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Tom Boonen takes first win in Belgian jersey
Sep 1st, 12. Belgian national champion Tom Boonen grabbed the win in the inaugural stage of the World Ports Classic in his home province of Antwerp today.
The four-time Paris–Roubaix winner beat Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) to the top step of the podium and to the leader's jersey.
Boonen won the sprint from a group of around forty riders, clocking a time of 3h56m57s at the end of a 201km stage marked by tough weather conditions.
The 201km long opener of the two stage World Ports Classic kicked off from Rotterdam in rain and strong wind, which saw the peloton divide into echelons.
The first hour was raced at a hectic pace, with an average speed in excess of 50km/h. The strong north-westerly winds tore the peloton apart and a 20-man group broke away 25km into the stage with the main favourites and the specialists of this type of races in it, including Boonen (Omega Pharma Lotto), Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) and Mark Renshaw (Rabobank).
The first and only cobbled sector in the stage was located 153km from the start and 48km before the finish, and it turned out to be the perfect place for Boonen to put the hammer down and drop some of his rivals.
It took almost 150km, but the second group on the road, which included Greipel, eventually caught the leader's group with 30km to go. The third group did not see the front of the race again, finishing almost 30min behind.
After two late breakaway riders were reeled in, Kristoff, the Olympic bronze medallist, started the sprint with 300m to go, but was passed by Boonen and Greipel. Boonen then came around Greipel on the left side just metres before the line.
It was the eleventh victory of the season for Boonen, the first since winning the national championships in June.
"All of the guys worked for me, and the result ended up perfect," said Boonen. "I won the race — a hard race with a lot of crosswinds — so I am happy with the result. When the race is hard like that, we are a team built for those races. I like it."
Two Kiwis are contesting this event, Tom Scully (Garmin Sharp - stagiare) +11m19s and Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol) +26m17s, who recently pulled out of the Tour of Denmark with knee pain.
The second and final stage of this event sees the peloton return from Antwerp back to Rotterdam.
"Tomorrow, I think it will be different. Normally there will be a headwind instead of the crosswind like today. It will be easier to control and normally there would be a bunch sprint."
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