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Having been part of the early break, Wallays was joined by Kwiatkowski, van Baarle and Theuns before launching a late attack to win Dwars door Vlaanderen; Theuns made it a 1-2 for Topsport Vlaanderen

Photo: ASO/B.Bade

DWARS DOOR VLAANDEREN

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DYLAN VAN BAARLE

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EDWARD THEUNS

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JELLE WALLAYS

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SPORT VLAANDEREN - BALOISE

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25.03.2015 @ 18:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Less than 6 months after he took a surprise win in Paris-Tours, Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen) again beat all the WorldTour stars when he took the victory in the first cobbled classic, Dwars door Vlaanderen. Having originally been part of the early break, he was joined by his teammate Edward Theuns, Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) before launching a perfectly timed attack at the flamme rouge to take a solo win. Theuns beat van Baarle in the sprint to make it a 1-2 for Topsport Vlaanderen.

 

In October, Jelle Wallays defied the odds when he outwitted Thomas Voeckler to take a hugely surprising win in Paris-Tours. Today he proved that he has a great talent to shine in the biggest races when he took another hugely surprising victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen.

 

Wallays is not a prolific winner and no fast sprinter but a combination of strong legs and wily tactics again allowed him to deny the WorldTour stars the win in one of the big races. And as it was the case in Tours last autumn, he found himself up against one of the major stars as he was in the lead group with Michal Kwiatkowski when they approached the flamme rouge.

 

Wallays didn’t look like a winner when he made it into the early break which seemed to be doomed for failure when Etixx-QuickStep brought the gap down to just 15 seconds with 70km to go. The Belgian team intended to make the race hard and their fast pace, wind, rain and numerous crashes had split the main group to pieces as just 40 riders were left in contention.

 

The junction was almost made when they reached the bottom of the first key climb of the Taaienberg and Wallays just seemed to make the usual final attack when he accelerated on the slopes. He got rid of his companions and when he crested the summit, he suddenly had extended his advantage to more than 30 seconds.

 

Behind, a select group of favourites had formed and as Etixx-QuickStep was the only team with strength in numbers, the door was open for attacks. Kwiatkowski exploited the situation to accelerate on the descent and he was joined by Edward Theuns and Dylan van Baarle to form a strong trio that quickly reached Wallays.

 

The new quartet started to work together while the chase behind never got organized. Instead, the attacking continued and numerous groups were constantly brought back

 

As they hit the key climbs of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, Wallays had to dig deep to stay with the leaders but he managed to stay in contact. Behind, Lars Boom (Astana) launched a fierce attack and he seemed to be getting back in contention. Unfortunately, he slid out on a descent and lost all chance of success.

 

Instead, it was an 11-rider group that emerged after the hilly zone and the final flat part of the race developed into a fierce pursuit. The chasers managed to bring the gap down from 1.15 to 25 seconds but they never made the junction.

 

Hence, the four leaders would decide the race and Wallays timed everything perfectly when he launched the first attack just before the passage of the flamme rouge. Everybody looked at Kwiatkowski to shut it down and the Pole finally tried to do so. It was too late though and so Wallays held on to take the win before his teammate Theuns beat van Baarle and a frustrated Kwiatkowski in the sprint for second.

 

The classics action continues on Friday when the riders gather in Harelbeke for the WorldTour race E3 Harelbeke. All the major stars will join today’s riders for that race which is usually the big dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders.

 

A classic course

The Dwars door Vlaanderen was held on a very difficult 200km course from Roeselare to Waregem that saw the riders zigzag their way through the Flemish Ardennes. After a flat first half, the riders reached the difficult finale where they faced no less than 12 of the famous hellingen in Flanders and three flat pave sectors. The decisive climbs were expected to be the Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, with the latter coming 35km from the finish. Then the riders faced three smaller climbs and a pave sector during the mostly flat run back to Waregem.

 

The riders wore their rain jackets when they gathered for the start under a cloudy sky and they first held a minute of silence for the victims from yesterday’s airplane crash. However, the start to the race was far from silent as the riders got the racing off at fierce pace.

 

Lots of attacks

Roompot were among the early attackers but for a long time, no one was able to get clear. In the hectic opening phase, Katusha lost one of their leaders when Marco Haller crashed out of the race.

 

At the 15km mark, three riders managed to get a small gap when Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha), Jay Robert Thomson (MTN-Qhubeka) and Brian van Goethem (Roompot) took off.  While they fought hard to increase their advantage, another crash brought down both Giacomo Nizzolo and Markel Irizar from Trek and they were both forced to abandon.

 

An 11-rider group gets clear

Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Giuseppe Fonzi (Southeast), Tom van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo), Sean de Bie (Lotto Soudal), Sven Erik Bystrøm (Katusha), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Michael Reihs (Cult) and Joey Rooskopf (BMC) bridged the gap to the leader to make it an 11-rider group that worked hard to maintain a 30-second advantage. When they crossed the finish line for the first time, they were nearly brought back though and moments later it was all back together.

 

The riders had covered 48km in the first hour and they had no intention of slowing down. The attacking continued and Rohan Dennis (BMC) was among the riders to try an unsuccessful solo move.

 

The break is formed

The group was still together when they crossed the finish line for the second time to head into the Flemish Ardennes for the first climbs. Moments later, Louis Verhelst (Cofidis) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty) got a small gap and they were later joined by De Bie, Angelo Tulik (Europcar), Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot) and Mads Pedersen (Cult). That move was unsuccessful too and the attacking could start again.

 

Gert Dockx (Lotto Soudal) and Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen) were the next to give it a try but they had no luck either and instead it was Boris Dron (Wanty), Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen), Adrien Petit (Cofdis), van Goethem and Matthias Brändle (IAM) who took off. Dockx, Roben Zepuntke (Cannondale-Garmin) and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) took off in pursuit but they lost momentum when Zpeuntke hit the deck.

 

More riders join from behind

After the passage of the first climb, Nieuwe Kwaremont, Dockx and Howard made the junction and now the peloton seemed to slow down. As they had an advantage of a minute, they slowed down to wait for Zepuntke before they again started to work.

 

When the gap reached two minutes, Etixx-QuickStep started to chase with Iljo Keisse. Meanwhile, Martin Mortensen (Cult) took off in pursuit and he did an impressive effort to bridge the gap.

 

Etixx-QuickStep take control

Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) was the next to withdraw from the race while Etixx-QuickStep kept the situation firmly under control. As they hit the Kattenberg after 107km of racing, the gap was only 2.25.

 

The gap briefly reached 3 minutes before it again started to come down. Moments later, the peloton hit the Holleweg cobbles and here an acceleration by Etixx-QuickStep created a split in the peloton.

 

More crashes

While the second group worked hard to close the 12-second gap, a crash brought down a few more riders, including Marcel Aregger (IAM). The fast pace had a big impact on the gap to the leaders who were just 30 seconds ahead as they tackled the Berendries with 80km to go.

 

On that climb, Alex Kirsch (Cult) took off while another big crash brought down an IAM rider who was in a really bad condition, and Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo). However, Etixx-QuickStep didn’t slow down and it was now Guillaume van Keirsbulck and Yves Lampaert riding on the front of the diminished peloton.

 

Petit punctures out of the group

While Kirsch worked hard in an attempt to bridge the gap, Petit had bad luck to puncture out of the lead group and as the gap was now down to 20 seconds, he was caught just as he was back on his bike. Moments later, Kirsch made the junction but at this point the front group was just a few metres ahead of the peloton that was still being led by van Keirsbulck and Lampaert and was down to less than 50 riders.

 

The gap stabilized around 15 seconds but Howard had already had enough and so dropped back to the peloton. Etixx-QuickStep took a short breather before they again accelerated during the approach to the Eikenberg.

 

Wallays attacks

As they hit the cobbled climb, the peloton had almost caught the break and this prompted Wallays to attack. Dockx worked hard to follow him while most of the break was picked up by the peloton. At the top of the climb, Wallays had a small advantage over Dockx while Kirsch and Brändle followed a little further back.

 

In the peloton, there had been no big drama as Lampaert had just set a steady pace and this opened the door for Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka) to bridge the gap to Brändle and Kirsch. Meanwhile, Etixx-QuickStep finally disappeared from the front and allowed Cannondale-Garmin to come to the fore.

 

A strong chase group

The slower pace allowed Wallays to build an advantage of 40 seconds while Dockx fell back to the Brändle group. Meanwhile, Lampaert went back to work while the second peloton led by Orica-GreenEDGE was still working hard to get back in contention.

 

When the riders hit the Taaienberg, the peloton had again accelerated and at the bottom of the steep ascent, the chasers were brought back. Instead, it was Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Marcus Burghardt (BMC) who accelerated and when they crested the summit a small lead group which also included the likes of Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale), Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo), Michal Kwiatkowski, Niki Terpstra, Guillaume van Keirsbulck, Nikolas Maes, Mark Cavendish, Lampaert  (all Etix-QuickStep), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), Brändle, Dock, Reguigui, Sven Erik Bystrøm (Katusha)  and Frederik Backaert (Wanty) had been formed.

 

Theuns and Kwiatkowski attack

Theuns and Kwiatkowski launched an attack on the descent and after they had been joined by van Baarle, they bridged the gap to Wallays. While they immediately got a big gap, there was no organization in the chase group from which the attacks came thick and fast.

 

A chase group is formed

Backaert briefly launched a promising move but when he was brought back, the pace went down. That prompted Breschel and Dockx to start to chase before Brändle and Lemoine restarted the attacking.

 

As a result, a new chase group with Boom, Burghardt, Maes, Benoot, Brändle, Lemoine and Bystrøm was formed and they started to cooperate well 20 seconds behind the leaders. Meanwhile, another group caught the Cavendish group.

 

 

Amador and Bystrøm take off

The chase was still not organized and so Stijn Devolder (Trek), Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) and Jempy Drucker (BMC) went on the attack. They were joined by van Keirsbulck, Roy Jans (Wanty) and Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha). Further back, another group with Andrey Amador, Nairo Quintana (both Movistar) and Breschel was formed.

 

The Devolder group bridged the gap to the chasers that were now 30 seconds behind the four leaders and with 43km to go, the Quintana group also made it back to the chasers. There was no cooperation though and so Amador and Bystrøm managed to get clear.

 

Boom makes his move

The front quartet hit the Oude Kwaremont with 40km to go with a 1-minute advantage and they worked well together up the steep slopes. Meanwhile, Amador dropped Bystrøm as he continued to press on alone.

 

Boom launched a big attack on the climb and he flow past Amador. With 35km to go, he had brought the gap down to 25 seconds and he seemed to be getting back in contention.

 

Disaster for Boom

That’s when disaster struck for the Dutchman who crashed on the descent together with the camera motorcycle. When the chasers passed the same point, Devolder also went down and he seemed to be badly hurt.

 

The Kwaremont and Paterberg did some damage on the chase group and when they reached the summit of the latter, an 11-rider group with Benoot, Debusschere, Drucker, Maes, Van Keirsbulck, Amador, Gatto, Bystrøm, Kuznetsov, Breschel and Lemoine had been formed. They were still 1 minute behind with 28km to go but as they worked well together and Benoot took some huge turns for his teammate Debusschere, they brought it down to 40 seconds with 20km to go.

 

The attacking starts

Their progress stalled and this prompted Debusschere to make an attack with 15km to go. Maes quickly shut it down but the faster pace meant that the gap was now only 30 seconds. As they again started to cooperate, they brought it down to 25 seconds but now the fatigue started to set in.

 

Kuznetsov tried to bridge the gap on his own but he failed to make any progress. Meanwhile, the big group lost ground and with 9km to go, they were 45 seconds behind. The Russian was ultimately brought back and while Wallays outwitted his rivals in the front, Van Keirsbulck made a late attack to finish the race in 5th.

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