Quick-Step Floors' sprinter outkicked his opponents at the Belgian classic, Tom Boonen's final outing on home soil.
Marcel Kittel was unstoppable at the 105th edition of Scheldeprijs, which marked Tom Boonen's final pro race in front of his home supporters. The 36-year-old Belgian, who will retire after Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, was prominent at the front during the entire race – which left from Mol, his birthplace, and passed through his hometown of Balen – and guided the bunch inside the closing stages of the event, before a big crash split the peloton with four kilometers remaining, leaving around 20 riders to fight for victory in Schoten.
Launched by an excellent Matteo Trentin, who picked up lead-out duties after Fabio Sabatini hit the ground, Marcel opened his sprint with 250 meters remaining and held off the charge of Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to take his fifth win at Scheldeprijs and extend his record at Flanders' oldest classic, where he first triumphed in 2012.
"It was some pressure to win, being the defending champion, and I'm happy I could finish off the great job of my teammates. It was an important day also because Tom rode for the last time in Belgium. He was incredible during the race, sacrificing himself for the team and for a good result, despite having his big goal of the season on Sunday. He showed again what a great rider he is and I'm happy to end my relationship with him in such a way. I hope he will have reasons to smile after Paris-Roubaix, where I wish him all the best in his attempt to bring a fifth cobble-shaped trophy home", said Marcel, who so far this season racked up seven victories.
"The mood in the team is fantastic, we are winning everywhere and that gives us all a huge motivation to keep going like that. You could see that also today, when everyone was involved in the chase, from Tim to Zdenek and from Saba, who unfortunately crashed, to Tom. I'm grateful to all of them! Can't say how happy I am to win again this race, which I really like a lot", continued Marcel, who also talked of his plans for the upcoming weeks: "I'll now take a break before returning to action at the Tour of California. It will be only my second time there, but I'm looking forward to this race, because it's very well-organised and the atmosphere is great."
A two-time winner of Scheldeprijs, Tom Boonen waved goodbye on Wednesday afternoon to his countrymen, who came in huge numbers to cheer for him, in both Mol and Schoten: "Today was unbelievable! I was touched by the warm welcome I received and by the huge support I got from the fans. I would never have dreamed of such incredible moments. I want to thank everyone for turning out and to the organizers for moving the start to Mol, making it a day I will never forget!"
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele