Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) made his first win of 2016 a big one, taking out a hectic bunch sprint in a photo finish ahead of Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie). Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) was third.
On a day marked by mourning for the victims of the Brussels bombings, the Belgians could celebrate their resilience with Debuscchere’s success. The Lotto Soudal rider rode a cagey finale, biding his time as the peloton caught late attacker Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in sight of the line.
Fernando Gaviria started the sprint perhaps too early, and after his Etixx-Quickstep team did much of the chasing he finished a distant 10th. Debusschere blasted up the left side, carrying a huge turn of speed to pass Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo), Filippo Pozzato (Southeast) and finally Theuns and Coquard, all in the final 100 metres.
It was an uncomfortable experience for the peloton to race in light of the serious nature of the attacks on the country by terrorists, and Debusschere reflected on the feeling of grief that afflicted the country.
“I’m really satisfied with this victory, but you cannot be deeply happy at the moment. I think everyone in Belgium is shocked and don’t feel 100 percent in these times. I’m satisfied I could take the victory because I’ve worked hard for this. I hope everyone can pick up our lives again, and get back to their jobs like they used to do, I hope they get through this really quick.”
Debusschere seemed an unlikely winner as the peloton rounded the final corner with Trek-Segafredo leading out last year’s runner-up Edward Theuns ahead. The former Belgian champion was outside of the top 10 as they closed in on Van Avermaet and he had to come from a long way back. The sprint seemed to go on forever, as Gaviria hit the front with 200m to go but quickly faded. Coquard hit out with 100m to go and started to prepare his victory salute only to see the red blur of Debusschere flying past on his left.
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