April 02, 2017
Tour of Flanders 2017 – Antwerpen – Oudenaarde – 260 km
The 2017 Tour of Flanders (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen 2017) was the 101st edition of the Tour of Flanders, a one-day cycling classic, that took place on 2 April 2017. It was the second monument race of the 2017 cycling season and the thirteenth event of the 2017 UCI World Tour. The race marked the pinnacle of the Flemish Cycling Week.
Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) won the 2017 Tour of Flanders, but that simple statement doesn’t even begin to tell the tale of one of the most remarkable editions in the race’s history, and certainly the least predictable on the new finale over the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg.
Gilbert was alone for the final 55 kilometres of the race, having broken clear on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont – and that after being part of an elite selection that formed on the Muur 40 kilometres earlier – but that is still only part of the story.
The race will be remembered, too, for the bizarre crash that ended the challenge of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) as he gave chase on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. The world champion clipped a roadside barrier and brought down Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale).
Van Avermaet got back up and still won the sprint for second place, ahead of Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step) and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), 31 seconds down on Gilbert. It was that kind of a race, that kind of a day.
Sagan and Van Avermaet were 55 seconds behind Gilbert at the base of the Kwaremont, and the Belgian champion still had the bulk of that lead in hand even after Sagan accelerated near the summit. We will never know if Gilbert would have held out without the crash, but that detracts not one jot from his triumph. Gilbert, for his invention and his startling strength, was well worth his victory at the end of an absurd bike race.
Quick-Step wanted to avoid going toe-to-toe with Van Avermaet and Sagan in the finale, and their approach was flawless. The Muur van Geraardsbergen, back on the route after a six-year absence, proved pivotal even though the old friend was positioned some 95 kilometres from the finish. Tom Boonen, riding his final Ronde, set a fierce pace on the climb, and his effort brought a group of 14 clear, including Gilbert and Matteo Trentin. With Sagan and Van Avermaet caught behind, the Quick-Step trio didn’t need a second invitation to put their shoulders to the wheel.
“It all started on the Muur. I was riding on Tom Boonen’s wheel and it went on from there,” Gilbert said. “We had three riders in the group and we decided to push on.” When they reached the Kwaremont forty kilometres later, Gilbert opted to follow the same principle. He punched clear midway up the climb, and simply opted to continue alone when it was clear that nobody could come close to matching his speed.
“On the Kwaremont, I decided to go full on. I made an effort and I looked behind and I was alone,” Gilbert said. “So I just went on from there.” As simple and as brutally complicated as that.
There was, eventually, a general regrouping behind, though, as ever, the Ronde proved an elimination race. Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) and Luke Rowe (Sky) were thwarted by crashes, and Boonen by a mechanical mishap on, of all places, the Taaienberg.
With 35 kilometres to go, the race finally seemed to be settling into its anticipated script, as Sagan and Van Avermaet went clear over the Taaienberg in a chasing group that swelled to include Van Baarle, Naesen, Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert), Trentin and Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo), and this septet hit the base of the Kwaremont for the final time just under a minute down on Gilbert.
When Sagan took up the reins near the top, only Van Avermaet and Naesen could follow, but in an instant, their already guttering hopes were extinguished. Sagan struck a barrier at the roadside – it seemed as his bike was hooked by a billowing advertising banner – and Van Avermaet and Naesen came down with him. Van Avermaet remounted immediately, while Sagan waited for a replacement bike, knowing his chance of a repeat Ronde was gone.
Up ahead, Gilbert betrayed his first signs of suffering on the Paterberg, where he struggled to keep his gear turning over, but he crested the summit with 50 seconds in hand on a chase group made up of Van Baarle, a bloodied Van Avermaet and his Quick-Step teammate Niki Terpstra, who came from a long, long way back to bridge up.
At that point, Gilbert looked every inch the winner, but the ferocity of Van Avermaet’s pursuit, allied to a stiff headwind, made for a nervous spell around the 5km-to-go banner, when seconds began crumbling off his advantage.
By the flamme rouge, however, Gilbert had steadied the ship, and he could sit up and celebrate his win as he pedalled up the long finishing straight in Oudenaarde. On crossing the line, Gilbert stepped off his bike and lifted it over his head. It was a wonder he had the strength to do so.
Behind, Van Avermaet out-sprinted Terpstra and Van Baarle for second, coming home 28 seconds down. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) came home 52 seconds down in fifth, ahead of Sacha Modolo (UAE-Emirates) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo).
“I was aiming for the win but it didn’t work out,” Van Avermaet said. “On the Muur I was a bit far behind and I didn’t see what happened when that group went past. I was riding a very strong race and we were chasing very hard, but some people weren’t contributing to the chase. It was better when we got to the final – once you get away there, you can take some time back. But Phil had a minute by then, and it was very hard.”
Gilbert hadn’t raced the Ronde since 2012, as BMC had preferred to deploy him in the Ardenns to give Van Avermaet sole leadership on the cobbles. On signing him for Quick-Step Floors during the off-season, Patrick Lefevere had no misgivings about adding another potential leader to his Ronde line-up. He clasped Gilbert in a hug by the podium. “Mamma mia,” Gilbert said.
How it unfolded
The 101st edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen was the start of a new era, as Antwerp hosted the start of Vlaanderens Mooiste for the first time, after 19 years in Bruges. Pleasant spring sunshine and thick crowds greeted the riders in the Grote Markt, where Boonen, on the verge of his retirement, was feted with the ‘Viking clap’ celebration popularised by Iceland’s supporters at Euro 2016 last summer.
The early break ghosted off the front surprisingly early, with Mark McNally (Wanty-Gobert), Oliviero Troia (UAE Emirates), Julien Duval (AG2R La Mondiale), Stef Van Zummeren (Veranda’s Willems Crelan), Michael Goolaerts (Veranda’s Willems Crelan), Julien Morice (Direct Energie), Edward Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and André Looij (Roompot) forging clear in the opening kilometres and opening a maximum lead of twelve minutes.
From there, BMC and Bora-Hansgrohe took the initiative to keep the octet under control, with the pace in the peloton eventually rising after the first ascent of the Kwaremont, with 144 kilometres to go. A number of nervous crashes took place, too, as the peloton bottlenecked on narrow roads, with Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) among the victims.
The eight leaders reached the Muur van Geraardsbergen with a lead of more than five minutes, but all eyes were on the main peloton, where Tom Boonen was setting the tempo. The Muur, back in the race after a six-year absence, may have been a long way from the finish – some 95 kilometres – but it proved to be a pivotal moment in the race. Boonen’s forcing split the peloton into several groups and when the dust settled, the Belgian was joined by teammates Gilbert and Matteo Trentin in an elite 14-man selection that also contained Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe), Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Luke Rowe and Gianni Moscon (Team Sky), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Bryan Coquard, Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Sacha Modolo (UAE Emirates).
The big absentees were Sagan and Van Avermaet, and they trailed by 1:10 when the Boonen-Gilbert group caught the early break with 67 kilometres remaining. Boonen and Trentin were particularly active on the front, eager to ensure they stayed clear until the second ascent of the Kwaremont, knowing that no one team would be able to marshal a chase on the succession of hills that followed.
They had 35 seconds in hand at the base of Oude Kwaremont, where, with 55 kilometres remaining, Gilbert went clear alone, dropping Vanmarcke and the others. By the top, the Belgian champion was 56 seconds clear of the peloton, and he opted not to wait for company.
The race, initially slow-burning was now fully ignited. On the fast descent before the Paterberg, Vanmarcke crashed and brought Bodnar and Rowe down with him. On the Paterberg, Sagan, Van Avermaet were to the fore, and their efforts helped the the peloton to bridge back up to the Boonen group.
Come the foot of the Koppenberg, Gilbert had a lead of 55 seconds on the main group, an advantage he maintained over the Steenbeekdries and Taaienberg, but again, the drama was behind. The climb, nicknamed the ‘Boonenberg,’ marked the end of Boonen’s challenge. A chain problem forced him to stop for a bike change, and when his replacement machine also proved problematic, he knew his chances had disappeared.
At the head of the group, meanwhile, Sagan launched his first telling acceleration, and only Naesen, Van Avermaet, Trentin and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) could follow, and they caught earlier attackers Van Baarle and Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) over the top. They were a minute down on Gilbert over the Kruisberg, and the situation remained static until they reached the Kwaremont, where, suddenly and dramatically, this most incredible Tour of Flanders took on another guise.
Touchingly, Gilbert dedicated his victory to the late Claude Criquielion, who was the last Walloon to win the Tour of Flanders, 30 years ago. “I thought about him a lot on this special day,” said Gilbert.
His 2012 world title notwithstanding, Gilbert had seemed in steady decline since his startling 2011 campaign, but at 34 years of age, the Belgian has somehow conjured up the greatest performance of his career. After the Tour of Lombardy (2009 and 2010) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, he has now won three of cycling’s Monuments, and he vowed to try to complete the set.
“I want to win all five,” he said. “I’ve gone close at Milan-San Remo and I’ll have to test myself at Paris-Roubaix, but my career is far from over and I want to realise this dream.”
Full Results :
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 6:23:45
2 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:29
3 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
4 Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
5 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:53
6 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
7 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
8 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Wilier Triestina
9 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie
10 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
11 Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team
12 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott
13 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
14 Yoann Offredo (Fra) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
15 Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky
16 Scott Thwaites (GBr) Dimension Data
17 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
18 Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team
19 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:01
20 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 0:02:29
21 Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
22 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
23 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:32
24 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
25 Alexander Edmonson (Aus) Orica-Scott 0:03:30
26 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
27 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
28 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb
29 Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
30 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-Scott
31 Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
32 Matti Breschel (Den) Astana Pro Team
33 Marco Marcato (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
34 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ
35 Julien Vermote (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
36 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
37 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
38 Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
39 Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
40 Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
41 Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team
42 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
43 Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
44 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
45 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
46 Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
47 Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
48 Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
49 Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team
50 Eugert Zhupa (Alb) Wilier Triestina
51 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
52 Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
53 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
54 Huub Duyn (Ned) Veranda’s Willems Crelan
55 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
56 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
57 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
58 Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
59 Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data
60 Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin
61 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team
62 Gaetan Bille (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan 0:03:35
63 Alex Turrin (Ita) Wilier Triestina
64 Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky 0:03:36
65 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
66 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
67 Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
68 Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:04:15
69 Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica-Scott 0:04:32
70 Olivier Le Gac (Fra) FDJ 0:06:59
71 Mark Mcnally (GBr) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
72 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
73 Michael Morkov (Den) Katusha-Alpecin
74 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb 0:08:02
75 Koen De Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
76 Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
77 Federico Zurlo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates 0:08:35
78 Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Sunweb
79 Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team
80 Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
81 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb
82 Ryan Mullen (Irl) Cannondale-Drapac
83 Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
84 Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
85 Antoine Duchesne (Can) Direct Energie
86 Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team
87 Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
88 Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
89 Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team
90 Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb
91 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-Scott
92 Mitch Docker (Aus) Orica-Scott
93 Wesley Kreder (Ned) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
94 Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
95 Julien Morice (Fra) Direct Energie
96 Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ
97 Lars Boom (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
98 Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
99 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
100 Stijn Steels (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
101 Dries De Bondt (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan
102 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky 0:11:31
103 Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale
104 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Dimension Data
105 Twan Castelijns (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
106 Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky
107 Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo
108 Owain Doull (GBr) Team Sky
109 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan
110 Tom Scully (NZl) Cannondale-Drapac
111 Rudy Barbier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
112 Juraj Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
113 Rafael Andriato (Bra) Wilier Triestina
114 Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
115 Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
116 Amund Grondahl Jansen (Nor) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
117 Yohann Gene (Fra) Direct Energie
118 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Direct Energie
119 Gregory Rast (Swi) Trek-Segafredo
120 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
121 Tyler Farrar (USA) Dimension Data
DNF Jonathan Diebben (GBr) Team Sky
DNF Liam Bertazzo (Ita) Wilier Triestina
DNF Nick Dougall (RSA) Dimension Data
DNF Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNF Stef Van Zummeren (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan
DNF Michael Goolaerts (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan
DNF Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data
DNF Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
DNF Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Movistar Team
DNF Jorge Arcas Peña (Spa) Movistar Team
DNF Héctor Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team
DNF Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
DNF Luka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-Scott
DNF Nuno Matos (Por) Movistar Team
DNF Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar Team
DNF Youcef Reguigui (Alg) Dimension Data
DNF Nico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
DNF Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Rick Zabel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
DNF Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin
DNF Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNF Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNF Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team
DNF Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNF Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
DNF Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
DNF Gediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Giuseppe Fonzi (Ita) Wilier Triestina
DNF Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan
DNF Matteo Draperi (Ita) Wilier Triestina
DNF Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky
DNF Michaël Van Staeyen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Borut Bozic (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
DNF Loic Chetout (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Marko Kump (Slo) Team UAE Emirates
DNF Ion Ander Insausti Irastorza (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
DNF Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb
DNF Taylor Phinney (USA) Cannondale-Drapac
DNF Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Sunweb
DNF Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
DNF Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
DNF Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Sunweb
DNF Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Andrea Guardini (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
DNF Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ
DNF Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) Team UAE Emirates
DNF Berden De Vries (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
DNF Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
DNF Oliviero Troia (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
DNF Francisco Jose Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) BMC Racing Team
DNF Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
DNF Martin Elmiger (Swi) BMC Racing Team
DNF Sander Cordeel (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan
DNF Simone Consonni (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
DNF Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal
DNF Niccolo’ Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
DNF Romain Cardis (Fra) Direct Energie
DNF Elmar Reinders (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
DNF Chun Kai Feng (Tpe) Bahrain-Merida
DNF Meiyin Wang (Chn) Bahrain-Merida
DNF Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNF Andre Looij (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
DNF Edward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
DNF Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNF Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNF Steven Lammertink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNF Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNF Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNF Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) FDJ
DNF Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ
DNF Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) FDJ
DNF Taco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
DNF Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNS Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott