Juan Sebastián Molano wins the GP Denain

 Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) took the win in France
Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) took the win in France

Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates) won a mini sprint showdown to capture victory at the GP Denain, beating Tim van Dijke (Jumbo-Visma) for glory after the pair came to the finish together among a group of six escapees.

2008 winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) instigated the winning move at 30km out on the Quérénaing cobbled sector, the eighth of 12 at the race, bringing seven other men with him in the attack.

The group would quickly build a 20-second advantage over the peloton, catching the early break along the way before splintering to five on the final sector at Avesnes-le-Sec.

With the impetus to chase behind lost, the final 10km saw Boasson Hagen, Van Dijke, Timo Kielich (Alpecin-Deceuninck), and the UAE pairing of Molano and Mikkel Bjerg away and set to contest the finish.

Bjerg led things out after a long pull for Molano, though it was Boasson Hagen who started the sprint long at 300 metres to go. Molano, who earlier this year won a stage of the UAE Tour, had too much power, though and came through to take a clear victory, the 21st of his career.

"I am very happy. Today I had good legs and a good team, all in good position and all day perfect entering the pavé," Molano said after the finish. "Thank you to Mikkel Bjerg – amazing. A good war in the final. Good legs in the sprint and in the pavé. I am very happy. This victory is for my team, the staff, my family, and my girlfriend.

"I started at the UAE Tour with a good victory. Now after Tirreno-Adriatico I have good legs and good recovery. I'm very happy and it's a good victory for me."

Kielich rounded out the podium in third place ahead of Boasson Hagen and a celebrating Bjerg, while late attacker Sam Watson (Groupama-FDJ) grabbed sixth place after jumping from the peloton at 1.5km from the line.

The day's breakaway riders had asserted themselves at the very start of the race on the local laps in Denain, with eight men making it out front including Paul Lapeira (AG2R Citroën), Ben Perry (Human Powered Health), and Gilles De Wilde (Flanders-Baloise).

They were preparing for a long ride over the cobbles at a mini Paris-Roubaix on the 195km course, and they'd survive out front until just before the penultimate sector at Haspres. At that point, what would turn out to be the winning attack group had already been on the move for over 15km, having taken advantage of a cluster of three tough cobbled sectors to go clear of the peloton.

Despite having Van Dijke in the attack, Jumbo-Visma hedged their bets by controlling the peloton on behalf of sprinter Olav Kooij, though they wouldn't reach the front of the race before the line.

On the wet cobbles at Haspres, the breakaway split up as Boasson Hagen led the way, with the five that would go to the finish emerging at the front. Further back, there was carnage in the peloton as several riders hit the deck along with a race motorbike.

The leaders held a still-slim 30-second lead into the final 10km, though with most of the quintet working hard and Bjerg sacrificing himself fully for his sprinter Molano, they had enough firepower to hold off the fractured chase behind, despite the presence of several sprinters in the peloton.

For a moment, it looked as though British youngster Watson would make it six contesting the final, but he would end up finishing nine seconds down as Molano captured the win in Denain.

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