2018 Spring Classics Recap Special!
2018 Spring Classics: The dust and mud has settled on the Spring Classics for another year, and one team has been by far the most powerful, but without total domination. The 2018 season has been full of surprises and new names, with the ‘Old Guard’ still getting a look in. We take a PEZ look at the Classics of 2018 with reports, results and videos.
A great Classics season for Quick-Step Floors
The Quick-Step Floors team were the top winners, as we show bellow, although the Belgian behemoth was not unbeatable and didn’t depend on just one rider, they had five different victors and none of them was Philippe Gilbert, he who won De Ronde van Vlaanderen and Amstel Gold Race in 2017. Niki Terpstra was the big winner with World champion Peter Sagan and Michael Valgren close behind him, but at no time was a Classic predictable, unlike the Grand Tours of late.
OK, here is how the numbers stack up.
2018 Spring Classics Winners:
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Bel) – Michael Valgren (Astana)
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (Bel) – Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo)
Le Samyn (Bel) – Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors)
Strade Bianche (Ita) – Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal)
Milano-Sanremo (Ita) – Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
Record Bank E3 Harelbeke (Bel) – Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors)
Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields (Bel) – Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Dwars door Vlaanderen – A travers la Flandre (Bel) – Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors)
Ronde van Vlaanderen – Tour des Flandres (Bel) – Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors)
Scheldeprijs (Bel) – Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) (Bel) – Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors)
Paris-Roubaix (Fra) – Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Brabantse Pijl (Bel) – Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)
Amstel Gold Race (Ned) – Michael Valgren (Astana)
La Flèche Wallonne (Bel) – Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)
Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Bel) – Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors).
Quick-Step Floors were by far the most successful team with seven wins with Astana, Lotto Soudal and Bora-Hansgrohe on two each and one victory for LottoNL-Jumbo and Bahrain-Merida. For the riders, Niki Terpstra had three wins, Michael Valgren and Peter Sagan on two and Dylan Groenewegen, Tiesj Benoot, Vincenzo Nibali, Yves Lampaert, Fabio Jakobsen, Tim Wellens, Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels all taking one win.
A Closer Look at Each Race.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Michael Valgren gave the Astana team a welcome win on with a late attack from a strong breakaway group. Strongman of the group, Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale), had been on the attack all day, but in the end he only managed a third place behind Valgren and Sky’s Lukasz Wisniowski.
The morning started in a cold Gent for the first Belgian classic of the 2018 season, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Right from the start there were attacks, resulting in a ten-rider breakaway that gained a maximum advantage of 4 minutes during the first part of the race. But going into the finalé, with 40 kilometers to go, the pack was back together before the challenging cobblestone climbs.
Because of several attacks before the first real climb, the Kapelmuur, a select group was already away at the bottom of this climb. Behind a strong Sep Vanmarcke a group was formed of nine riders, including Astana’s Oscar Gatto, Alexey Lutsenko and Michael Valgren. After Vanmarcke was caught, there was a leading group of twelve riders, still including the three Astanas. Going into the final 10 kilometers, it was clear that this group would battle for the win. After an unsuccessful attack with 8 kilometers to go, Michael Valgren tried again as a counter attack on Sep Vanmarcke. At that point, nobody could follow and it was Valgren riding solo to the finish line.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Result:
1. Michael Valgren (Den) Astana
2. Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Sky
3. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale.
LottoNL-Jumbo’s Dylan Groenewegen took a convincing win in the 70th edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. The 24-year-old Dutchman remained cool during the hectic course and won his fourth race of the season and the first Classic victory in his career.
For a long time, it didn’t look like the 2018 Kuurne race was going to end in a sprint. Groenewegen remained extremely cool, thanks to the teamwork of Maarten Wynants deep in the final and the entire team in the lead-up to it. Timo Roosen and Bert-Jan Lindeman in particular proved to be very valuable when the peloton fell apart into separate groups after the Oude Kwaremont. The LottoNL-Jumbo riders along with Astana pulled back a late escape, including BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet and then set up their sprinter for the win. Groenewegen started his sprint early which caught out Arnaud Dèmare (FDJ) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) who finished second and third.
1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo in 4:51:41
2. Arnaud Dèmare (Fra) FDJ
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida.
Quick-Step Floors totally owned the 49th edition of Le Samyn (Quaregnon – Dour, 200 kilometers), as Niki Terpstra became the first double-winner of the race since it has been introduced on the UCI Europe Tour calendar, 13 years ago, with 2012 World Champion Philippe Gilbert taking a close second for a remarkable 1-2 for the team on the last race of February.
Seven riders made it into the escape, but the real race began with over 120 kilometers to go, on the first of the four punishing laps in Dour, when Quick-Step Floors amassed the entire team at the front and upped the tempo in the crosswinds, blowing the peloton to pieces and joining the escapees with only three other riders on their wheels. Tim Declercq, Davide Martinelli and Florian Sénéchal sacrificed themselves for the team, trading pulls at the front, extending the gap and shredding the group to just a handful of riders for the final 70 kilometers.
Philippe Gilbert and Niki Terpstra, together with Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie), Alex Kirsch (WB Aqua Protect) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), managed to hold off the late charges of the peloton, and despite a mechanical for Philippe, who had to change his bike inside the last 40 kilometers, the group entered on the penultimate lap in pole-position to fight for the top prize at the Belgian race, which took place in freezing conditions, with the mercury showing -3ºC.
An injection of pace from Niki Terpstra distanced Kirsch and Van der Sande, a move followed with 20 kilometers to go by a true tactical coup of Quick-Step Floors, as Gilbert and Terpstra set up a perfect 1-2, harassing their opponent with two incisive attacks; first of these was launched by the Ronde van Vlaanderen reigning champion, before the Dutchman came round the Frenchman and went into time trial mode, quickly opening a gap which he then increased as he prepared to tackle the final two cobbled sectors of the race, Cote de la Roquette and Rue de Belle Vue. The 33-year-old continued to stretch out his advantage, giving himself plenty of time to celebrate his success at the finish in Dour, Philippe Gilbert arrived second.
Le Samyn Result:
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
3. Damien Gaudin (Fra) Direct Energie.
Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) won the 2018 Strade Bianche after an impressive effort. The first pro victory ever for the near 24-year-old Belgian rider. The twelfth edition of Strade Bianche became an epic race because of the cold and the rain that made the gravel sectors of the Tuscan roads into a quagmire.
There was an early breakaway of eight riders which took a six minute advantage over the bunch that split early on in the race. With sixty kilometers to go the escapees were reeled in by a large chasing group including Benoot. Next, about ten riders jumped away. Among those riders were Mikal Kwiatkowski (Sky), World cyclocross champion Wout Van Aert (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). A strong group, no doubt. Lotto soudal’s Campenaerts, who had been part of the early break, pulled at the head of the chasing group to keep the gap as small as possible and Tiesj Benoot made the jump to the front on the eighth gravel sector, towards Monte Sante Marie.
Not long after that move, Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Van Aert attacked at the front. They created a gap of one minute. The pace in the chasing group slowed and that was the sign for Tiesj Benoot, along with Pieter Serry (Quick-Step Floors), to take initiative at thirty kilometers from the finish. They reduced the gap to 35 seconds, but when the gap started growing again Benoot decided to leave Serry behind. Benoot closed the gap quickly and joined Bardet and Van Aert with fifteen kilometers remaining. Benoot attacked on the last gravel sector and entered the last ten kilometers solo. He kept on increasing his lead and could enjoy the last moments of the race before triumphing in Il Campo in Siena. Romain Bardet finished second, ahead of Wout Van Aert who had cramp on the final climb to the finish.
Earlier in the week, Benoot had said he wanted to do better than his two eighth places in the previous two editions of Strade Bianche. Mission accomplished!
Strade Bianche Result:
1. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
3. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Veranda’s Willems-Crelan.
Starting the day in rain jackets, leg warmers and overshoes, it was obvious before the flag had dropped that it was going to be a hard race. Rain showers soaked the riders and even when this stopped, the roads remained wet and the temperature was cold. In spite of this, the day’s break wasn’t deterred from a long ride up front, with a group of nine making their move early on. At their peak, this group’s advantage hit seven minutes, but the peloton was clearly confident in their ability to eventually reel them back in. After 260km out in front, the remaining four members of the break were caught just before the race hit the Cipressa.
With the sun setting, a larger peloton than expected carried the high pace to the foot of the Poggio, nobody knowing who was going to make a move and when, the nerves building steadily. A crash with just 10km to go saw a split in the bunch. German National Champion, Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe), surged ahead on the 8% gradients, but the pivotal move came with 6km remaining with an attack from Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) just holding off the sprinters, who at full speed, crossed the line with just a few meters between them and the race winner.
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
3. Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ.
Record Bank E3 Harelbeke
Quick-Step Floors’ amazing streak in Belgium continued when Niki Terpstra soloed to victory in the prestigious E3 Harelbeke, adding a new trophy to the team’s cabinet in this season’s one-day races, after the ones of Le Samyn, Dwars door West-Vlaanderen, Nokere Koerse, Handzame Classic and Driedaagse. It was a well-deserved and hard-earned win, which came on the back of a brilliant and flawless team strategy, doubled by an amazing strength in depth.
The first key moment of the race surfaced with 100 kilometers to go, when a big crash in the peloton split the field, leaving 30 riders in the front, including the entire Quick-Step Floors squad. Tim Declercq and Iljo Keisse put down the hammer, trading ferocious pulls as they increased the advantage over the chasers to over a minute and brought the gap to the breakaway down to two minutes. On the iconic Taaienberg, a 650m climb on which many of Quick-Step Floors’ previous wins were forged in the past decade, the team put the race in the gutter and forced a massive selection.
Just before the top of the climb, Yves Lampaert and Niki Terpstra powered clear from the group, looked over their shoulders and saw their teammates slowed down the chase of the opponents, which gave them a boost to push on and build a 20-second gap, catching the last two escapees, Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) and Pim Ligthart (Roompot), in the process. Lampaert, the reigning Dwars door Vlaanderen champion, buried himself for Terpstra at the front and took the gap to almost a minute, as behind Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar marked the moves of Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).
On the narrow and twisty roads of Flanders, Yves and Niki – both former World TTT Champions – soldiered on. A regrouping took place, when a large group caught the chasers, but the Quick-Step Floors duo remained cool as a cucumber and continued to fight hard, until with 23 kilometers to go, when the admirable Lampaert ran out of steam, just before the slopes of Tiegemberg.
Terpstra still held 30 seconds over the top of the hill as he made use of his time trial skills to pace himself, but the advantage began to drop inside the last ten kilometers, on the long straight roads to Harelbeke, where the chasers made visual contact with him.
As a result, several attacks shaved off half of the deficit, but once again, Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar played their role to perfection, tracking down every single acceleration, hindering the chasers’ effort and ensuring Niki’s gap didn’t dip below 15 seconds. Completely drained, but with his arms high in the air, Terpstra arrived at the finish, where he celebrated Quick-Step Floors’ 33rd victory in a cobbled classic and cementing his reputation as one of the best one-day riders of his generation. Philippe Gilbert made it a spectacular 1-2 for the team, as he easily sprinted from the ten-man group.
E3 Harelbeke Result:
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors in 5:04:18
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:20
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC.
Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields
A perfect sprint for Peter Sagan as Bora-Hansgrohe deliver UCI World Champion to a third Gent-Wevelgem victory. On any normal day, a 250km race over hard Belgian terrain would be brutal, especially with the eleven tough climbs and multiple cobblestone sections to make things difficult, but many of the riders at Gent-Wevelgem would still be feeling the efforts of riding E3-Harelbeke just two days earlier. After a fairly flat opening 120km came the climbs, with some of the gradients reaching 14%, before a flat 30km to the finish. Positioning would be the key to winning this race – that and a very healthy dose of luck not to puncture or suffer a mechanical and to be in the right place at the right time when the decisive moves came.
The crisp and cold morning saw most of the riders start the day in arm and leg warmers. With 120km to ride before the first climbs of the day, riders would have plenty of time to get warmed up, but this didn’t mean the start was going to be relaxed. The hard pace from the drop of the flag meant a break didn’t go until 35km had been covered, but once the group of six made their move, they really pushed ahead – creating a significant ten-minute gap that spurred the chasing peloton on to reduce their advantage. The peloton started to chase and the pace left some of the peloton dropping off the back, but on the front, a small group, with World Champion, Peter Sagan, in the mix, broke off, first making the catch on the break, before leaving them behind. One of these twenty-three riders, with the group made up of some of the big favorites, would be the race’s winner. In the final 2km the attacks came, but Sagan stayed calm, saving his energy and keeping a cool head. Starting his sprint from a long way out, and once he was out in front, there was no chance of anyone taking his third Gent-Wevelgem win from him. The Quick-Step Floors team were strong all day, much the same as in the E3 Harelbeke, with strong rides from Gilbert and Stybar, but in the end Elia Viviani took 2nd behind Sagan.
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe in 5:07:32
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
3. Arnaud Dèmare (Fra) FDJ.
Dwars door Vlaanderen – A travers la Flandre
The peloton of 173 riders made its way from Roeselare to Waregem with the rain beating down upon them and temperatures hovering around 7 degrees. It proved no easy feat for a breakaway to form amidst these difficult conditions, with the first serious attack of the day being launched after 80km, when Luke Rowe (Sky) managed to break free from the peloton and carve out an advantage of around 1 minute. However, he was ultimately reeled back in just before the second ascent of the Kluisberg.
As the peloton approached the Kortekeer, the peloton strung out and several splits began to appear, as more riders tested their luck and tried to escape. With around 50km remaining, the business end of the race had arrived, and a select group containing several favorites worked to gain a slight advantage over the chasing group behind, yet they were caught due to the tempo that was being hammered out by LottoNL-Jumbo. Two Belgian riders, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Tijs Benoot (Lotto Soudal), managed to stay adrift of the chasers, yet were caught by a 12-man chasing group. Shortly afterwards, in the pouring rain, a five rider group managed to escape under the impetus of Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) and worked well together to create a gap of around 40 seconds. It was from this group that the defending champion, Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors), sprinted away from his escape companions in the finishing straight to take the victory. Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) got the better of Vanmarcke for second.
Dwars door Vlaanderen Result:
1. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
2. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Sunweb
3. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale.
Ronde van Vlaanderen – Tour des Flandres
Niki Terpstra continued the Quick-Step Floors team’s dominance in the Belgian one-day races of the 2018 season, adding a 16th Monument victory to the palmarès of the squad, just two days after Quick-Step celebrated 20 amazing years in cycling. Victorious this season in Le Samyn and E3 Harelbeke, each time after going solo in the final part of the race, Niki repeated that scenario in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, where he took his second career Monument, following Paris-Roubaix in 2014.
Quick-Step Floors rode a perfect and intelligent race from the start, sending the hard-working Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse and Florian Sénéchal at the front of the peloton minutes after leaving Antwerp, the three policed every move and reeled in all the attackers, allowing eleven men to go clear after 70 kilometers. Marco Haller (Katusha-Alpecin), Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Michael Goolaerts (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan), Jimmy Turgis (Cofidis), Filippo Ganna (UAE Team Emirates), Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida), Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo); Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data), Aimé De Gendt (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic’s Dimitri Peyskens didn’t gain more than five minutes before the first hill of the day, the Oude Kwaremont.
Despite a series of accelerations on the climbs of the Muur-Kapelmuur and Koppenberg, the race didn’t split and the favorites stayed together. Quick-Step Floors had the numbers in the group, with Philippe Gilbert, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra. Stybar, one of the most consistent riders of this spring campaign, with three consecutive top-10 placings, was the one to counter an attack of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) on the Taaienberg, before trying a move of his own after cresting the Kruisberg.
Soon after they were caught, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) powered ahead and was joined by Niki Terpstra, who then took the front and dropped the Milano-Sanremo winner as the Oude Kwaremont was looming on the horizon for the third time. At the moment of his attack, the Dutchman was 40 seconds behind a leading trio, but using his time trial skills he reduced the gap by the time he hit the bottom of the climb, while behind his teammates disrupted the rhythm of the chasers.
A two-time podium finisher at Ronde van Vlaanderen (2015 and 2017), Terpstra rode flawlessly on the long Oude Kwaremont, a hill which has been a regular feature on the race since 1974, making contact with the three riders in the front and dispatching them before putting some distance by the top of the berg and continuing his solo action. Terpstra extended his lead on the Paterberg before going into time trial mode for the 12km-run in to Oudenaarde, holding off Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) by 12 seconds and defending champion Philippe Gilbert at 17 seconds for third place.
Both World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet were very active throughout the day, but they were over powered by the Quick-Step Floors team who by placing three riders in the top 10 – Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar – extend its lead in the WorldTour standings to nearly 1500 points.
Tour of Flanders Result:
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
2. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors.
For the first time in history, Scheldeprijs started from the Netherlands and at the end of the day, after more than four tough hours in the saddle, it was a Dutch rider who took the spoils, as Fabio Jakobsen put in a flawless sprint in Schoten, out-kicking Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) and Christopher Lawless (Sky), to continue Quick-Step Floors’ amazing run this month with a fourth victory in as many days.
The 106th edition of Scheldeprijs will easily go down as one of the best in history, with the crosswinds, heavy rain and low temperatures of Zeeland – the Dutch province in which the peloton spent most of the race – spicing up things and blowing the bunch apart. It took more than an hour for a breakaway to form, and when it did, the five men at the front weren’t allowed to establish a threatening gap, as several teams, including Quick-Step Floors, worked to keep them in control and cut the deficit.
Iljo Keisse and Zdenek Stybar took over the chase for the Quick-Step team, pushing a huge tempo and stretching out the field, before Michael Mørkøv expertly piloted Fabio Jakobsen through the last corner, before opening the door with 200 meters to go. After starting his sprint, the 21-year-old neo-pro got boxed in, but remarkably bounced back and powered ahead, his rapid acceleration landing him a comfortable win by more than a bike length. For Fabio – the first Dutchman since 2005 to take the honors in Scheldeprijs – this was his second victory of the season, after Nokere Koerse, one month ago.
1. Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
2. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Chris Lawless (GB) Sky.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) became the first reigning world champion to win Paris-Roubaix since Bernard Hinault in 1981. He won a two-man sprint in the velodrome against Swiss national champion Silvan Dillier of AG2R-La Mondiale after he countered the successive initiatives of hot favorites Quick Step Floors with 55km to go. Niki Terpstra rounded out the podium for the Belgian team.
Following a vain attack by Wang Meiyin, the only Chinese in the race, Brenton Jones (Delko Marseille), Dries De Bondt (Willems-Crelan), Alexandre Pichot (Direct Energie) and Johan van Zyl (Dimension Data) went clear at km 17 but the peloton reacted. Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Samsic) counter-attacked but a solo move was mission impossible. After 42km of racing, six riders managed to form a breakaway: Silvan Dillier (AG2R-La Mondiale), Sven-Erik Bystrøm (UAE Team Emirates), Ludovic Robeet and Jimmy Duquennoy (WB Veranclassic), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) and Marc Soler (Movistar). With 200km to go, Gatis Smukulis (Delko Marseille), Geoffrey Soupe (Cofidis) and Jay Thompson (Dimension Data) made it a group of nine at the front while the peloton was cruising more than four minutes behind.
The deficit of the bunch was seven minutes when they hit the first cobbled section at Troisvilles (km 93.5) after the nine leaders got a maximum advantage of 8.50. A crash split the peloton in three parts with defending champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) being caught in the last part. He lost team-mate Stefan Küng in one of the first crashes of the day. Despite several hiccups affecting Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates), all the favorites were back in the main pack mostly led by Quick Step Floors towards the Arenberg trench where the advantage of the breakaway group was down to 2:15. At the exit of the trench, the front group was split in two with Dillier, Bystrøm, Wallays, Robeet and Soler at the front while Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) rode away from the peloton before being reinforced by Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin).
With 75km to go, all the favorites were reunited with a deficit of one minute from the five remaining leading riders. Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) relayed Gilbert on the offensive in between the five leading riders and the peloton. Stybar caught Soler who couldn’t hold the pace of his former breakaway companions. Van Avermaet launched the battle of the giants with 55km to go. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) countered and rode away solo. Sagan hit the front of the race with 51km to go. 40km before the end, Sagan, Dillier and Wallays had 35 seconds lead over a small group led by Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) and eventually formed of Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Sep Vanmarcke and Taylor Phinney (EF-Drapac), Wout Van Aert (Willems-Crelan), Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) and Van Avermaet.
With 25km to go, the leading trio had an advantage of 45 seconds. It went up to 1:25 as Wallays lost contact and left the lone Dillier as an early breakaway member along with Sagan at the front. Sagan tried to go solo on the cobblestone sections of Carrefour de l’Arbre and Hem but the Swiss champion stayed with him. The duo was never threatened by the chasing group from which Terpstra exited to round out the podium behind Sagan who was faster than Dillier in the sprint on the velodrome of Roubaix.
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
2. Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R-La Mondiale
3. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors.
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) successfully restarted competition by winning the Brabantse Pijl after a strong solo in the final kilometers, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) took second ahead of Wellens teammate Tiesj Benoot in third.
Almost immediately after the start in Leuven a breakaway of seven riders was established. Before starting the first of three local laps of 23.4 kilometers several Lotto Soudal riders came to the front and the peloton split. Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) created a gap and the duo succeeded in bridging to the leaders. At the beginning of the second lap, Van der Sande and Haig got rid of all others. It was only with twelve kilometers to go they were caught. Again Lotto Soudal was positioned at the front of the bunch. After an acceleration by Jelle Vanendert, a small group including Tim Wellens, got a gap. With 7.5 kilometers to go Wellens attacked and that turned out to be the decisive move. Wellens arrived solo at the finish in Overijse, paying tribute to Michael Goolaerts. Colbrelli was second at 9 seconds ahead of Benoot in third.
De Brabantse Pijl – Flèche Brabanconne Result:
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal in 4:42:48
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 0:09
3. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal.
Amstel Gold Race
After impressive teamwork from the Astana team during the day, from closing the gap with the breakaway to Jakob Fuglsang attacking in the final, it was Michael Valgren who finished it off with his second win of the season after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February.
The final of the Amstel Gold Race changed this year with an extra lap, to give attacks a chance, and with this in mind the peloton took off from Maastricht for the only Dutch classic race of the season. In the 260km-long race a breakaway group of nine riders: Bram Tankink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tsabu Grmay (Trek-Segafredo), Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates), Lawson Craddock (EF-Drapac), Oscar Riesebeek (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Edward Dunbar (Aqua Blue Sport), Marco Tizza (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Willem Smit (Katusha-Alpecin) and Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) created a gap of 16 minutes. With many teams pulling on the front of the peloton, the gap was back to less than one minute before the finalé started.
Michael Valgren and Jakob Fuglsang made it into the leading group after the Cauberg. After several attacks from Fuglsang, Valgren took his chance and attacked going into the final 2 kilometers. He took Roman Kreuziger (Mitchelton-Scott) with him, but with a strong sprint at the finish line, Valgren left him and Enrico Gasparatto (Bahrain-Merida) behind, securing victory at the 2018 Amstel Gold Race.
Amstel Gold Race Result:
1. Michael Valgren (Den) Astana
2. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-Scott
3. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida.
La Flèche Wallonne
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won’t make it five wins in a row atop the Mur de Huy. The Spanish veteran found a young rival finally able to overthrow him with Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) dominating everyone on the infamous climb. The Frenchman claimed his biggest win to date just before turning 26 years old… the same age Valverde was when he claimed the first of his nine victories in the Ardennes (5 at la Flèche, 4 at Liège). Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) finished third after an impressive outing on the Mur.
After an emotional moment of silence to pay tribute to Michael Goolaerts, Seraing enjoyed an animated start as the city welcomed la Flèche Wallonne for the first time in the race history. Attacks went from the gun and a group of six riders – Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Samsic), Anthony Roux (Groupama-FDJ), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Romain Combaud (Delko-Marseille Provence-KTM) and Patrick Müller (Vital Concept Cycling Club) – quickly got away. Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Antoine Warnier (VB Aqua Protect Veranclassic) joined them after 20km. The group enjoyed a maximum lead of 5:25 as they tackled the first climb.
Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar and Dan Martin’s UAE Team Emirates quickly took the front positions of the pack to control the gap. The attackers’ lead was down to 4:10 atop the Côte de la Redoute (km 82). The peloton maintained the gap around 4 minutes before accelerating on the way to Huy. The leaders summited the Mur for the first time (km 140.5) with an advantage down to 1:25, with Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) already featuring in the early moves. The Polish puncheur couldn’t get away from Movistar’s watch but attacks kept going until a group of six managed to go clear 37km away from the finish: Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott), Anthony Roux (Groupama-FDJ), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tanel Kangert (Astana) and Maximilian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors). Together, they extended their lead to 40 seconds as they faced the Mur de Huy for the penultimate climb while Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) dropped out of contention.
The gap even increased to 55 seconds with 17km to go, until Mikel Landa (Movistar) received some help with Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal). Roux and Benedetti were dropped on the Côte de Cherave while the peloton took back only 15 seconds behind. Kangert and Nibali were caught at the foot of the final climb, while Maximilian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors) went on his own, only to be caught with 200m to go by his teammate Julian Alaphilippe, stronger than anyone on the Mur de Huy.
Flèche Wallonne Result:
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
3. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal.
Bob Jungels caped off a brilliant Spring, making it two Monuments and 27 victories this season for Quick-Step Floors, with Bob Jungels snatching the solo win on the 104th edition of La Doyenne. The Luxembourg champion emulated Andy Schleck, who also built his 2009 Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Jungels held off everyone on his own in the final 20km to claim his biggest victory at 25 years of age. Michael Woods (EF-Drapac) finished second ahead of Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale).
After 5 kilometers of battle, Loïc Vliegen (BMC), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Mark Christian and Casper Pedersen (Aqua Blue Sport), Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Samsic), Jérôme Baugnies (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Paul Ourselin (Direct Énergie), Mathias Van Gompel (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Antoine Warnier (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic) managed to break away. They took a maximum lead of 6:10 after 32km.
Dan Martin’s UAE Team Emirates and Julian Alaphilippe’s Quick-Step Floors were the first teams to pull the peloton. The gap was down to 5:30 when the riders reached Bastogne and turned back to Liège, with 10 climbs still lying ahead of them. Atop the Côte de Saint-Roch (km 109), they maintained a 4:30 lead before a sequence of four climbs from Côte de Mont-le-Soie (km 152) until the Côte de la Ferme Libert (km 180) redefined the race situation.
With Lotto Soudal and UAE setting a hard pace, the pack cut the gap under 4 minutes 85km away from the finish. Casper Pedersen tried to go solo in the Côte de Bellevaux, opening a 20 second gap before his former breakaway companions got back to him in the Côte de la Ferme Libert. Loïc Vliegen, Anthony Perez, Mark Christian, Jérôme Baugnies and Paul Ourselin proved to be the strongest on that climb. Vliegen was then dropped in the Col du Rosier.
The peloton was only 1:45 behind the four remaining escapees when they tackled the iconic Côte de la Redoute, where Jérôme Baugnies went solo. The Belgian was eventually caught with 25km to go, just ahead of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) tore the race apart on the climb, before going solo after the summit, 19km away from the finish line. A group of 20 chasers, featuring four time winner of Liège Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and most of the favorites, but they were not able to collaborate properly behind him. 2013 winner Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) dropped out of contention due to a puncture with 8km to go.
The Luxembourg champion made the best of his all-round abilities to tackle the Côte de Saint-Nicolas with a lead of 50 seconds. At the summit, despite attacks from Lotto Soudal’s Tim Wellens and Jelle Vanendert, he was still 20 seconds ahead of his first chaser, Vanendert. The Belgian wasn’t able to close that gap in the final 5.5km and he saw Michael Woods and Romain Bardet come back to him while Jungels soloed to victory.
1. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
2. Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale.
So what can we take for the Spring campaign? For sure the Classics are not stagnating and there is excitement to be had. The young riders are coming through and, more importantly, they are winning. Quick-Step Floors may have been the most successful team, but they haven’t got a stranglehold on the one-day races. Then there is how Wout Van Aert made the jump from Cyclocross champion to Classics rider, it won’t be long before he wins a big race. We have to mention the loss of Van Aerts Veranda’s Willems-Crelan teammate, Michael Goolaerts who had a heart attack during Paris-Roubaix.
From a sporting point of view it was a great Spring…. Bring on 2019.