Rowe sixth after Het Nieuwsblad chase

25 Feb 2017

Rowe sixth after Het Nieuwsblad chase

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Luke Rowe produced a strong ride to kick off the Classics with sixth place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

The Welshman was at the sharp end of the race for much of the 198.3 kilometres in Flanders, eventually finishing as part of a chase group into Gent, 50 seconds back on race winner Greg van Avermaet.
 
The Belgian (BMC Racing) was able to claim back to back victories in the race, holding off Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) in a tense three-up sprint.
 
A thrilling race gradually unfurled, before blowing apart inside the final 65km. A combination of a mass pile-up on the Donderij cobbles and the punishing Taaienberg climb brought about a key moment in the race.
 
With half the peloton trapped behind, Rowe, Ian Stannard and Gianni Moscon toiled over the selective climb to bring themselves into play. Rowe found himself in the lead group briefly, but with the race stretched to breaking point, a punishing acceleration from world champion Sagan on the Eikenberg saw the elastic snap.
Moments after Moscon and Stannard had regained contact, the Team Sky trio were immediately thrust into chase mode - and the pattern of the race was set.
 
A quartet of  Van Avermaet, Sagan, Vanmarcke and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) pushed clear, and quickly opened out a gap of 42 seconds as the race headed into the final 40km.
 
In the group behind reinforcements arrived, but the gap wasn't coming down. Rowe was among a number of riders to forge onwards over the Molenberg, but despite the deficit dropping down as low as 25 seconds, the margin proved insurmountable.
 
Team Sky rode hard early on to bring their leaders into position. Christian Knees and Michal Golas used their Classics experience in the bunch, with Danny van Poppel ensuring led the peloton onto the Kruisberg. Salvatore Puccio was unfortunate to be held up by the sizeable crash that also put paid to the chances of Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin).
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After the race we caught up with Sport Director Servais Knaven. He told TeamSky.com: "As a group the guys were strong. In the final we had three guys up there with Luke, Ian and Gianni. It turned out that Sagan, Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke were just that little bit stronger. Those 12 guys chasing the breakaway were not able to get closer - so we can see the strongest guys were up there. 
 
"The guys did a lot of work chasing, and of course everyone is a bit disappointed not to be on the podium or in for the win. But in general we are happy with the performances of the guys and as a team we are looking good and excited for tomorrow in Kuurne."
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad top five:
1. Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) 4:48:04 
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) s.t.
3. Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac)
4. Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) +43"
5. Oscar Gatto (Astana) +50"
6. Luke Rowe (Team Sky) s.t.
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