Olympic road champion Greg van Avermaet edged a three-man sprint to claim a second consecutive victory in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite, which marks the start of the Spring Classics.
For the second year in a row, the Belgian rider was faster than Slovak world champion Peter Sagan at the finish line on Saturday.
Another Belgian, Sep Vanmarcke of Cannondale–Drapac, who took the initiative in the final sprint about 200m out, completed the podium.
“It’s an amazing feeling. Last year, my season started here with a big victory and now it’s the same this year,” BMC Racing Team’s Van Avermaet said. “It’s nice to come home and to win the first race on home ground.”
The grueling race, which features cobble sections and short climbs, was marred by a big pileup about 62km from the finish. Two favorites, Tom Boonen and Alexander Kristoff, fell on the narrow cobbled section. Both were able to resume racing, but Boonen ultimately abandoned.
“It was really nice to come with three guys to the finish and wonderful that I could finish it off,” Van Avermaet said. “I had confidence from last year that I could win in a sprint to this finish.”
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