Van Avermaet wins Het Nieuwsblad

GENT, Belgium (AP) Olympic road champion Greg Van Avermaet came out on top of a three-man sprint on Saturday to claim a second consecutive victory in the Het Nieuwsblad, a grueling race marking the start of the Spring classics.

For the second year in a row, the Belgian rider was faster than world champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia at the finish line.

Another Belgian, Sep Vanmarcke, who took the initiative in the final sprint about 200 meters (yards) from the line, completed the podium.

The race was marred by a big pile-up about 62 kilometers (38.5 miles) from the finish that involved two pre-race favorites, veteran Tom Boonen and Alexander Kristoff, who fell on the narrow cobbled section. Both were able to resume racing but could not compete for the win.

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