Mads Pedersen timed his sprint to perfection to take the 82nd Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields.
The 2019 world champion emerged from an elite group containing – among others – Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo–Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin–Fenix), to add the prestigious Belgian classic to his palmares.
Pedersen launched his sprint at 200m to go and it was Sénéchal who took second with Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) in third.
Watch Gent-Wevelgem finish as riders play thrilling 'game of cat and mouse'
Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling) created the final race-winning move when he attacked from the elite section of nine riders. Pedersen did not make that move initially, but responded just in time with a late surge to cross the gap between the van der Poel group and the Bettiol group.
The two most-fancied riders pre-race, van der Poel and Van Aert, effectively marked one another out of the game. With 400m left, Van Aert stuck rigidly to the wheel of the Dutch national champ, refusing to help him try and close the gap. The eventual result was that they took eighth and ninth places on the day, the last two riders of the lead group.
The race erupted into life not on the first ascent of the Kemmelberg as many expected, but rather on the comparatively 'easy' roads that followed it. Crosswinds and crashes created gaps in the peloton and provided a spur for riders to attack and forge on. Some of those to be brought down in crashes were Daniel Oss (Bora Hansgrohe), Dimitri Claeys (Cofidis) and Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates).
‘Death ridge’ and vicious crosswinds combine at Gent-Wevelgem
From there, two roughly equal-sized groups formed, totalling about 40 riders. It was an acceleration from Welshman Luke Roew (Ineos) that formed the next significant group, with eight other rides joining him to create a new breakaway with an advantage of a bout a minute at its most.
They stayed away until the third and final ascent of the Kemmelberg when a brutal acceleration from van der Poel obliterated the gap. From there, a leading group of 14 was formed, with Stefan Kung (Groupama FDJ) joining to make it 15 soon after.
Mads Pedersen - Gent-Wevelgem win is one of the biggest of my career
The Swiss TT rider was one of the most active in the final 10km, trying to force a move that would shake loose some of the superior sprinters. In the end his efforts were enough for fifth place, one place behind Bettiol.
The next major target for the classics men will be the Tour of Flanders next Sunday, with Scheldeprijs to come in between now and then on Wednesday 14 October.