In the streets of Gent on Saturday, Peter Sagan wasn't the fastest in the sprint, but on the roads of Kuurne he powered to victory ahead of defending champion Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Welsh ace Luke Rowe (Sky), out of a group of five that worked its way free in the last thirty kilometres of the race. Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) showed everything that he lacked on Saturday in jumping ahead of the group with three hundred metres. He did far less work than he was forced to do in Omloop het Nieuwsblad, and timed his sprint far better against worthy opposition.
Sagan made use of the tactical problems of that opposition to take victory. He got into the first split, forced by Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) on the Oude Kwaremont, but kept his powder dry at the back of the group for kilometres that he had spent working on the front on Saturday. He had burned very few matches by the time the race reached the Kuurne finishing circuit, and was thus able to be extremely active when Stuyven broke the détente in the front group late on. Sagan was soon on the way to bridging the gap, dragging Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) with him. The group was made complete by the one-by-one arrival of Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and Luke Rowe. This was a perfect group for their purpose — all on different teams, with sprinting talent and a chasing pack. The five worked extremely well together, forming a gap of forty seconds over the BMC-led chase group, whose four riders had somehow managed to miss Sagan's breakaway and thus needed to chase extremely hard, and extremely fruitlessly.
Upon reaching the final kilometres, Sagan took advantage of some tactical ineptitude by his rivals — Matteo Trentin attacked rather than chance the sprint with the man he has beaten before, while Luke Rowe was the man to chase him down, instead of attacking, essentially dooming his chances. Sagan took no nonsense in the sprint, not engaging in cat and mouse in the final metres, but opening up his engine early on and winning by a huge margin. Stuyven was the closest to the world champion but was never close to the win. Rowe came in third, followed by Benoot and then Trentin, who rolled in for Quickstep's best result of a disappointing weekend. The chase group narrowly beat the peloton home, with Arnaud Démare, frustrated, given he had done a lot of work with no team help in the hope of the race finishing in a sprint, managing sixth place ahead of Omloop champion Greg Van Avermaet.
It was another bad day for Katusha — their leader Alexander Kristoff never got into the front split in the hope of the race coming back for a sprint, while Tony Martin suffered a bad crash, sustaining bad injuries to his face. Baptiste Planckaert was caught in the same crash, but put in an impressive ride to reach the front group and finish in tenth position. Direct Energie's Bryan Coquard also stayed in the peloton and was punished with a low finish.
1 SAGAN Peter Bora - Hansgrohe
2 STUYVEN Jasper Trek - Segafredo
3 ROWE Luke Team Sky
4 BENOOT Tiesj Lotto Soudal
5 TRENTIN Matteo Quick-Step Floors
6 DÉMARE Arnaud FDJ
7 VAN AVERMAET Greg BMC Racing Team
8 NAESEN Oliver AG2R La Mondiale
9 STYBAR Zdenek Quick-Step Floors
10 PLANCKAERT Baptiste Team Katusha - Alpecin