Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team young rider Julien Vermote — who was four seconds behind teammate Michal Kwiatkowski going into the final 186.5km Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen stage, from Nieuwpoort to Ichtegem — took home the overall victory on Sunday by finishing with the peloton in a field sprint.
"I really didn't expect to win the race," Vermote said. "I'm really sad for Michal, he didn't win only because of bad luck. But we are a fantastic team here. Everybody sacrificed themself for the team result. In any case I'm happy I can prove my skills. Last year was hard for me but Patrick Lefevere and the team left me relaxed. They were always confident in me, which is the best thing for a young rider. It was also nice to win in my home country. A special emotion, you can believe me! Tomorrow I will leave to South Africa for the Cape Argus Cycle Tour. I think I will really enjoy my trip after this victory"
Arnaud Demare (FDJ) was 1st, Alexander Porsev (Katusha) 2nd and Kenny Van Hummel 3rd.
"It was really a terrible day due to the weather conditions," Vermote said. "When the group broke into two parts I remained behind with Michal. When I realized that Michal could lose the race I put him on my wheel and we made a terrific effort to come back. We went really fast. When we were really nearly to close the gap, Michal crashed in a roundabout. At that point I had no choice and I went alone. On the road I found Francesco Chicchi and Matthew Brammeier who helped me to complete the chase. Then the guys were super. Guillaume and Andy Fenn worked hard controlling the race and in the last part of the race, Matteo Trentin controlled everything. He was super strong."
Michal Kwiatkowski lost contact with the peloton during the race, leaving it up to either Vermote or Guillaume Van Keirsbulck to fight for the overall victory. Van Keirsbulck, who was in fifth on the general classification (10 seconds back) going into the final stage, earned two crucial bonification seconds at the final section alongside Andy Fenn, who took first and earned three seconds. They did this when in a 24 rider breakaway that clung to a 10 second gap on the peloton with a little more than 26km to go. The peloton soon regrouped and the battle for the field sprint was controlled by the team from then on. Unfortunately, Van Keirsbulck punctured outside 4km remaining, taking him out of GC contention.
"Fortunately, Julien came in the first group with the rest of the bunch," Steels said about the peloton split. "Matteo, Guillaume and Andy worked a block for Julien and at the end we went only to preserve the jersey to avoid risks."
Francesco Chicchi, who won Stage 1 on an uphill sprint finish, crashed earlier in the race and could not recover to compete for the sprint finish.
Kwiatkowski won the prologue on Friday, giving Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team the first of three wins at Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.
Vermote's overall victory is the 20th of 2012 for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team. He is the 8th rider with a victory for the team.