John Degenkolb sprints to Stage 1 victory at Tour of West Flanders
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Saturday, March 05, 2011

John Degenkolb sprints to Stage 1 victory at Tour of West Flanders

by Jered Gruber at 2:35 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Neo-pro scores this second win of his professional career

22 year old German, John Degenkolb, didn't have to wait long following his first ever professional victory at the Volta ao Algarve. The HTC-Highroad neo-pro rattled off win number two today in a tough sprint in the Tour of West Flanders's first stage.

The U23 World Road Race runner-up crossed the line first ahead of Leopard Trek's Robert Wagner and last year's first stage winner in West Flanders, young Belgian talent, Jens Keukeleire.

The first stage started in the famed city of Brugge and finished in Kortrijk, 175 kilometers later. The race got off to a typically Belgian start - full gas right from the start.

After nearly an hour of intense warring in hopes of sniffing out the day's break, the release occurred and David Boucher (Omega Pharma), William Bonnafond (AG2R), and Jeff Vermeulen (De Rijke) got their day's orders: the breakaway.

The furious opening racing was followed by a long, deep breath from the field. In only 15 kilometers, the leading trio had managed to put three minutes into the slumbering peloton.

The siesta was not too terribly long though, and the racing began anew, as the sprinter teams were keen to ensure the expected bunch sprint in Bellegem, on the southern outskirts of Kortrijk.

The break, which had amassed over three minutes in such a short time, saw its lead disappear entirely with still 71 kilometers remaining in the stage.

The erstwhile quiet field was reignited by the catch, and the attacks began afresh. Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil), Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ), Guillaume Le Floch (Europcar), and Egidijus Juodvalkis (Landbouwkrediet) were the next lucky riders to get away, but they had to work for every meter. With 30 kilometers remaining, the quartet had 30 seconds, but they wouldn't surrender.

Heading into the final circuit and only 18 kilometers remaining, the foursome had 20 seconds in hand, then Veuchelen and Le Floch attacked their two other breakmates. The two were apparently faster than four, because they managed to push the gap back out to 30 seconds. They couldn't hold off the maelstrom from behind though, and their efforts were put to rest in the final kilometer.

Skil-Shimano had control in the waning moments, but on the slightly uphill rise to the line, it was Degenkold who got the better of the veteran German sprinter, Wagner, and last year's winner, Keukeleire.

The tough day of racing didn't mix up the overall too much. Yesterday's prologue winner, RadioShack's Jesse Sergent, will head into the final day as the leader with a ten second margin over second, third, and fourth place. Fortunately for Sergent, second and third are his teammates, Sebastien Rosseler and Sam Bewley. SpiderTech's Svein Tuft sits in fourth, the closest rival to Sergent's lead. He, along with everyone else, will have a difficult time overcoming the RadioShack juggernaut in Flanders tomorrow. 

 

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