Maes comes 4th in Halle-Ingooigem
The Belgian was part of a 10-man breakaway, while teammate Fernando Gaviria won the peloton's sprint and finished 7th.
Held on a 200.5 km course, the 69th edition of Halle-Ingoigem had to wait 100 kilometers for a break to slip away. When this happened, Nikolas Maes was there, together with nine other men: Jens Adams (Crelan-Vastgoedservice), Dimitri Claeys (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), William Clarke (Drapac), Dries De Bondt (Verandas Willems), Stijn Devolder (Belgian Team), Jens Keukeleire (Belgian Team), Gianni Marchand (Cibel-Cebon), Edward Theuns (Belgian Team) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Soudal).
Not having someone up the road meant that FDJ and Topsport-Vlaanderen came to the head of the affair in the bunch and began setting a hard pace on the hills to take back time. The two-minute gap of the escapees came down to just 45 seconds inside the last 15 kilometers, but it soon jumped to over a minute, as the teams weren't so willing to share the work anymore once the last climb of the course (Tiegemberg) was left behind, even though the breakaway was starting to lose men.
With around five kilometers remaining, Dries De Bondt and Jens Keukeleire powered away from their escape companions and as soon as they put 100 meters between them and the other four, it became clear they will fight for the win. Following a two-up sprint, De Bondt was the one to cross the line first, while Theuns rounded out the podium, just ahead of Nikolas Maes. Less than 20 seconds later, the peloton arrived, and Etixx – Quick-Step's Fernando Gaviria was the fastest rider from that group, taking the sprint ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and slotting into 7th. For the Colombian, it was the second top 10 in the space of a week, following his runner-up place in a Tour de Suisse stage.
"It took some time for the break to take shape, and I was part of a 10-man group, while Fernando Gaviria was in the peloton protected by our guys in case it eventually came down to a bunch sprint", said Nikolas Maes after his best result of the season. "In the final, when the two attacked, I was confident we will bring them back, but unfortunately we couldn't reel them in. Overall, considering we placed two riders in the top 10, it was a good race for the team."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele