Casper Pedersen featured in the main break, caught with only four kilometers to go, while Fabio Jakobsen concluded a close second.
What should have been a relatively easy and quiet day in the saddle turned into a mad stage in the last 80 kilometers, when several riders – taking advantage of the small climbs spread on the course and the narrow roads which made organising a chase a tough task – took off from the peloton and joined the original group up the road.
Our team pulled hard behind to reduce the gap, and as soon as only a handful of seconds separated the two groups, Casper Pedersen jumped from the bunch and joined the leaders, making it ten men at the front. Their maximum gap stood at 40 seconds, but the move was a real threat for the peloton, where more teams began contributing to the pace-making in the hope they would bring back the attackers.
They eventually did, in the last four kilometers, but only after the Golden Kilometer sprint, where Casper Pedersen showed how strong he is by taking six bonus seconds which could become vital in the final outcome at the end of the week. Yves Lampaert then closed a late acceleration which tried to fool the sprinters’ teams, while Fabio Jakobsen expertly surfed wheels in the hectic finale in Scherpenheuvel-Zichem. The European Champion kicked out with 150 meters to go and came close to winning the stage, less than a wheel separating him from Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who took the win.
Thanks to the bonifications scored on the line, where he nabbed his fifth podium of the season, the Dutchman sits in the top five overall, alongside teammate Casper Perdersen, ahead of Thursday’s Knokke-Heist stage, which will give the fast men another opportunity.
“It was a very fast first stage. As soon as the attacks began, the race didn’t stop anymore. We managed to close the gap, and Casper had a great day, bridging across to that group, which allowed us to remain calm in the peloton. He had a good chance in case they would have made it, but everything came together and we got a bunch sprint instead. Fabio did a good effort, he showed he is on an upward trajectory and he will get other opportunities to show what he is capable of”, said Soudal Quick-Step sports director Tom Steels.
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