Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) won Dwars door Vlaanderen with a perfectly timed sprint after overhauling Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) just metres before the finish.
Voeckler attacked from an escape group of ten riders with seven kilometres remaining and went under the flamme rouge with a nine second advantage.
But the chase group reeled in the Frenchman with the finish line in sight, leaving Gatto to win the sprint ahead of Borut Bozic (Astana) and Mathew Hayman (Team Sky).
Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard-Trek) were all missing from the start line in what is the opening fixture of three weeks of cobbled Classic racing, with the trio instead opting to recover from the exertion of Sunday’s epic edition of Milan-San Remo.
Ian Stannard (Team Sky), one of the main protagonists in La Primavera la Classica, was among the starters, however, and played a key role once again before finishing ninth.
Hayman instigated the winning move, attacking 40km from the finish before being joined by Stannard, Gatto, Bozic, Voeckler, Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM), Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE), Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Stannard made his move with eight kilometres remaining, launching a long range attack as he had done at Milan-San Remo, but the 25-year-old was reeled in before Voeckler countered with a solo bid of his own.
Voeckler held a slender lead going into the final kilometre and it looked like the four-time Tour de France stage winner would stay clear but the 33-year-old’s brave bid was ended in the dying seconds, leaving Gatto to cross the line arms aloft.
The cobbled Classics season continues with E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke on Friday and Team Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven, a former winner of Paris-Roubaix, is hoping for a big performance in a race which is considered a key dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday March 31.
“E3 will be a good warm-up for Flanders,” said Knaven. “All the big names will be there on Friday and we do a lot of the big Flanders climbs. It’s going to be a big test for everyone and a big hit for us as a team. We want to do a good race and try to win it.”
Dwars door Vlaanderen 2013 – result
1) Oscar Gatto (ITA) – Vini Fantini-Selle Italia – 4:43.22 hours
2) Borut Bozic (SLO) – Astana – same time
3) Mathew Hayman (AUS) – Team Sky
4) Mirko Selvaggi (ITA) – Vacansoleil-DCM
5) Thomas Voeckler (FRA) – Europcar
6) Nikolas Maes (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
7) Jens Keukeleire (BEL) – Orica-GreenEDGE
8) Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ) – Astana
9) Ian Stannard (GBR) – Team Sky
10) Stijn Vandenbergh (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep