Ballerini Takes Opening Belgian Cycling Classic

Brussels, Feb 27 (AFP/APP): Davide Ballerini continued his strong start to the cycling season by sprinting to victory on Saturday in the Het Nieuwsblad, the opening Belgian classic of the year.

The Italian sprinter who rides for Deceuninck-Quick Step edged Briton Jake Stewart of Groupama in the bunch finish at the end of the 200.5 km run from Ghent to Ninove. Sep Vanmarcke of Israel Start-Up Nation was third. In a race that was marked by the usual attacks, Ballerini was part of one dangerous breakaway that also included heavyweights Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe and Belgian Greg Van Avermaet.

The 26-year-old Ballerini won the first two stages of the Tour de Provence earlier this month but the victory in a World Tour race was the biggest of his career.

“It’s a dream come true,” Ballerini told broadcaster Eurosport. “This is the start of the really big classics. I love it and I love this team. It was my dream since I was a baby when I saw my first race on TV.”

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