzana (Unitedhealthcare), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana), and Ivan Balykin (Rusvelo) to form a sextet that was quickly 2 minutes ahead. Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar) took off in pursuit but never got closer than 45 seconds before deciding to fall back to the peloton.


The breakaway continued to build their advantage that reached 5 minutes after an hour of racing that had seen the riders cover no less than 45km. At this point, however, Belkin and Ag2r started to chase as they wanted to set up a sprint for Theo Bos and Davide Appollonio respectively.


Several teams combine forces

Those two teams brought the gap down to 4.20 before Ag2r decided that they had had enough. Instead, the Giant-Shimano team of pre-race favourite Kittel and the FDJ team of Arnaud Demare joined Belkin on the front.


Lotto Belisol briefly made a contribution as they had big hopes for Kenny Dehaes but they quickly disappeared. The main job was left to FDJ, Belkin and Giant-Shimano and for most of the day, Laurent Mangel, Dennis van Winden and Cheng Ji swapped turns on the front.


The gap comes down

The trio had the gap down to 2 minutes with 92km to go but it was way too early to catch the breakaway. Hence, they slowed down a bit and allowed the gap to come back up 3.10 10 later as Giant-Shimano and FDJ both took a short breather.


The two teams went back to work and their hard riding brought the gap down to 1.40 with 65km to go. The peloton was now about to hit the Broekstraat for the first time and FDJ hit the front with most of their team.


Bonnet ups the pace on the pavé

William Bonnet led the team over the cobbles but as they exited the pavé, it was again Mangel and van Winden who did the work. The escapees were now riding a bit harder and the gap had come up to 2.15 when Ji went back to work just before the first passage of the finish line.


The advantage reached 2.30 where it was kept stable for quite some time. Garmin-Sharp hoped for a second win for Farrar and so Nick Nuyens started to contribute to the pace-setting.


FDJ ride hard on the pavé

When they hit the Broeckstraat for the second time, FDJ again rode hard on the front, this time with David Boucher setting the pace. As they exited the pavé, the gap was still 2.30 and it was now time to add more firepower to the chase.


Belkin added Sep Vanmarcke to the chasing team, Boucher continued riding for FDJ, Giant-Shimano put Tom Stamsnijder on the front, and Garmin started to use Lasse Norman. Despite 8 riders chasing hard, the gap only came down slowly and when they passed the line to start the second lap, it was still 2.22.


More riders join the chase

On the Broekstraat, FDJ again took control, this time with Yoann Offredo and Murilo Fischer, and after the pavé, the dup continued to work hard with Vanmarcke, Stamsijder and Boucher. As they passed the line for the penultimate time, the gap was still 1.29 as Dylan van Baarle set the pace for Fatmin.


With 11km to go, Rowe launched an attack from the front group at a time where the gap was 1.04 but as he had no success, Gruzdev countered. He didn't get clear either while in the peloton, Boonen tested his legs for the Paris-Roubaix as he rode hard over the Broekstraat for the final time.


Rowe makes a solo bid for glory

Rowe launched another attack from the front group and this time he got a solid gap. He dangled a few metres ahead for several kilometres but with 3.9km, his chasers had caught him.


In the peloton, Omega Pharma-Quick Step were now really committed to the chase as Stijn Vandenbergh and Matteo Trentino now joined Boonen on the front. They got some assistance from Ag2r who came to the fore when 4km remained.


OPQS in control

With Rowe back in the fold, Fedi countered and the Italian quickly got a nice gap. However, it was all over for both him and his former companions and with 2.8km to go, Giant-Shimano and David Millar (Garmin) had caught all escapees,


Now Omega Pharma-Quick Step took control with the train of Renshaw, Boonen, Fenn, Steegmans, and Petacchi and despite being briefly challenged by Garmin, they did the perfect job for Petacchi. When the Italian launched his sprint, however, he had Kittel on his wheel and the German took a very convincing third win in the race.



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