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Having dropped Ligthart with a big attack on the final climb, Claeys soloed to victory in the Belgian semi-classic GP Jef Scherens; Lightart took second and Maikin won the sprint for third

Photo: Kristof Ramon










21.08.2016 @ 19:06 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A few weeks after his stage win in the Tour de Wallonie, Dimitri Clayes (Wanty) continued his dream season by claiming an impressive solo win in the hilly Belgian semi-classic GP Jef Scherens. With a powerful attack on the final climb, he dropped Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) and then kept both the Dutchman and the peloton at bay in the flat run-in to the finish. Roman Maikin (Gazprom-Rusvelo) won the sprint for third.


Last year Dimitri Claeys was one of the Revelations on the continental scene, taking a number of strong results for Veranda’s WilleMs, including a stage win at the Tour of Croatia, overall victory at the Tour de Normandie and second place at the GP Impanis. That made him a hot topic on the transfer market and it was the Wanty team that won the battle for his signature.


This year Claeys confirmed his potential when he finished 9th in the Tour of Flanders, showing that he has the skills to become a great classics rider. A few weeks ago he took his first win for his new team when he won a reduced bunch sprint on the hilly third stage of the Tour de Wallonie and so confirmed that he is on form for the final part of the season.


Today Claeys wanted revenge in the Belgian semi-classic GP Jef Scherens after he finished a frustrating second in last year’s edition of the race. In tough and rainy edition of the hilly race, he proved his excellent shape by riding to an impressive solo win after having dropped Pim Ligthart in the finale.


The 50th edition of the GP Jef Scherens was held as a circuit race on the well-known 12.9km circuit in Leuven which was covered 13 times for an overall distance of 185.7km. It included four small climbs. The first one came right from the start and averaged 6.5% over 390m. After 5.1km of racing, the riders hit a 1200m ascent of 3% and then there was a 350m climb at 9% which started at the 6.8km mark. The final challenge was an easier climb of 415 at 3 which started just 2.6km from the finish. Then a flat section led to a descent which ended just after the flamme rouge. The final 600m were.


Pre-race favourite Timothy Dupont (Veranda’s Willems) was a non-starter due to a car accident when the riders gathered for the start in Leuven under the rain. The bad weatherdidn’t dampen the attacking spirit. There were lots of attempts right from the start but no one managed to get clear during the first lap of the race.


Finally, the elastic snapped when Nicolas Veerecken (An Post), Gerry Druyts (Crelan), Daan Hoeyberghs (Beobank) and Justin Mottier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) managed to get an advantage of 45 seconds. Berden De Vries (Roompot) gave chase and he made the junction before the end of the second lap and finally Sjoerd Kouwenhoven (Metec) also made it across.


The gap went out to 3.30 after 41km of racing where Lotto Soudal hit the front but they were not really chasing yet. Hence, the gap reached a maximum of four minutes as they ended the fifth lap of the circuit.


With 100km to go, the gap had dropped to 2.34 and the tough conditions were taking their toll as riders like Grzegorz (Stepniak) and Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport) were among the many to leave the race. When it fell to less than two minutes, the escapees tried to react and that sent Mottier out the back door, leaving just five riders to press on.


Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Veranda’s Willes started to chase hard with the likes of Stef Van Zummeren and Kevin Van Melsen, bringing the gap down to 1.25 as they hit the final 60km. Just 5km later, it was down to less than a minute.


With 50km to go, Wanty-Groupe Gobert attacked in the crosswinds and briefly created a small group with numerous of their riders. Frederik Backaert, Marco Marcato and Claeys then attacked on the next climb, creating a small group with the likes of Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), Dries De Bondt (Veranda’s Willems) and Julien Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep).


The attack didn’t work but the injection of pace ended the day for the escapees who were brought back with 47km to go. There were immediate attacks, most notably from Etixx-QuickStep, but it was a Fortuneo rider and a companion that had a small advantage as they started the 11th lap.


The group was brought back and instead Kevin Ista (Wallonie) attacked under the pouring rain as they went up the first climb. Vermote also gave it a go but it was De Bondt, Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty) and a Wallonie rider that escaped.


The trio worked well together while the attacking continued further back. A strong group with the likes of Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Wout van Aert (Crelan) and Floris De Tier (Topsport) caught the three leaders and this forced Wilier on the defensive. The Italian team managed to bring things back together.


With 30km to go, Clayes and Ligthart made their move as they made a strong attack and they had a small advantage over a little chase group as they started the penultimate lap. That group failed to stay clear and instead Wesley Kreder (Roompot) took off. De Bondt joined the Dutchman and the duo tried to bridge the gap to the two leaders.


With 20km to go, Ligthart and Claeys were 15 seconds ahead of their chasers and 35 seconds ahead of the peloton which was led by Wilier and Fortuneo-Vital Concept. Chris Anker Sørensen and Cristian Raileanu were among the riders to do a huge amount of work but they didn’t get any closer to the front duo which was cooperating excellently.


Kreder and De Bondt were losing ground and at the start of the final lap, they were 32 seconds behind the leaders while the peloton was at 50 seconds. Topsport were now lending a hand too and they soon brought the two chasers back while reducing the gap to 40 seconds.


Etixx-QuickStep decided that it was time to react and they sent Guillaume Van Keirsbulck off in an attack. However, Wellens joined him to protect Ligthart in the front and to the attack came to nothing. Hence, they were brought back and the next attacks from Vermote and a Veranda’s rider didn’t work out either.


As they hit the hardest climb with 6km to go, Claeys accelerated hard and as Ligthart had no response, he got a small advantage. In the peloton, van Aert launched a strong solo attack and on the descent, a group with the likes of van Aert, Jens Adams (Crelan), Marcato and Wellens had formed.


They failed to cooperate and after Adams had made a solo move, they were brought back. It was now clear that it was coming down to a battle between the first two riders. Ligthart got close in the end but he ran out of metres. Claeys reached the finish with a four-second advantage over Ligthart before Roman Maikin beat Boris Vallee and Dion Smith in the sprint for third, just 8 seconds behind the lone Claeys. The race is part of the Napoleon Games Cycling Cup which is still led by Dylan Groenewegen


With the GP Jef Scherens done and dusted, the series of Belgian semi-classics continues on Tuesday when the riders will tackle the GP Stad Zottegem followed by Wednesday’s Druivenkoers-Overijse and Sundays’ Schal Sels. The next race in the Napoleon Games Cycling Cup is the Kampioenschap Vlaanderen on September 16.



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