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Lampaert victorious in WorldTour debut of Dwars Door Vlaanderen

Canadian Ben Perry of Israel Cycling Academy in day's breakaway

Quick Step’s superiority in numbers paid off Wednesday in the Dwars Door Vlaanderen’s first inclusion in the WorldTour, as Yves Lampaert (Belgium) soloed to victory. Lampaert and teammate Philippe Gilbert were part of a leading quartet from which Lampaert sprung to take the biggest win of his career.

The 72nd edition of DDV kicked off a wild twelve-day stretch of Flanders WorldTour intensity. E3 Harelbeke comes on Friday, Gent-Wevelgem runs Sunday, and the Monument Classic Tour of Flanders rolls on April 2.

There were twelve hellingen on tap Wednesday, six of which were cobbled, and four stand-alone cobbled sections, including a new addition 6-km from the line in Waregem. Riders must follow the moves on the Eikenberg and Taaienberg starting at 60-km to go. The 1.5-km, cobbled Oude Kwaremont hill 37-km from the finish might be where things really kicked off. The Paterberg follows close on its heels.

Almost immediately a trio lit out for breakaway glory, soon joined by three others including Canadian Ben Perry of Israel Cycling Academy. The Quick Step-led peloton allowed the sextet to roll up a 6:00 lead.

Before the first of 12 climbs, several other teams had joined Quick Step to bring down the gap to 2:30. But on the second climb, the Kattenberg, Lotto-Soudal’s 2015 winner Jelle Wallays attacked from the peloton causing a split. As the field closed in and the Leberg climb loomed, fugitive Kenneth Van Bilsen (Belgium/Cofidis) powered on the 1.7-km Haaghoek cobbled section.

Back in the pack Katusha kept trying to put a rider up the road, but Quick Step and Sunweb were wise to the moves. It was on the fourth climb of the day, the Berendries, that the race turned on its head. Van Bilsen came back to the breakaway as Gilbert initiated a move of 11.

With 75-km remaining, Gilbert’s gang caught the break. Then another group bridged over to make a mob of 21 out front. Katusha and Trek led the chase in the peloton with the key Eikenberg and Taaienberg climbs on the horizon. On the Eikenberg Lampaert accelerated away on the smoother inside lane.

Lampaert’s push shed a few riders–including Perry–from the leading group and inflated the gap, but diligent work from Cannondale, Trek and FDJ in the peloton brought it down again. As the two towers of Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg loomed, Bahrain-Merida led the chase.

There were now 16-riders in the leading group, with Lotto-Soudal, Quick Step, BMC, Orica-Scott, Astana and LottoNL-Jumbo all with a pair. The 2.2-km, 4% cobbled Kwaremont ground down the leaders. When Lotto-Soudal accelerated in the peloton, Cannondale’s likely lad Sep Vanmarcke went backwards. The gap went up again.

Meanwhile, in nearby Weregem, the women’s DDV, a non-WorldTour race, saw Finn Lotta Lepistö of Cervelo-Bigla take the win from a small breakaway, with Gracie Elvin (Australia/Orica-Scott) and Lisa Brennauer (Germany/Canyon-SRAM) on the podium.

Gilbert gassed it on the Paterberg, cresting with Lampaert, Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana). The quartet soon held a 16-second gap over their former breakmates. Two more Quick Step riders, Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra, tried to bridge over from the peloton, and with 25-km remaining joined the former breakmates’ chase.

By the top of the penultimate climb and with 15-km to go the gap was around a minute. This looked like the winning move. Gilbert dashed away on the last climb, the Nokereberg, with 9-km remaining, but Durbridge led the reattachment. There was only a mild cobbled stretch before the finish in Weregem.

Neither the Australian nor the Kazakh couldn’t respond to Lampaert’s dig on the Herlegemstraat cobbles with 5-km to go. Gilbert was runner-up to his young compatriot and Lutsenko rounded out the podium.

Hugo Houle was top Canadian, the AG2R rider placing 62nd. Ryan Anderson and Guillaume Boivin were both finishers as well.

2017 Dwars Door Vlaanderen
1) Yves Lampaert (Belgium/Quick Step) 4:47:26
2) Philippe Gilbert (Belgium/Quick Step) +0:39
3) Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan/Astana) s.t.
62) Hugo Houle (Canada/AG2R) +1:54
101) Guillaume Boivin (Canada/Israel Cycling Academy) +4:32
115) Ryan Anderson (Canada/Direct Energie) s.t.