Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) swooped in to win Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in a bunch sprint after a heroic five-man breakaway fronted by Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was denied.
Britain’s Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) finished on the podium in third, behind Pedersen and Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Energie).
It had looked as though the breakaway would make it to the finish, only for them to be swallowed up with 1.5 kilometres remaining.
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The day began with a six-man breakaway, containing Maciej Bodnar and Patrick Gamper (Bora-Hansgrohe), Ludwig De Winter (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Artyom Zakharov (Astana-Premier Tech), Tom Paquot (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) and Jonas Hvideberg (Uno).
Then, just as the TV cameras began to show live pictures to the world, with the instinct of a true professional, Van der Poel launched clear of the peloton in a ballsy attempt to bridge over to the leaders. With him for the ride was Jhonatan Narvaez (Ineos Grenadiers), and they made it over with just one of Flanders' famous bergs left in the day.
On the slopes of the Kluisberg, Van der Poel forged on and the breakaway was reformed, with only Hvideberg, Gampert and Zakharov remaining of the original six.
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From there, the mighty Mathie marshalled his troops, taking some enormous pulls in the process, spurring his four companions on toward the finish line. It was only when the flamme rouge loomed that their efforts were eventually undone by a massive injection of pace from Greg van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) to close the gap between groups one and two on the road
From there, the sprint that had always been expected played out, albeit with different protagonists in the leading roles. The purer sprinters like Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck Quick-Step) had been unable to hang with the frenetic pace of the day's racing and so it was a true classicist who emerged with the win.
Pedersen was able to capitalise on an early opening up of the sprint from youngster Pidcock, riding only his second ever classic. With the Yorkshireman putting his nose in the wind just a second or two too soon, he found himself unable to get round the hulking form of Pedersen as the Dane thundered towards the line.
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Turgis put in an inspired ride and was great value for his second place, hanging in with the second group on the road for much of the day without exhausting his reserves too badly. The Frenchman was fourth at the Ronde last year and with this sort of form, he may even go a step better and make it onto the podium in 2021.
Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) had an awfully-timed puncture which ruled him out of the shakedown in the last three kilometres. The fastman had been able to infiltrate a group of pure classics specialists earlier in the day and was looking good for a sprint finish as the fastest man on paper in that selection.
Sonny Colbrelli's Bahrain Victorious squad were very prominent in the chasing effort, with Dylan Teuns doing a huge amount of the work to bring back Van der Poel, but the Italian was only able to muster sixth from the ensuing gallop.
In yet another edition that has gone against the grain, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is looking less like a sprinter's race with every passing year.
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