The death of a local rider as a result of an accident during the Gent-Wevelgem race overshadowed the victory by world champion Peter Sagan.
The Wanty-Gobert team confirmed the death of Belgian rider Antoine Demoitie after a fall during the race. Local media reported he was hit by a motorbike after coming down.
He was taken to the intensive care unit of a hospital in the northern French city of Lille. On Monday morning, the team posted a photograph of him on its official Twitter and Facebook pages, accompanied by the text “Antoine Demoitie 1990-2016”. It said it would issue a statement later Monday.
Sagan, who claimed the world title last September in Richmond, Virginia, posted his first victory in the rainbow jersey.
Viacheslav Kuznetsov made the first move, about 200 meters from the finish line, but Sagan then easily outsprinted his rivals.
Sagan, who finished runner-up at the E3 Harelbeke race earlier this week, won ahead of Sep Vanmarcke and Kuznetsov, with one-day classic specialist Fabian Cancellara in fourth place.
It was the Slovak’s second victory in Gent-Wevelgem, following his maiden success in the 234-kilometre cobblestone classic back in 2013.
Sagan and Vanmarcke jumped away from the main pack with 34 kilometres left to follow Cancellara when the Swiss rider accelerated in the final climb of the day up the cobbled Kemmelberg.
After catching Kuznetsov, the four breakaway riders collaborated well and resisted the peloton’s chase.
“(It) was very hard because we were in a breakaway,” Sagan said. “Today I felt very, very good and the victory is here.”
Cancellara said he was hampered by cramps in the final five kilometres and was unable to fight for victory.
“In the end, I did not have the legs, or power, that I am used to,” Cancellara said.
Sagan will be among the favorites at the upcoming Tour of Flanders before competing in Paris-Roubaix.
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