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Despite the presence of Ten Dam in the breakaway that goes clear in the finale, Belkin put all their faith in Hofland and chases it down. Their young sprinter pays back his teammates by winning Volta Limburg Classic ahead of Colbrelli and F...

Photo: A.S.O.

MAURO FINETTO

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MORENO HOFLAND

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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VOLTA LIMBURG CLASSIC

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05.04.2014 @ 18:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Moreno Hofland (Belkin) continued his rise towards the top of the sprinting hierarchy when he won today's hilly Dutch Volta Limburg Classic in a sprint finish from a reduced peloton. Despite having put Laurens Ten Dam into the breakaway that went clear in the finale, Belkin decided to count back their young sprinter fully by chasing it down and Hofland paid back their confidence by holding of Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) and Mauro Finetto (YellowFluo) in the final dash to the line.

 

For several years, Belkin have been the big favourites in the Volta Limburg Classic, one of their few races on home soil, but for some reason the major home team have so often been left disappointed. Today they finally got everything right when Moreno Hofland emerged as the strongest in the 2014 edition of the race.

 

After a solid first professional season, Hofland is starting to make a name for himself as one of the sprinters that can climb sufficiently well to make his mark in the classics. Dubbed as a mini Amstel Gold Race, the race takes in several of the short, steep climbs that litter the course for the Dutch classic and the race is certainly not one for the pure sprinters.

 

Hofland used his strong Belkin team and especially an in-form Wilco Kelderman to blow the race to pieces when the early break had been caught but the team suddenly found itself on the back foot when their hard acceleration had left a 7-rider group up the road, with team rider Laurens Ten Dam being part of the move.

 

With no more major climbs, Ten Dam being more known for his climbing abilities than his sprint, and fast finishers like Mauro Finetto and Davide Rebellin in the group, the team decided that it was more safe to support Hofland than their grand tour rider. Hence, the team hit the front of the peloton and made sure than things came back together of the finishing circuit with less than 10km to go.

 

A late attack from Marco Canola (Bardiani) was neutralized and so it was all set to be decided in a sprint finish. Several fast classics specialists had made it into the group but among them, Hofland emerged as the fastest.

 

The Dutchman shot ahead to hold of Sonny Colbrelli - who took his 10th top 5 finish of the season despite still being winless - and Mauro Finetto to take his third win of the season less than a month after taking his big victory on a stage of the Paris-Nice.

 

Today's race was some kind of dress rehearsal for the Amstel Gold Race and many of today's riders will be back in action when the big Dutch classic takes place in two weeks time. On that occasion, however, the field will be much stronger and the course a lot harder in what is the pinnacle of the Dutch cycling calendar.

 

A mini Amstel Gold Race

The 196km Volta Limburg Classic - formerly Hel Van Het Mergelland - started and finished in the Dutch city of Eijsden and took in many of the same roads and hills that are known from the Amstel Gold Race. The first part of the course consisted of a big lap of an 121km circuit that contained no less than 15 smaller climbs before the riders headed onto a shorter 63km circuit with another 7 hills. Back at the finish, the riders ended the race by doing two laps of a small 6km circuit in Eijdsen.

 

After some early aggression that saw the creation of a short-lived attack containing Marc Goos (Belkin), the right combination was finally found in the hilly opening of the race when three riders took off. Steven Kruijswijk was present and so allowed big favourites Belkin to take a back seat as their Ducth grand tour rider headed up the road with Adrian Honkisz (CCC) and Lasse Bøchman (Cult).

 

Bardiani take control

The trio managed to build up a solid advantage but it was down to 2.20 with 83km to go. In the peloton, the Bardiani team had taken on the chasing responsibility, with the Italian team putting all their eggs in the Colbrelli basket.

 

The gap only came back ever so slightly and remained 1.50 when 66km remained. However, Bardiani now wanted to tighten the screws to tire out the pure sprinter and 10km further up the road, they had brought the advantage down to just a minute.

 

Kelderman splits the peloton

Belkin had similar plans and wanted to make use of the final hills to put the fast riders into difficulty. Hence, Wilco Kelderman hit the front and in-form Dutchman split the peloton to pieces  while also reeling in the early escape in at the 48km to go mark.

 

With everybody being on their limit and the main group down to 30 riders, the door was open for more attacks when the riders hit the famous Loorberg. Marc de Maar (Unitedhealthcare) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (Rabobank) took advantage of the situation to attack and they were joined by Laurens Ten Dam and later also Davide Rebellin (CCC), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), and Rob Ruijgh (Vastgoestservice).

 

Finetto bridges across

The sextet was dangling 12 seconds ahead 40km from the finish but managed to open it up to 30 seconds 3km further up the road. In the peloton Cycling Team De Rijke and YellowFluo tried to keep the situation under control until Finetto took off on his own.

 

The Italian did an impressive job to bridge across to the leaders that were still 30 seconds ahead. In the peloton it was now left to the Koga and Jo Piels teams to do the work but they failed to get any closer.

 

Belkin start to chase

The situation changed when Belkin hit the front and the Dutch team started to bring down the gap. On the Krindaal climb, Jackson Rodriguez (Androni) and later also Jasper Ockeloen (Valkenburg) and Thomas Degand (Wanty) tried to attack but Belkin quickly brought them back into the fold.

 

With 18km to go, the gap was 26 seconds but the gap was now coming down at a rapid pace. 13km to go, it was down to just 4 seconds but the escapees refused to give up and managed to reopen their gap to 12 seconds as they were now on the finishing circuit.

 

Canola with a late attack

With 9km to go, the junction was almost made and so Ruijgh and De Maar tried to take off on their own. The duo stayed ahead for a little while but by the time they started the final 6km lap, it was back together.

 

Canola made his move and managed to open up a 5-second gap just 4km from the finish. At the 3km to go mark, he was even 10 seconds ahead as the pursuit got disrupted by a crash from a few Giant-Shimano riders and Ten Dam.

 

Despite his best efforts, Canola was brought back in time for the sprint to be launched and in the final dash to the line, Hofland proved the speed that has so far given him three wins while Colbrelli had to settle for another near-miss.

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