2016: Boonen defeats Démare and Bouhanni on Houba de Strooper
Tom Boonen has won the Brussels Cycling Classic for the second time. The Etixx-Quick-Step cycling team racer was selected over Marcel Kittel to be the protected sprinter and repaid the confidence placed in him in full.
Against the stunning backdrop of the Jubelpark/Parc du Cinquantenaire, the racers were presented to the public in the morning. A large number of household names made their appearance on the starting podium and it quickly became clear that most teams were putting forward a sprinter to go all out for race victory. Wholly in keeping with Brussels Cycling Classic tradition, the tempo in the first hour of the race was particularly high. Many an attack was dealt with swiftly until a group of eight racers got away from the main pack on the third climb of the day: Maxime Cam (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Alexandr Kolobnev (Gazprom – RusVelo), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty – Groupe Gobert), Matteo Busato (Wilier Triestina-Southeast), Florent Delfosse (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Sander Cordeel & Brecht Dhaene (Verandas Willems Cycling Team) and Gianni Marchand (Cibel-Cebon) developed a lead of 2’30”.
The pack kept things under steady control until Yoann Offredo (FDJ) suddenly lit the fuse. An industrious Tiesj Benoot also rose up, causing the eight racers’ lead to melt rapidly away. A great many racers attempted to dart away from the pack but a new escape was not to be. With Brussels in sight, both Alexis Gougeard (AG2R) and Filippo Pozzato (Wilier Triestina-Southeast) tried their luck, but they too were swiftly enveloped back into the fast-approaching pack.
Inevitably, it was the gently sloping Avenue Houba de Strooperlaan that witnessed the expected sprint. The Cofidis, FDJ and Etixx-Quick-Step express trains powered to the front and launched their sprinters at the perfect moment. Tom Boonen shot away from Nikolas Maes’s wheel like greased lightning and kept both Arnaud Démare and Nacer Bouhanni at bay. A terrific win for the man who quit the sport last year and may possibly have ridden his last Brussels Cycling Classic. What’s more, Tom Boonen’s victory is a serious boost with a view to the World Championship in Qatar.