André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) proved that he doesn’t need a bunch sprint to win bike races when he emerged as the lone survivor of an early 9-rider breakaway to take the win in the final stage of the Tour de Luxembourg. A few seconds later Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) beat Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) in the uphill sprint for second to seal the overall victory ahead of Jempy Drucker (Wanty) and his teammate Michael Mørkøv.
André Greipel may be mostly known for his skills as a sprinter but on several occasions, he has proved that he is actually a pretty strong rider that can handle even pretty hard climbing. Today he made use of that strength to take a surprise victory in the final stage of the Tour de Luxembourg.
Like last year the race came to an end on a difficult circuit in the Luxembourgish capital, with the steep Pabeierbierg leading to the finish line. With that kind of finish, Greipel knew that he had little chance to win the stage and so he chose the unusual tactic of attacking from afar.
The German joined an early 9-rider breakaway that contained strong riders like his teammate Greg Henderson and the Trek duo of Danny Van Poppel and Andy Schleck. Approaching the finishing circuit, the Lotto Belisol duo played their first card, launching Henderson off in a solo attack.
That allowed Greipel to follow wheels and when Henderson was brought back less than 10km from the finish, Greipel launched his counterattack. No one had any response to the strong German and while his former companions were all caught by the peloton, Greipel proved his class by holding off the peloton to take his second stage victory of the race.
14 seconds later Matti Breschel proved that he is the strongest rider in the race when he beat Daniel Teklehaimanot in the uphill sprint to take second on the stage and seal his overall victory in the race. Scoring a few more bonus seconds, he ends the race with a 19-second advantage over local rider Jempy Drucker while his teammate Michael Mørkøv made it a great race for Tinkoff-Saxo by completing the podium.
Many of the key actors from the Tour de Luxembourg will now take a short rest before they continue their seasons in key Tour de France preparation races like Tour de Suisse, Ster ZLM Toer, Route du Sud and Tour of Slovenia. While Greipel is of course guaranteed a spot on the Lotto Belisol roster for the Tour, Breschel has done a lot to secure himself a ride as part of the team that is set to support Alberto Contador in La Grande Boucle.
A difficult final stage
The Tour de Luxembourg came to an end with a difficult 168.2km stage from Mersch to the city of Luxembourg and nothing was decided until the very end. After a hilly opening, the stage ended with five laps of a finishing circuit that finished at the top of the Pabeierbierg and last year’s stage had proved that it had the potential to change the outcome at the very end of the race.
For the third day in a row, it was beautiful summerlike conditions in Luxembourg and this made the heat a factor in a stage that was already pretty hard. With time gaps now having opened up and a very hilly course, a breakaway would have a good chance of making it and so many riders started the stage with the intention to go on the attack.
Henderson makes a solo attack
As a consequence, the start was very fast and for some time no one managed to get clear. Henderson showed the Lotto Belisol intentions when he made a promising solo move and while he dangled 15 seconds ahead of the peloton, several riders tried to bridge the gap. No one managed to do so and instead things came back together just a few kilometres from the first intermediate sprint.
Tinkoff-Saxo took control in a quest to score a few bonus seconds but were passed by Wanty who tried to set up Drucker for the sprint. In the end, however, Mørkøv proved to be the fastest, beating Drucker and his teammate Marko Kump in the battle for maximum bonifications.
A very strong break
The attacking restarted when a Trek rider took off and a little later a 9-rider front group with Laurent Didier took off. As it was brought back, Trek tried again, this time launching Andy Schleck off the front.
Four riders, including Greipel, joined him and later another four bridged the gap to make it a 9-rider group. In addition to Schleck and Greipel, Henderson, Van Poppel, Edwin Avila (Colombia), Laurens De Vreese (Wanty), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Sergey Firsanov (Rusvelo) and Guillaume Levarlet (Cofidis) provided plenty of firepower to the escape.
Greipel scores points
The gap was allowed to grow ever so slightly and after 50km of racing, it was 2.10. While Greipel won the first KOM sprint, the gap continued to slowly increase and reached 4 minutes when Van Rensburg won the second KOM sprint around 100km from the finish.
The chase was still not on in earnest and so the gap reached a maximum of 4.44 with 73km to go. That was the signal for the peloton to kick into action and over the next kilometres, they brought the gap down to around 3 minutes.
Henderson takes off
At this point, a lack of concentration saw Avila crash out of the front group, leaving just 8 riders to press on. As they approached the finishing circuit, the harmony was further broken when Henderson launched a solo move and he crossed the finish line for the first time with a 20-second advantage over his chasers and 2.30 over the peloton.
Colombia had now taken control in the peloton and with 17km to go, they had brought the gap down to 1.46. Meanwhile, Henderson had extended his advantage to 30 seconds over his nearest chasers that were down to just Greipel, Van Rensburg and De Vresse.
Greipel makes his move
With 10km to go, the gap was down to just 50 seconds while Didier and Linus Gerdemann (MTN) were trying to bridge the gap. They never made the junction while up ahead, Henderson was caught by his chasers.
Greipel made a counterattack and soon built up a 50-second advantage over the peloton. Alex Kirsch (Leopard) was the next rider to try to make it across but like the others, he had no success.
With 4km to go, Greipel’s chasers had been caught but he was still 40 seconds ahead and it started to look good for the German sprinter. In the finale, the peloton came fast from behind but the big German held them off by 14 seconds to take his second win. Breschel won the sprint for second to take a very important overall victory in a stage race.
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