The 22-year-old came close to recording his fifth win of the season, but was denied by the break.
The 89th edition of the Belgium Tour started with a flat 180km stage that Deceuninck – Quick-Step controlled once five riders snapped the elastic, posting Iljo Keisse – who made his return to competition – at the front of the bunch to keep an eye on the gap. The experienced Belgian’s huge workload began paying dividends, as the deficit to the escapees gradually came down, hovering around one minute inside the last ten kilometers.
With five kilometers to go, only Jan-Willem van Schipp (Roompot-Charles) was still in the lead, having survived from the original breakaway, trailed by the peloton some half a minute behind. Deceuninck – Quick-Step continued to ride strongly at the front of the pack, giving their all to bring back the Dutchman, but the sole leader managed to hold off the chasers and take the victory, four seconds clear of a small group.
From there, Fabio Jakobsen sprinted and finished third for his ninth podium of the season, a result on which sports director Klaas Lodewyck gave his thoughts after the stage: “Today we took our responsibility and rode at the front from the beginning, but we didn’t get any support from the other teams, except Vital Concept and the Belgian National Team. We came short at the end and it’s a real pity, because Fabio is going well and we wanted to sprint for the win with him. But the form is there and we will try again in the next stages.”
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen/ Getty Images