- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

GHENT, Belgium (AP) - Ian Stannard of Britain beat home rider Greg Van Avermaet in a two-way sprint finish Saturday to win the Ghent-Ghent Nieuwsblad race, the opening classic of the Belgian spring season.

In a 201-kilometer (124-mile) race in cold, rainy and windy conditions, Stannard started the sprint from some 300 meters out and survived a late surge from the Belgian to win the biggest one-day classic in the career of the 26-year-old cyclist.

Stannard’s Team Sky teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen took third overall, winning the sprint ahead of Belgian Sep Vanmarcke.

Stannard finished in 4 hours, 49 minutes, 54 seconds.

Temperatures hovered around 5C (41F) and the event was lashed by rain as soon as the riders started hitting the 10 hills around the circuit through western Belgium.

In an exciting race with several breakaways, Stannard and Van Avermaet made the decisive move with 16 kilometers (10 miles) to go, just as the pack had caught up with a group.

The pair worked well together to build a gap big enough for a thrilling finale. Van Avermaet was supposed to be the fastest rider but, after such a long race, it turned out to be quite open.

Stannard nudged Van Avermaet into the lead and then, when the Belgian looked the wrong way, he made a jump from behind to launch a long sprint that suited his powerful build.

“It was just about playing it right, I felt strong,” Stannard told VRT network. “It worked out well.”

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