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Having bridged across to a strong break on the final climb with less than 2km to go, Groenewegen benefited from a great lead-out to win Heistse Pijl; Wippert was second and Kruopis third

Photo Team LottoNL-Jumbo

AIDIS KRUOPIS

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DYLAN GROENEWEGEN

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HEISTSE PIJL

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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WOUTER WIPPERT

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04.06.2016 @ 17:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) continued his dream start to his first year at the WorldTour level when he added the historic Belgian one-day race Heistse Pijl to his growning palmares. Seemingly out of the battle for the win, the Dutchman bridged across to a strong breakaway on the final climb with less than 2km to go and then benefited from a perfect lead-out to beat Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Aidis Kruopis (Veranda’s Willems) into the minor podium positions.

 

For several years, it has been evident that Dylan Groenewegen was one of the most exciting sprint talents. However, it was his win at last year’s Brussels Cycling Classic that made him a household name in the cycling world and LottoNL-Jumbo was quick to react, offering him his first WorldTour contract.

 

The Dutch team signed Groenewegen to increase their meagre winning tally and invested a lot in building a sprint train for their new star. The sprinter has paid them back for their confidence right from the start as he won stages in the Volta a la Valenciana, Tour de Yorkshire and 3 Days of West-Flanders during the winter and sprint months and also achieved several places of honour.

 

After a less successful trip to California, Groenewegen was back in Europe for the one-day race Heistse Pijl which was held today. Apparently, the Dutchman is set for a great summer too as he came away with another victory after an impressive display in the finale.

 

A 14-rider breakaway had escaped with around 50km to go and looked like they were riding away with the win. Groenewegen had missed out but he dug deep to bridge across on a cobbled climb with less than 2km to go. He quickly joined forces with teammates Timo Roosen and Tom Van Asbroeck who gave him a perfect lead-out and no one was even close to the Dutchman when he launched his sprint.

 

The 2016 edition of Heistse Pijl will be held on a 195.2km course that brought the riders from Turnhout to Heist-op-den-Berg. The first 55.2km brought the riders along mainly flat roads from the start to the finish, with the main challenges being two small pave sectors. The rest of the race consisted of 8 laps of a 17.5km circuit that included two smaller climbs. One of them was a cobbled ascent that summited just one kilometre from the downhill finish.

 

All the riders who had been registered for the race, were present as they gathered under a cloudy sky. Belgian one-day races are always very aggressive, and it is especially the case for a race like this which has often been won from a breakaway. Hence, the start was extremely fast with lots of attack and it took a long time nefore a group could get a substantial advantage. A tailwind meant that the average speed was almost 60 k /h in the first 20 km where the peloton briefly split.

 

When a group finally escaped, it was an extremely strong sextet that had formed. Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Wout Van Aert (Crelan) laid the foundations and were soon joined by Elias Van Breussegem, Stef Van Zummeren (Veranda's Willems) and Nick van der lijke (Roompot) shortly before the second passage of the finish line. The peloton was obviously not interested in giving such a strong group a big lead. Thus, the gap was only 1.20 after 70km of racing.

 

Cannondale had missed the break and thus took charge in the peloton. Their fast pace meant that the sped did not drop much and so the average speed was 46.5 km/h after two hours of racing. Lotto Soudal and CCC took over, and after three laps they had reduced the gap to just 1.02. At the same time Jarl Salomein (Topsport), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) and Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) left the race.

 

Lotto Soudal needed a hard race so they reeled hit the accelerator, reducing the gap to just 28 seconds with 70km to go. With 55km to go, it was all over for the break and the attacking started again.

 

Etixx-QuickStep tried to force a split with Nikolas Maes and Fernando Gaviria, and Sean De Bie, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Rob Ruijgh (Crelan) were also active. Alongside Robert Wagner, Tom Van Asbroeck, Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Kenny Dehaes (Wanty), Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Jelle Donders (Colba), Dries De Bondt (Veranda’s Willems) and Wouter Wippert (Cannondale), they made it into a 14-rider group that got an advantage which again forced CCC to chase with Adrian Kurek. However, the Polish team was on the back foot and saw the gap go out to 30 seconds with 45km to go.

 

The gap went out to 45 seconds before Roompot came to the fore to lend CCC a hand. Ivar Slik took some massive teams but the gap remained relatively stable. LottoNL-Jumbo briefly hit the gas as they hit the cobbled climb before Topsport Vlaanderen led the group onto the penultimate lap with a delay of 39 seconds.

 

A big alliance soon formed as Roompot, ONE, Veranda’s Willems and Coop started to chase and it was Barry Markus and Ivar Slik who took some massive turns for the Dutch team. Nonetheless, the gap stayed around the 40-second mark.

 

Soon it was left to ONE and Roompot to set the pace but their work finally paid off when the gap had dropped to 25 seconds with 25km to go. CCC also came to the fore to lend a hand and it seemed that the peloton was now having the upper hand.

 

The balance tipped again and the gap had gone out to 40 seconds when Wippert got a small gap before the cobbled climb. The Dutchman was brought back as the group reached the summit but while they took it easy on the ascent, Topsport went full gas. At the start of the final lap, the Belgian team had reduced the gap to 15 seconds.

 

The cooperation was completely gone in the breakaway where small gaps started to form. Nonetheless, they could increase their advantage to 25 seconds as there was no help for Topsport in the peloton. Meanwhile, disaster struck for Donders who punctured out of the breakaway.

 

As ONE, Topsport and Roompot had blown up, Etixx-QuickStep could patrol the front of the peloton and this only started the attacking. The Belgian team responded swiftly to everything and allowed the gap to grow to 30 seconds.

 

While a ONE rider tried to attack from the peloton, the aggression also started in the breakaway. De Bie, Maes, De Bondt and Roosen were the first to get a gap but most of the group came back together. Gaviria, Wagner and Wippert were dropped though and as the former two refused to work, the latter had to do a massive turn to bring the trio back in contention.

 

In the peloton, Superano and Topsport were chasing but they were still 30 seconds behind with 10km to go. Hence, the attacking continued in the front group where Roosen was the first to get a bigger gap. However, Lampaert was working hard for Gaviria and brought the young Dutchman back.

 

Roelandts was the next to get clear and as the group hesitated, he quickly got a gap. Maes bridged across to make it a duo and now everybody were looking at LottoNL to bring them back.

 

Roosen took a massive turn to bring the two Belgians back but as soon as the catch was made, De Bie and De Bondt countered. However, that was too dangerous for Etixx-QuickStep and LottoNL who brought the pair back. Dehaes was the next to try but he had no luck and the next move from Gaviria did not pay off either.

 

Wagner made a very strong attack and looked like he had gone clear but he failed. Instead, the group split as Benoot, De Bondt, Lampaert, Van Asbroeck and Dehaes got clear but as they failed to cooperate, the group came back together at the bottom of the cobbled climb.

 

The group came to a standstill and as Veranda’s Willems were chasing at 100%, the gap was suddenly reduced to a few metres when Benoot hit the gas on the cobbles. Gaviria took over but he was unable to prevent a group of riders with the likes of Groenewege, Matti Breschel (Cannondale), Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport), Michel Kreder (Roompot) and Julien Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep) from bridging across.

 

The Colombian exploded spectacularly before Roosen led the group to the top of the climb. De Bondt hit the front on the descent and then De Bie took a turn.

 

However, Lotto NL-Jumbo had had time to get organized and they lined up Roosen, Van Asbroeck and Groenewegen on the front. The former two did a perfect lead-out and even though Wippert was right on the wheel, no one could even try to pass Groenewegen who easily won the race. Wippert had to settle for second and Kruopis held off Dehaes in the battle for third.

 

With Heistse Pijl done and dusted, the many Belgian stars will travel abroad for the major races in June. The next major event in Belgium will be held on June 22 when Halle-Ingooigem will serve as the traditional warm-up for the national championships.

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