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Devenyns takes it all on final day in Wallonia

Having powered away on the final climb, Devenyns narrowly held off a small chase group to win the final stage of the Tour de Wallonie ahead of Vanendert and Shalunov; the Belgian took the overall win with Meersman in second

DRIES DEVENYNS

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GIANNI MEERSMAN

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IAM CYCLING

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JELLE VANENDERT

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TOUR DE WALLONIE 

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VIACHESLAV KUZNETSOV

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27.07.2016 @ 17:06 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Dries Devenyns (IAM) continued his fantastic 2016 season by claiming his second overall stage race victory after a win in the queen stage of the Tour de Wallonie. The Belgian attacked hard on the final climb and built enough of an advantage to narrowly hold off a small chase group that was led to the line by Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) and Evgeny Shalunov (Gazprom-Rusvelo). By putting 8 seconds into race leader Gianni Meersan (Etixx-QuickStep), the win was enough to take the overall victory ahead of the Etixx-QuickStep sprinter and Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha).

 

In 2014, Dries Devenyns proved himself as one of the best riders in the cobbled classics but for some reason, Giant-Alpecin decided not to renew his contract. Hence, he was forced to find a new team and it was IAM that gave him a chance.

 

Unfortunately, health issues prevented him from building on his progress in 2015 but now he is back at 100% and in 2016 he has been better than ever before. He won the GP Marseillaise in January and was in top 10 contention at Paris-Nice for a long time.

 

Unfortunately, more health issues destroyed his classics campaign but he was back in form when he won the Tour of Belgium overall after having won a tough stage on the Belgian cobbles. Today he confirmed his great form by winning the Tour de Wallonie overall after having come out on top in the queen stage.

 

Devenyns already showed how strong he was when he nearly won stage 2 and that made it clear that he was the man to follow on the final climb in today’s queen stage. All day he clearly showed that he planned to make a move as IAM constantly tried to make it hard. In the end, he made his expected attack on the final climb and he dug deep to narrowly hold off a small chase group and claim both the stage and the overall win.

 

After yesterday’s hilly stage, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over 183.9km from Engis to Dison. The opening section between the start and the finish included a total of two category 1, four category 2 and one category 3 climbs so the riders was already be tired when they got to the 17.3km finishing circuit. It included the category 2 climb of Cote La Haute Saurée (1.1km, 4.6%) with 11.2km to go and the category 2 Cote de Val Fassotte (1.4km, 5.8%) just 1.9km from the line. The peloton did almost a complete lap before they get to the finish line for the first time and then ended the race by doing one full lap, meaning that they tackled both climbs twice.

 

All riders who completed yesterday's stage, were present when the peloton rolled out under a cloudy sky. Immediately from the start, Maxime Cam (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Gerry Druyts (Crelan) attacked, but Topsport and Cofidis did not let them ride away. Katusha took control but they could not prevent Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) from attempting a solo move. He was soon joined by Matteo Trentin (Etixx-Quick Step), Daniel Hoelgaard (FDJ), Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal), Maxim Belkov (Katusha Team), Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis), Ryan Anderson (Direct Energie), Jesper Asselman (Roompot Oranje Peloton), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Kévin Lebreton (Armée de Terre) and Dennis Coenen (Crelan-Vastgoedservice), and they hit the first first climb with a slight advantage. Here Axel Domont (Ag2r) attacked and he made it across shortly after Planckaert had beaten Van Melsen and Anderson in the KOM sprint.

 

While Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) was hit by a very unfortunate puncture, the peloton split in two, and the first group quickly caught the 11 escapees. The gap between the two groups was already 50 seconds, and the hard pace meant that Planckaert had no luck with his next solo attempt.

 

Shortly before the first intermediate sprint, Mickael Delage (FDJ), Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal), Nils Pollitt (Team Katusha), Kenneth Van Bilsen (Cofidis Solutions Credits), Perrig Quéméneur (Direct Energie), Dennis Coenen (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) and Dimitri Peyskens (Vera Classic AGO) escaped, and that made it possible for Ligthart to win the sprint ahead of Politt and Van Bilsen. Finally, the peloton took a breather, and thus the break increased its lead to 2.12 after 37 km of racing. Etixx-Quick Step quickly took control though and when Politt beat Delage and Ligthart in the second sprint, the gap had only grown to 3 minutes.

 

The break didn’t get much room as they were kept between 2.00 of 2.30 for a while before Etixx-QuickStep increased the pace. At the entrance of the last 125km, the gap was already down to 1.40. Moments later, Planckaert won the second KOM sprint ahead of Peyskens, Politt, Ligthart and Quemeneur.

 

The peloton slowed a bit down on the climbs, and Etixx-Quick Step stabilized the gap at around 2 minutes, while Planckaert beat Peyskens and Politt in the third KOM sprint. The situation was unchanged when Planckaert led Peyskens, Politt, Delage and Quemeneur over the top of the fourth climb.

 

At the 100km mark, the gap was still 1.50, and it had dropped to 1.30 when Delage beat Politt and Ligthart in the final intermediate sprint race. A little later, Planckaert the next KOM sprint ahead of Peyskens and Politt and thus secured the mountains jersey. The peltoon reached the top 2.14 later, led by Boonen.

 

Planckaert beat Politt, Ligthart, Peyskens and Quemeneur in the sixth KOM sprint but then the peloton accelerated hard. Stijn Vandenbergh, Niki Terpstra, Tom Boonen and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck had brought the gap down to 1.10 as they hit the final 50km.

 

With the gap melting away, Politt attacked but the only effect was that Coenen got dropped. The German tried again when they hit the seventh climb but again he failed to get clear. Peyskens led Quemenur and Politt over the top.

 

The action had allowed the escapees to push the gap out to 1.30 but Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh and Guilllaume Van Keirsbulck just maintained a solid pace for Etixx-QuickStep, bringing Coenen back in the process. Then the big guys used the last energy and reduced the gap to less than one minute as they hit the final 40km.

 

Politt was relentless and so tried to escape again but he simply couldn’t get clear. Quemeneur and Vanbilsen also tried to escape but the group stayed together.

 

As the fight for position in the peloton started, Antoine Loy (Color Code) attacked and he quickly got an advantage of 15 seconds. However, he didn’t get any closer and instead he was joined by Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha). The pair was soon brought back as they hit the circuit.

 

As soon as they hit the first climb, Clement Chevrier (IAM) attacked and he was joined by his teammate Jonas Vangenechten and Dries Van Gestel (Topsport Vlaanderen). They made it across shortly after Planckaert beat Peyskens and Vanbilsen in the KOM sprint.

 

There was no cooperation in the break which was just metres ahead of the peloton and so Vanbilsen tried to attack. He failed to get clear and instead Planckaert gave it a go. He had no luck either and instead it all came back together.

 

When the junction was made, Vangenechten and Chevrier went again and they were joined by Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) and the quartet got a smack advantage. However, they lost it all when they took the wrong way in a roundabout and so it was all together when they hit the final climb for the first time.

 

Dramatically, 6-7 riders suffered a puncture just as they hit the climb. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) was one of them and he quickly received a wheel from a teammate and he managed to rejoin the peloton.

 

Etixx-QuickStep led the peloton onto the final climb where David De La Cruz set a brutal pace for Etixx-QuickStep, sending numerous riders out the back door. After the climb, he shared the pace-setting with Yves Lampaert and the pair led the peloton across the line for the first time.

 

As they approached the first climb of the circuit, the fight for position intensified. As they hit the ascent, Lampaert swung off and then Terpstra took one final turn before Oliver Zaugg upped the pace for IAM. Next De La Cruz again took over and he prevented anyone from attacking, cresting the summit as the first rider followed by Meersman and Trentin. Moments later, Wallays tried to attack De La Cruz and Trentin slowly reeled him in. Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r) and Kochetkov made an immediate counterattack but the Etixx pair neutralized the move immediately.

 

De La Cruz kept riding on the front until Pirmin Lang again upped the pace for IAM with 5km to go. Cofidis then took over, with team captain Florian Senechal riding in second position.

 

Senechal was the first rider to hit the climb and he got a small advantage before Devenyns made his move. He sprinted past the fading Frenchman and immediately got a solid gap. Meanwhile, Meersman drifted backwards and drifted to the rear end of the group.

 

Devenyns reached the top of the climb with a small advantage over a six-rider chase group that contained the Katusha trio of Egor Silin, Viacheslav Kuznetsov and Kochetkov. Meersman found himself further back in a bigger group that was led by Trentin.

 

Two riders joined the chasers and so an 8-rider group with the Katusha trio, Xandro Meurisse (Crelan), Evgeny Shalunov (Gazprom), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto), Senechal and Floris De Tier (Topsport) gathered behind Devenyns. Kochetkov and Silin emptied themselves and slowly started to approach the Belgian.

 

Devenyns dug deep and in a breathless finale, he could look back and watch how Kochetkov peeled off. Silin then took one final turn before Kuznetsov launched a long sprint. He was passed by Vanendert and Shalunov but everybody ran out of metres as Devenyns held on to take the win by less than a second.

 

Huub Duijn (Roompot) won the sprint of Meersman’s group 8 seconds behind the leader and that was enough for Devenyns to take the overall victory with a 5-second advantage over Meersman. Kuznetsov was one second further behind in third.

 

Trentin won the points competition and Planckaert was the best climber. Kuznetsov won the sprints classification and Senechal was the best young rider. Topsport Vlaanderen won the teams classification.

 

With the Tour de Wallonie done and dusted, attention in Belgium turns to the many one-day races that dominate the months of August, September and October. The first major race in the series is Dwars door Het Hageland on August 5.

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