Good start for Gilbert in the Belgium Tour
The 34-year-old avoided a crash which occurred in the final kilometer and made his way into the top 10 overall.
A pan flat stage (Lochristi – Knokke-Heist, 178 kilometers), with only two short cobblestone stretches as the main difficulties of the day, awaited the riders Wednesday, when the 87th edition of the second-oldest stage race in the world kicked off from the small municipality in East Flanders.
Five men got green light from the peloton to go clear and opened a four-minute lead after 35 kilometers, but as soon as Quick-Step Floors' Rémi Cavagna and Niki Terpstra moved to the front, the gap began to shrink and the quintet were reabsorbed before the Golden Kilometer, which staged three intermediate sprints in the space of 1000 meters. Several riders attacked there, including Ronde van Vlaanderen and Amstel Gold Race winner Philippe Gilbert, who grabbed two seconds.
Soon, the bunch was back together, but the status quo ceased to exist once Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport) launched an attack. The Dane stayed at the front until the closing kilometers, when the furious peloton swept past him; unfortunately, the finish wasn't an incident-free one, as a huge crash splintered the bunch with 500 meters to go, leaving only a handful of riders to fight for the victory, which was bagged in by Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie).
Philippe Gilbert – who is racing his first event in five weeks at the Belgium Tour – was caught up behind the crash, but fortunately escaped from that pile-up, as did all Quick-Step Floors riders, and now sits in seventh place overall, only eight seconds behind the race's first leader.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele