German champion Pascal Ackermann sprints to victory in Brussels

Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is the successor of Arnaud Démare on the honorary list of the Brussels Cycling Classic. After 201,4 km the race ended in the traditional sprint, which was spoiled by a crash in the final km. The German National Champion took advantage and won quite simple by holding of Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie).

BRUSSEL, BELGIUM - SEPTEMBER 1 : ACKERMANN Pascal (GER) of Bora - Hansgrohe , STUYVEN Jasper (BEL) of Trek - Segafredo and BOUDAT Thomas (FRA) of Direct Energie after the champaign shower pictured on the podium of  the Brussels Cycling Classic 2018  with start and finish in Brussels on September 01, 2018 in Brussel, Belgium, 1/09/2018 ( Photo Gregory Van Gansen / Photonews )

Photo: Photonews

The Brussels Cycling Classic started as per usual in the Brussels Parc du Cinquantenaire with a presentation of the riders in front of the triumphal arch. A fantastic location and the sun present it was a cozy gathering for both fans and riders. Like the years before the Brussels Cycling Classic was able to launch out with a strong field of participants. Especially the sprinters were the ones highlighted by the teams as their go-to-riders: Arnaud Démare came to defend his title with FDJ, but would get fierce competition from John Degenkolb (Trek), Alexander Kristoff (UAE), Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora).

From the beginning on the race was made hard by the riders, as the first climbs of the day presented themselves after 15km already: Vossemberg and Smeysberg. It was on those hills that the escape of the day got it’s blessing from the peloton. Six riders quickly took an advantage of two minutes, with them one big name: former Belgian Champion Oliver Naesen (Ag2R). He was joined by Jonas Gregaard (Astana), Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), Hamisch Schreurs (Israel Cycling Academy), Nick Van Der Lijke (Roompot) and Tom Wirtgen (WB Veranclassic).The sextet up front worked together quite well and extended their lead to a maximum of 3’20”. Especially Oliver Naeses was the exponent of a extremely fast first race hour: 46km/h average. Between km point 14 and 162, the riders got presented a total of 13 climbs, which was too much for the New Zealander Schreurs.

The peloton closed the gap quickly towards the end, especially when the guys from UAE Team Emirates and FDJ took the lead to work for their leader, but it was Oliver Naesen who didn’t want to give up that easily. On a moment Tom Wirtgen got dropped for the breakaway group, Remi Cavagna (Quick-Step) lead the counter-attack from the peloton. He got company from Thomas Sprengers (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Kamil Gradek (CCC). In the end the French Anthony Turgis from Cofidis was able to make the jump as well.

Cavagna was feeling great and launched various small attack, but everytime he hit a wall called Oliver Naesen, last week’s winner of the GP Plouay. The duo felt their escape had no chance of succeeding, resulting in the peloton catching them at only 20km from the finish line and leaving only Sprengers, Bak and Turgis up front. The latter fell away literally, going down in an innocent curve. Turgis took Sprengers down with him, leaving only Danish rider Lars Bak solely in front. At 10km from the finish on Houba De Strooperlaan his song was over as well, beining the last escapee of the day getting caught by the peloton.

With brussels in sight the first sprint trains started organizing themselves. Brice Feuillu tried, Dries De Bondt as well, but their attack wasn’t a great success. It was pretty obvious at that point: a sprint would once again decide the winner. A sprint that was spoiled by a crash in the last 300m, caused by the Ag2R duo Barbier and Venturini. Fabio Jakobsen and Arnaud Démare were held up and saw from a distance how Pascal Ackermann won the sprint efforlessly. In the German’s back Jasper Stuyven beat Boudat for second place.

For the German National Champion it’s a first victory on Belgian soil in his young, yet promising carreer. In the shadows of the King Boudain stadium Ackermann was visibly enjoying his victory to the fullest.