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Sep Vanmarcke triumphs at inaugural Maryland Cycling Classic

Belgian veteran Vanmarcke scores for first time in three years in small group sprint.

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Israel Premier Tech’s Sep Vanmarcke won the inaugural Maryland Bicycle Classic in downtown Baltimore, Maryland on Sunday, sprinting out of a reduced group of five riders after spending the majority of the 196.9km race in the breakaway.

The Belgian had a close challenge from Human Powered Health’s Nickolas Zukowsky, but came out on top with just inches to spare. EF Education EasyPost rider Neilson Powless came across for third.

“I’m super happy,” Vanmarcke said after the race. “Of course, I think my last win was about three years ago. Since then, I had a lot of bad luck. And two weeks ago, I bruised my ribs and in a race in a big crash. And because of this, I couldn’t race some races. I was really disappointed, but I guess sometimes we can turn bad luck into good. I’m very proud.”

It didn’t take long for a break of 25 riders to establish itself in the opening kilometers of the Maryland Bicycle Classic. The rolling hills surrounding downtown Baltimore suited a large group that included a number of riders from WorldTour teams BikeExchange-Jayco, Trek Segafredo, EF Education EastPost and Israel Premier Tech – including Vanmarcke.

Initially, Samuel Boardman (L39ION of Los Angeles) attempted to chase, and later Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) had a go with 138km to go, but none could catch the large break that was determined to get up the road.

The breakaway quickly built up a lead of more than four minutes, with Quinn Simmons (Trek Segafredo) and Robigzon Leandro Oyola (Team Medellin) taking the first and second king of the mountains points, respectively, along the way.

That was how things remained until 115km to go, when an injection of pace in the break caused 14 riders to tear away. Kyle Murphy (Human Powered Health) and Krists Neilands (Israel Premier Tech) attempted to chase the 14, but could never make contact and had to be content with a three-minute gap. The peloton was a further 5:30 by the time the race hit its midpoint.

The 14 riders in the break continued to share the workload, even rolling through the first intermediate sprint with 74km to go. Jenthe Biermans (Israel Premier Tech) was the first across. Just a few kilometers later, Simmons picked up the third KOM, which put him safely into the State of Maryland King of the Mountains jersey.

After shedding a few riders, the breakaway continued on to the final three circuits around Baltimore with a huge advantage of almost seven minutes ahead the peloton.

Biermans, Simmons, Powless, Vanmarcke, Zukowsky, Alexandre Balmer (BikeExchange-Jayco), David Lozano (Novo Nordisk), Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education EastPost), Robigzon Leandro Oyola Oyola (Medellin), Andrea Piccolo (EF Education EastPost ), Neilson Powless (EF Education EastPost), Nicholas Schultz (BikeExchange-Jayco) had a clear run at the finish with no threat from the bunch, or a small group of chasers five minutes back.

With 22km to go, Simmons threw a little jab that cracked Lozano, but the rest of the group quickly responded. Some more testing attacks were attempted, as none of the riders in the break were pure sprinters, but it wasn’t until Skujins, Vanmarcke, Zukowsky and Powless pulled away on the final lap, gained a minute and traded attacks in the final 10 kilometers, that we began to see who might be the winner of the Maryland Cycling Classic.

It began to be a game of tactics as the quartet felt each other out. The decrease in speed allowed Piccolo to bridge with 2.5km to go, giving Powless a teammate.

Piccolo attacked almost immediately, taking Vanmarcke along, but the five returned together once they reached the final stretch. Piccolo led out the sprint, allowing Vanmarcke to open it up first. Powless finished in third.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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