An early six-man breakaway gained more than a two-and-a-half-minute gap on the peloton. But the group eventually shattered and what remained of the escapees was caught three kilometers from the finish of the 181.8-kilometer race. That set the stage for a bunch sprint of more than 100 riders.
Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka presented by Samsung) took the win ahead of Adrien Petit (Cofidis, Solutions Crédit) and Traksel. Kristof Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), winner of Friday’s prologue, protected his overall lead through to the end.
Traksel, winner of West-Vlaanderen in 2008 and third in 2010, said he spent the day trying to break free from the peloton, but ultimately got his best shot for the win at the end.
“Early in the race, I tried to escape on the cobblestones and I tried again 20 kilometers from the finish, but the peloton kept taking me back,” he said. “I like a sprint after a hard race. It wasn’t just a real sprint – it was a power sprint and today I had the power.”
Matt Brammeier was Champion System’s best-placed rider in the final overall classification, finishing 51st, 42 seconds behind Vandewalle.