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Exciting finale to World Ports Classic
Sep 2nd, 12. An intense bunch finish with more than just stage victory on offer made the second and final stage of the inaugural World Ports Classic a great race.
Tom Boonen of Omega Pharma Quickstep won yesterday's difficult stage where crosswinds determined race strategies.
The Belgium champion went into today's stage in the leader's jersey but with bonus points on offer during the stage and at the finish, he knew just finishing with the front bunch would not be enough to win the title.
The 163km race from Antwerp to Rotterdam featured two intermediate sprints and the same number of cobbled sectors.
The lure of the first intermediate sprint points kept the first hour pace over 50km/h. It was Andre Greipel of Lotto Belisol who took the top points, but Boonen limited his losses to just 1sec by being second across the sprint line.
Greipel, who finished 2nd yesterday, reduced his deficit to Boonen to just 3sec - if he won the final sprint he would win the title.
An eventual three rider break was methodically pulled back by the peloton and reeled in within the final 10km in preparation for the sprint finale.
Rabobank and BMC drove the front of the peloton while the Argos-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol sprinters waited until the last kilometre to hit the front.
It all came down to a mass sprint featuring the main favourites. When Boonen launched his sprint, Greipel looked to be slightly boxed in. The German, however, came around Boonen in the final metres but it was Theo Bos (Rabobank) who was victorious.
Greipel's 2nd place gained him another 2sec bonus over 3rd placed Boonen, but he was left 1sec short of the overall title. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) finished as the Best Young Rider and 3rd overall.
"I'm happy about this victory and these two days of races," Boonen said after his overall victory. "I knew that to get a good result it was important to finish in the top three, two times, and that's what happened — we made it."
NZ's Greg Henderson, who has been a critical ingredient in Greipel's success this season and was again leading out today, played tribute to another team's leadout train after Bos' win.
"Nice job @RaboCycling today. Had the leadout dialled from a long way out. Congrats boys," he wrote on Twitter.
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