peloton/AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Giant-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel won his third consecutive Scheldeprijs title on Wednesday in a bunch sprint ahead of Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar and Trek Factory Racing’s Danny Van Poppel. Kittel was favorite in the absence of Britain’s Mark Cavendish (flu) and Germany’s Andre Greipel (broken collarbone).

While the weekends are for the hard men, with Flanders last Sunday and Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, mid week is once again for the sprinters. The 200 kilometer race from Antwerp to Schoten is mostly flat with a few sectors of cobbles and the ever present risk of cross winds and of recent has resulted in a big bunch dash and today’s race was no different.

With a group of six off the front most of the day they were always doomed with work from Belkin, FDJ, Giant-Shimano and Omega-Pharma – Quick-Step keeping them in check and a final pull by Tom Boonen for Omega-Pharma – Quick-Step sprinter, Alessandro Petacchi, absorbing them with under 3 kilometers to go. Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi had tried to outwit the field by starting the sprint some 400 meters from the line but ran out of energy and slumped to fourth.

“Marcel is on another planet,” said van Poppel. “When I saw him accelerate, I knew straight away I wasn’t sprinting to victory. He’s unstoppable, so I’m satisfied with my third place.”

“Everything was perfectly clear in my head — I had to take the lead 250 meters from the line,” said Kittel after his fifth win of the season. “I knew that by taking a lead of several meters I couldn’t be caught.”

Swiss Fabian Cancellara, winner of the Tour of Flanders last weekend and favorite for Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, failed to feature while his Belgian rival Tom Boonen worked mainly for Petacchi in the final kilometers.

1. Marcel Kittel (GER/Giant) 4hr 33min 53sec (average: 43.814 km/h)
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) s.t.
3. Danny van Poppel (NED) s.t.
4. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) s.t.
5. Sam Bennett (IRL) s.t.
6. Davide Appollonio (ITA) s.t.
7. Danilo Napolitano (ITA) s.t.
8. Andrea Guardini (ITA) s.t.
9. Yannick Martinez (FRA) s.t.
10. Matteo Pelucchi (ITA) s.t.