Bad luck ruined the German's chances of getting involved in the sprint, with just one kilometer to go.
A six-man group made up for a nervous race in Hamburg, where the teams lined out for the 21st edition of the Cyclassics. Maxat Ayazbayev (Astana), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Kamil Gradek (Verva Active Jet), Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Argon 18) attacked right from the gun and enjoyed a maximum gap of six minutes, which shouldn't have been a problem for the peloton, at least on paper. During the race though, the script was a completely different one, as the escapees managed to stay at the front until the final 400 meters.
Coming into the closing kilometer, Marcel Kittel was in the wheel of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), but soon saw his ambitions go up in smoke, due to a flat rear which took him out of contention. With 400 meters to go, a crash disrupted the sprint, and from the riders who were left unscathed, Bouhanni was the one to come out on top. Minutes after crossing the line, the Frenchman was relegated for dangerous sprint, which meant that Caleb Ewan (Orica-BixeExchange) was elevated to first place, ahead of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo).
"I punctured in the most unfortunate moment, with 1000 meters to go, while being glued to Bouhanni's wheel. It's like someone wants to test my character. But there are also some positive things that I can take from this race, like the good legs I had and the strong team which helped me throughout the day", said Marcel Kittel, who rolled over the line one minute after the main group, from which Matteo Trentin sprinted to 9th place.
Also on Sunday, but in Belgium, the 50th edition of Grote Prijs Jef Scherens got underway under a cloudy sky, and as soon as the neutral kilometers were left behind, four riders attacked. Despite the rain and the cold, they established a comfortable lead which helped the quartet stay in the lead until the final 40 kilometers of the race. After being reabsorbed, a new group formed, from which Dimitri Claeys (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) went on to take the victory, beating Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal) and Roman Maikin (Gazprom-Rusvelo). Top finisher for Etixx – Quick-Step on the day was Julien Vermote, who came 22nd in Leuven, crossing the line with a group which arrived eight seconds later.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele