Mark Cavendish launched an early sprint to win Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne having been delivered to the line in textbook fashion by his Sky team-mates.
The world champion endured a torrid time in his previous race, failing to make an impact in the Tour of Oman’s bunch sprints, but bounced back in impressive fashion to claim victory ahead of Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ-BigMat) and Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM).
And the Manx Missile paid tribute to his Sky team-mates after a lead-out which saw defending champion Chris Sutton swing off with 270m remaining, leaving Cavendish to accelerate away from the rest of the field to win in style.
“Things didn’t work out too well at Tour of Oman,” said Cavendish, who is targetting a repeat of his 2009 Milan-San Remo victory when the first Monument of the 2012 season takes place in three weeks.
“I was giving the guys quite a hard time but they rode incredible today. There’s nothing else I can do when I get delivered like that.
“Everybody knew what they had to do. You look through the list of riders in this team and they are some of the strongest riders in the world. It’s so nice that it’s gelled. It’s an incredible group of guys.”
Sky duo Juan Antonio Flecha and Mathew Hayman worked their way into a key break which also included the in-form Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), forcing Lotto-Belisol to lead the chase in aid of sprinter Andre Greipel.
The race came back together after the Nokereberg, the last of the day’s eight climbs, after which Sky moved to the front to control the bunch sprint.
And, having seen off the challenge of a new seven-man break in the closing stages, the British-based team controlled the finale to set Cavendish up for his third win of the season, having claimed two victories at the Tour of Qatar.
The 26-year-old will now ride the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in Italy before turning his attention to Milan-San Remo.
Meanwhile, Garmin-Barracuda’s Sep Vanmarcke won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first Classic of the season, on Saturday.
The Belgian followed Tom Boonen’s attack on the Taaienberg pave section with 59km remaining and outsprinted his compatriot, with Juan Antonio Flecha securing third.