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Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech) won the inaugural Maryland Cycling Classic in Baltimore on Sunday. The Belgian one-day specialist claimed his first win in nearly three years winning the breakaway sprint ahead of Nickolas Zukowsky (Human Powered Health) and Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost).
The breakaway sprint also included Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) and Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost). Piccolo reconnected with the breakaway in the final 2.4km, and he and Powless tried attacking several times on the run-in to the finish but weren’t successful in opening a gap
Piccolo moved into a lead-out role for Powless and picked up his pace into a sprint inside 800 metres. Vanmarcke made his winning move with 300 metres to go, launching off of Piccolo’s efforts, and although he was nearly caught on the line by a charging Zukowsky, he held on for the victory.
How it unfolded
After four long years of planning and two cancellations amid the pandemic, the Maryland Cycling Classic finally got underway in Sparks, Maryland with 194 demanding kilometres of searing pavement standing between the 112 riders and the finish line in Baltimore’s Inner Harbour.
After the rollout from Kelly Benefits headquarters, the attacks flew immediately on the undulating country roads, with USA Cycling’s Hugo Scala sparking the move that saw 25 riders forging clear.
Tearing up the script of lower-level riders going for TV time, this high-quality move contained riders from all four WorldTeams – with EF Education-EasyPost putting leader Neilson Powless, Magnus Cort, Andrea Piccolo and Tom Scully in the move, Trek-Segafredo tossed Quinn Simmons, Toms Skujins and Alexander Kamp up the road, BikeExchange covered the move with Nick Schultz, Damien Howson and Alexandre Balmer, while Israel-Premier Tech had Sep Vanmarcke, Krists Neilands and Jenthe Biermans in the breakaway.
Also in the attack were Kyle Murphy and Nick Zukowsky (Human Powered Health), David Lozano (Novo Nordisk), Tiano Da Silva (ProTouch) and Robigzon Oyola and Walter Vargas (Medellin), Darren Rafferty (Axeon Hagens Berman), and Michael Pincus (Team Skyline), Eder Frayre (L39ION), Aaron Wade (EvoPro).
Chasing for much of the first 50km was Sam Boardman (L39ION) but he never managed to make it across as the large escape gained over two minutes on the bunch.
On one of the many hills with 138km to go, Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) sensed the train was leaving the station and he jumped away to go across to the leaders while the gap hovered at two minutes. He didn’t make it, and neither did another counter with teammate Dylan Groenewegen, Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo), Felix Stehli (EF Education-EasyPost), Guillaume Boivin (Israel-Premier Tech), and Human Powered Health duo Pier-André Côté and Arvid De Kleijn.
With 125km to go the leaders had four minutes on the peloton. Powless jumped clear for the KOM with 121km to go, with the surge being joined by his EF-EasyPost teammates in an attempt to reduce the lead group. The effort halved the escape group, with Simmons taking the KOM points.
The peloton behind was also becoming decimated by the heat, humidity and relentless hills. Left in the front were Simmons, Skujins, Howson, Schultz, Balmer, Vanmarcke, Biermans, Powless, Cort, Piccolo, Lozano, Zukowsky and Oyola, who led the front group across the second KOM.
As the race approached the four local circuits, the leaders’ advantage was down to 2:20, Robin Carpenter (Human Powered Health) attacked with Tony Gallopin (Trek-Segafredo), picking up Murphy, Frayre and Neilands, and began to claw their way across to the front group, now down to 12 riders.
Simmons sealed the KOM prize by taking out the final mountain sprint, while Biermans won the intermediate sprint bonus en route to the circuits.
Behind, sprinters Matthews and Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech) joined a small chasing group along with Canadian champion Côté, Callum Ormiston and Kent Main (ProTouch), Oscar Sevilla (Medellin), Michael Foley (Toronto Hustle), Noah Granigan (USA) and Tyler Williams (L39ION) but at the start of the circuits, they were joined by what was left of the peloton and had what seemed like an unassailable gap of over seven minutes.
It seemed certain that the race would be decided between the leaders, but a few desperate groups fought in between, with Jens Keukeleire and Simon Carr (EF-EasyPost) and Otto Vergaerde (Trek-Segafredo) two minutes behind the Gallopin group and 6:30 behind the front of the race.
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