Alexander Kristoff wins Tour of Flanders as Geraint Thomas' challenge fades
Norwegian beats Niki Terpstra in two-man sprint finish
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 21/04/15 4:49pm
Alexander Kristoff out-sprinted Niki Terpstra to win an enthralling edition of the Tour of Flanders one-day cobbled classic as Geraint Thomas saw his challenge fade in the final 20km.
Kristoff (Katusha) and Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step) escaped from a front group of favourites with 28km remaining and held on to the finish in the Belgian city of Oudenaarde after surviving a barrage of steep late climbs.
Kristoff then comfortably powered clear in the final 200m to claim his second career victory in one of cycling's five Monument classics and his 10th success of what has so far been an outstanding season.
Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) finished third after setting off in pursuit of the front two alongside Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who took fourth, while Thomas (Team Sky) had to settle for 14th place.
Sir Bradley Wiggins suffered a major scare earlier in the day when he crashed innocuously and briefly appeared to be suffering pain in his wrist, but he managed to finish, albeit 9min 17sec down in 87th.
Kristoff, whose previous Monument win was at Milan-San Remo last year, said afterwards: “I am really happy to win today. It was a big dream and my big goal this season and I managed to do it.
"I came with Niki but, of course, he didn't really want to work at the end with me. I could still beat him so I am really happy to win. It's a really great feeling. Niki went and I know he is one of the most dangerous guys from Etixx - Quick-Step, and I followed."
The early stages of the 264.9km race were marred by two crashes involving neutral support cars. The first left breakaway rider Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing) with a broken collarbone after a car veered into him, while the second saw Sebastien Chavanel (FDJ.fr) hit by his own team vehicle after a support car behind had driven into the back of it and launched it forward. The Frenchman was not seriously hurt but had to quit the race.
The race favourites escaped the incidents and were all present in an ever-thinning lead group heading into the final 30km, but then Terpstra launched a speculative attack that turned out to be decisive.
Kristoff, from Norway, jumped straight on to the Dutchman’s wheel but by the time Thomas spotted the move, it was already too late and he had to abandon his brief counter-attack in order to wait for support.
Thomas launched a second counter-attack with 18km to go but was caught by the rest of the chase group 2km later, and he then didn’t have anything left to follow a separate move from Van Avermaet and Sagan on the final climb of the day, the feared Paterberg, with 13.5km left.
That duo subsequently became embroiled in a to-and-fro battle with Terpstra and Kristoff up the road, but the front pair had enough strength to hang on and despite being made to tow Terpstra into the final 250m, Kristoff was able to sprint clear and win by several bike lengths.
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, 6:26:38
2 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx – Quick-Step, same time
3 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, +7secs
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, +17
5 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal, +35
6 Lars Boom (Ned) Astana, st
7 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano, +48
8 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal, st
9 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step, st
10 Martin Elmiger (Sui) IAM Cycling, st
14 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +49
87 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky, +9:17