AFP / Yuzuru Sunada

Germany’s John Degenkolb of the Giant team won the Gent-Wevelgem spring classic race on Sunday, heaping praise on his teammates for reeling in three peloton escapees. Degenkolb timed 5:34:43 over the 233km ride to finish ahead of Frenchman Arnaud Demare and Slovakia’s defending champion Peter Sagan.

“This race is one of the really big classics and I am so happy to add Gent-Wevelgem to my honors,” said Degenkolb. “The race worked out perfectly for us today. The guys were really strong and Dries Devenyns did a great job chasing towards the end – he is really strong at the moment. Koen de Kort positioned me perfectly in the final, driving me onto Sagan’s wheel and I had the right position and could come through at the right time so it was a fantastic sprint.”

A three-strong breakaway of Belgian Stijn Devolder, Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador and Swiss rider Silvan Dillier were only reeled in in the final kilometer.

The race was marked by several falls, which saw Britons Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas, and German Andre Greipel crash out 8km from the finish. The 25-year-old Degenkolb, winner of last season’s Cyclassics in Hamburg and Paris-Tours, has five Vuelta stages and one Giro stage win to his name. And his Gent victory follows three stage wins on the Mediterranean Tour and one on the Paris-Nice this season. The former policeman, however, failed to threaten the podium in last weekend’s Milan-Sanremo race after picking up a puncture.

“Last weekend at Milan-Sanremo was probably one of the most disappointing moments of my career,” said Degenkolb. “Today everything went 100 percent better than last week so I can forget about that disappointment now. My shape is good and this is a good sign for the next big races.”

2014 Gent-Wevelgem
1. John Degenkolb (GER/GIA) 5hr 34min 43sec
2. Arnaud Demare (FRA/FDJ) same time
3. Peter Sagan (SVK/CAN) s.t.
4. Sep Vanmarcke (BEL/BKN) s.t.
5. Tom Boonen (BEL/OPQ) s.t.
6. Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL/TSV) s.t.
7. Alexey Tsatevich (RUS/KAT) s.t.
8. Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR/ALM) s.t.
9. Thor Hushovd (NOR/BMC) s.t.
10. Jurgen Roelandts (BEL/LTB) s.t.