• Greg van Avermaet made it a hat-trick of victories after winning Gent-Wevelgem. (Getty)Source: Getty
After claiming Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke, Greg Van Avermaet completed a hat-trick of classics victories with a win in Gent-Wevelgem.
By
Cycling Central

27 Mar 2017 - 6:03 AM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2017 - 6:59 PM

Van Avermaet (BMC) edged out Orica-Scott's Jens Keukeleire in a two-up sprint finish at the end of the 249km race from Deinze to Wevelgem. Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) won the bunch sprint for third.

The trio of results marks van Avermaet as the hot favourite for next weekend's Tour of Flanders, the second high-'Monument' race of the season where he has already notched up two podium places.

"For sure. I don't think I can say anymore that I'm not the favourite," van Avermaet said. "These wins give me extra confidence before next Sunday. I said on Friday that I can beat anyone in the sprint on a hard race. Now we look to Ronde van Vlaanderen and I'm going to give it everything I have."

The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix will be broadcast LIVE on SBS Viceland.

The race featured an early break which failed and a peloton split by winds and crashes but it eventually settled with an elite group of riders who dominated the final 20km.

Keukeleire made the first attack with van Avermaet, Sagan, Nikki Terpstra (Quickstep-Floors), and Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) responding.

Five kilometres later it was just Van Avermaet and Keukeleire sparring the front with the former taking the win at the line as the peloton sprinted in just six seconds later.

"The Kemmelberg is always a point when everyone wants to go and I felt really strong there," van Avermaet said. "I hoped to get a good group with me and that's what happened.

"Then we went way with strong guys. I was riding really hard the whole time because sometimes when you do a small pull you lose less energy than when you have to close gaps. In a race like this, you can't say we are not going to ride with 20km to go. You have to keep going the whole time.

"That's what happened with Jens Keukeleire and I when it was just the two of us. The whole last 10km we weren't speaking, it was just head down and going as fast as we could. It was a great win and the race was really perfect."

Second-placed Keukeleire has always raced in the shadow of his better known Belgian contemporaries, but at 28, he appears to be finally coming into his own as a classics rider.

“I’ve been feeling really good the last couple of years in these classics,” Keuekeleire said. “I get a lot of confidence from the team and I appreciate it a lot. I haven’t really gotten the biggest results, but

"I haven’t really gotten the biggest results, but still they show confidence in me and I’m really happy to be able to show that I can get results in these races.”

“I came really close today and I think if you can come second you can also win and I think that is the same for Flanders.

"With Orica-Scott we have won four out of the five monuments and the only one missing is Flanders so it would be nice to go win that one.”

LEPISTO WINS WOMEN'S GENT-WEVELGEM

Lotta Lepistö (Cervelo-Bigla) recorded a major victory in winning the women's Gent Wevelgem ahead of Jolien D'Hoore (Wiggle High5 and Coryn Rivera (Sunweb).

"This race was my goal," Lepisto said. "I was focussed on winning it. It’s a race that suits me and last year I was close but made a mistake and I told myself that won’t happen again.

"Today I made sure I was in the front. Flanders is Flanders and anything can happen but this was my goal and we agreed to target today and I got it. I am really satisfied. Three weeks ago I told Christina [Pertchold] I want to win this race, she texted me yesterday and said keep your promise."

Despite numerous attacks, the 146km race from Ieper to Wevelgem eventually came down to a bunch sprint with Cervélo Bigla well represented in the front group.

"We had five girls in the front group. They did an amazing job. Stephie [Pohl] did the leadouts to the Kemmelberg, Marie [Vilmann] our climber here in Flanders attacked after the climbs to put pressure on the group, Cecilie [Uttrup Ludwig] waited for me in the climbs and brought me to the front because I wanted to ride them at my own pace.

"She covered a million attacks. Lisa [Klein] is my tandem, she is always with me. Ashleigh [Moolman-Pasio] coming back from injury and being in all the attacks and keeping me calm. She always has the right things to say, telling me to relax, it’s not my turn to go into a group."