Lotto Soudal’s Moreno Hofland won the first edition of the Famenne Ardenne Classic (1.1), which started and finished in Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium yesterday. The Dutchman won a reduced bunch sprint to take the victory ahead of Emiel Vermeulen (Roubaix Lille Métropole) and Maxime Vantomme (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect).
The 195-kilometre race included nine categorised climbs and as soon as the flag dropped, the battle to get into the breakaway started.
Eventually six riders were ultimately allowed to go clear and David Boucher (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice), Marten Kooistra (SEG Racing Academy), Maxim Rusnac (Team Differdange-Losch), Lander Seynaeve (Roubaix Lille Metropole), Kenny Molly (AGO – Aqua Service), Jerome Mainard (Armee de Terre) were granted a maximum advantage of 3’30”.
A few kilometres from the first passage of the finish line, Molly accelerated and the front group was consequently reduced to four riders. After a second acceleration, only Mainard and Molly were left at the front. Their stint at the front didn’t last long though, and the peloton caught them with 49 kilometres to go.
Wanty-Groupe Gobert set a very hard pace on the penultimate ascent of the Côte de Charneux, which allowed their riders Guillaume Martin and Xandro Meurisse to go clear. They were then joined by Martijn Budding (Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij).
Lotto Soudal didn’t panic as Sander Armée and Maxime Monfort led the chase at the front of the peloton. The three escapees were reeled in with six kilometres to go and Tosh Van der Sande then made sure Moreno Hofland was in an ideal position for the sprint. The Dutchman crossed the line in first place, ahead of Vermeulen and Vantomme.
“I am very happy with this victory, I had to wait for almost two years for it so it makes the win a little bit more special,” said Hofland.
“We knew this morning that the race would be difficult to control and that everyone would look at us. After the start a small group went clear and we began to control the pace. Sean De Bie worked for almost hundred kilometres all by himself. We then decided to wait a little bit to see what the other teams would do. We expected Wanty to try something because they had a strong team today.
“When Martin, Meurisse and Budding went away on the penultimate lap, the team kept the situation under control and Sander Armée and Maxime Monfort closed the gap. We had settled that if I was still part of the front group at the top of the last climb, I would do the sprint. Attacks were flying in the finale but our team was strong and a sprint was inevitable.
“Tosh Van der Sande led me out perfectly and I launched my sprint 200 meters from the line. The finish was a little bit uphill and I’m glad I could finish it off after all that my team mates had done. It’s definitely a team victory today.”