After winning the Circuit Het Nieuwsblad, the GP E3 and Gent-Wevelgem, Greg Van Avermaet only had to claim a monument to cap off a great Spring classic campaign. He overcame a mechanical with just over 100km to go to make his way to the great success that was missing in his career, beating Zdenek Stybar and Sebastian Langeveld in a sprint finish. Tom Boonen concluded his last ever race in thirteenth position after fighting in a duel-like event with Peter Sagan who was hampered bad luck at all crucial moments.
51km in the first hour
199 riders took the start in Compiègne under the sun. It was a very fast early part of the race with very little freedom given to the breakaway riders. Patrick Bevin and William Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac), Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Kenneth van Bilsen (Cofidis), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Coen Vermeltfoort (Roompot), Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida) and Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates) formed a first leading group, reinforced by Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Benjamin De Clercq (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise). 51km were covered in the first hour, after which five riders got a gap: Michael Morkov and Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Katusha), Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis), Maxime Daniel (Fortuneo) and Benjamin Giraud (Delko Marseille). But it was all together again 25km before the first cobbled section at Troisvilles (km 97).
Delage, Wallays and Vandenbergh at the front
At the initiative of Yannick Martinez (Delko Marseille), a trio took off five kilometers before hitting the pavés. The Frenchman formed the first significant breakaway of the day with Mickaël Delage (FDJ) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) before getting dropped and crashing. Delage and Wallays got a maximum gap of one minute and remained at the head of the race for 75km. The first main victims of the crashes were Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale). Stijn Vandenbergh, the other Belgian rider from AG2R-La Mondiale, joined Delage and Wallays and revived the breakaway while the 2014 winner Niki Terpstra (Quick Step Floors) pulled out after crashing. As Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) had a mechanical on the cobbled section number 20, Tom Boonen (Quick Step Floors) sped up ahead of the Arenberg forest.
Sagan in action from far out
Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) rejoined the sole Wallays at the front with 90km to go. As they got caught, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) sped up with 77km remaining and formed a leading quartet with his team-mate Maciej Bodnar, Daniel Oss (BMC) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo). Sagan had a mechanical so Oss and Stuyven remained in the lead with 70km to go. At the exit for the pavé section of Mons-en-Pévèle, 45km before the end, Gianni Moscon (Sky), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal) and Dimitri Claeys (Cofidis) rejoined Oss and Stuyven. It became a front group of 15 riders five kilometers further: Peter Sagan (Bora), Jens Keukeleire (Orica), Boonen and Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step Floors), Dylan Van Baarle and Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Drapac), John Degenkolb and Stuyven (Trek), Moscon (Sky), Oss and Van Avermaet (BMC), Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal), Chavanel (Direct Energie), Claeys (Cofidis) and Bert De Backer (Sunweb).
Van Avermaet dominates the finale
Oss went again but on his own. He eventually waited for six chasers as his captain Van Avermaet was one of them, along with Stybar, Moscon, Langeveld, Roelandts and Stuyven while Sagan was affected by another mechanical. Those seven riders had a lead of 30 seconds over a 40-man peloton with 20km to go. Oss was first to pay for his efforts. Only Stybar and Langeveld were able to follow Van Avermaet’s acceleration at the Carrefour de l’Arbre 17km before the conclusion on the velodrome. Van Avermaet did most of the work in the finale but still had the resources to outsprint his two breakaway companions plus Stuyven and Moscon who made the junction on the velodrome.