Caleb Ewan won the 108th Scheldeprijs on his debut in a messy sprint finish that saw second place Pascal Ackermann disqualified after a terrible crash.
Ewan was untouchable with an incredible acceleration in the last 200 metres, but the Australian’s victory was overshadowed as Ackermann from Bora-Hansgrohe darted through the peloton, causing a touch of wheels and leading to a crash behind him. The German was unable to match Ewan’s speed, but a relegation cost his spot on the podium for his reckless riding.
This meant Niccolo Bonifazio from Total Direct Energie was bumped up to second after a strong fight that saw him cross the line in third, and Frenchman Bryan Coquard was able to take the final spot on the podium.
August Jensen from Riwal Readynez was the worst hit by the crash, landing on his head, but is believed to have escaped relatively unscathed. Ackermann’s teammate Rudiger Selig stopped on the home straight to turn around and help the stricken rider, showing great sportsmanship.
Riwal’s director Michael Skelde said: "It was a crash at high speed, and of course it looks ugly. But all in all, it will go well with him, even if he has to take a couple of days to recover.
"It does not seem that anything is broken, and we could talk to him and get in touch with him. Thank God it's not more serious. It will go well with him."
The 174km one day kermesse-style race in Schoten saw the riders take 10 laps of a 17.4km circuit.
An early break of eight riders saw Mark Cavendish in the mix from Bahrain McLaren, but the group were unable to stay away for the bunch sprint.
Ewan said: "It’s a really big race, especially for sprinters, and it’s the first time that I’ve done this race. We were really motivated, and it’s really important for the team to have a big win in Belgium and I’m happy that I could deliver that for them. I’m super happy with this win.
"For me [the final kilometre] wasn’t too bad because I was up near the front the whole time, and my team did a super good job. I was up near the front and away from all the trouble - and I saw when I was just watching on the TV that crash in the last part - so, I just wanted to be up near the front, out of trouble, and that is what the team did for me.
"It’s one of the biggest sprint Classics there is, and I haven’t won a Classic of this level in Belgium before, so this is super nice. It’s important for me, to be honest, I think it’s more important for the team. We haven’t had a win in a Classic at this level for a long time, so they are going to be really happy. It’s my first time here and now my first win, so I’m super happy to have this on my palmarès now."