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Powering up the famous cobbled climb in the capital, Drucker won the Tour de Luxembourg prologue to move into the race lead; Lammertink and Bohli were 3 and 4 seconds slower respectively

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport

JEAN PIERRE DRUCKER

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TOM BOHLI

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TOUR DE LUXEMBOURG

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01.06.2016 @ 22:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two years after his frustrating second place, Jempy Drucker (BMC) finally managed to win the traditional Tour de Luxembourg prologue. Covering the 2.8km distance in 4.20, the local rider was three seconds faster than Maurits Lammertink (Roompot) and four seconds faster than his teammate Tom Bohli which was enough to take both the victory and the first leader’s jersey.

 

One of the classics on the Europe Tour calendar is the traditional Tour de Luxembourg prologue. Held on a 2.8km course in the eponymous capital of the small country, the stage is iconic due to its short, steep cobbled climb that has turned it into a lung-busting affair for explosive riders who can sprint up the steep slopes in the city. With no less than four wins, Jimmy Engoulvent has dominated the stage but after the Frenchman ended his career at the end of 2015, the throne was vacant for the 2016 edition of the race.

 

One of the favourites to take over the spot was local rider Jempy Drucker who has been a perennial top contender in the prologue since he made his debut in 2009. When he last did the race in 2014, he was closer than ever before as he was just four seconds slower than Danny Van Poppel in second place and this made him ambitious for today’s opener of the 2016 edition.

 

Drucker arrived in his home country fully motivated after a solid ride in service of his BMC team at the recent Tour of California, with the Luxembourg event offering him a rare chance to ride for himself. And he couldn’t have started his campaign in a better way as he took a dominant win in the iconic opening time trial.

 

Torrential rain made the stage much more difficult than usual as the wet cobbles and tricky corners forced the riders to find the right balance between taking risks and staying upright. The result was a winning time of 4.20 that was a massive 22 seconds slower than the winning time of both the 2014 and 2015 edition and it was Drucker who gauged his effort better than everybody else as he won the stage by a relatively big three-second margin.

 

Like many other favourites, Drucker was an early starter as the weather forecast indicated that things could get worse later in the evening. When he reached the finish, he had gone four seconds faster than his teammate, prologue specialist Tom Bohli, and that turned out to be enough to win the stage. Only Maurits Lammertink – the penultimate rider on the course – could use his puncheur skills to prevent a 1-2 for BMC as he narrowly edged out Bohli but no one could get even close to Drucker whose long wait in the hot seat finally ended when Michael Reihs (Stölting) reached the finish in a time that was far off the pace.

 

Drucker and Lammertink were not the only puncheurs to do well in the tricky prologue as Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport) and Marco Marcato (Wanty) put themselves in a great position to go for the overall win by taking fourth and fifth respectively. As opposed to this, the prologue specialists suffered as Bohli had to settle for third, Matthias Brändle (IAM) could only manage 10th and Gaetan Bille (Wanty) and Olivier Pardini (Wallonie) had to settle for 10th and 15th respectively.

 

With two riders in the top 3, BMC had a great start but pre-race favourite and team leader Philippe Gilbert had a more difficult day as his time of 4.32 was only good enough for 13th. Instead, sprinter Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) put himself in position to go for the yellow jersey in the first road stage as he was just 9 seconds off the pace in 8th.

 

With the win, Drucker moves into the race leader with a four-second advantage over Lammertink. However, his position can come under threat in stage 1 which could allow Ewan to pick up 10 bonus seconds for a stage win. There’s a category 2 climb (1.6km, 5.05%)at the 59.1km mark and then the riders will get to the 18.5km finishing circuit that will be covered thrice. 5.8km from the finish, it has a small climb (900m, 5.81%) that the riders will tackle a total of four times. However, the finale is completely flat and so a bunch sprint is the expected outcome.

 

A classic prologue

As it has become a tradition, the 76th edition of the Tour de Luxembourg kicked off with the well-known 2.8km prologue in Luxembourg. The stage was an intense, explosive affair as a flat start led to the bottom of a cobbled 500m climb. The road levelled out a bit after the top but it continued to climb slightly all the way to the finish, meaning that it was a stage suited to explosive puncheurs.

 

It was raining cats and dogs when Steele Von Hoff (ONE) rolled down the ramp as the first rider. He stopped the clock in 5.06 to move into an early lead but already the second rider, Pontus Kastemyr (Differdange), was 8 seconds faster.

 

Bogli takes the lead

Jan Brockhoff (Leopard) shaved another 13 seconds off the best time and he would stay in the lead for a few minutes until Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) went 8 seconds faster with a time of 4.37. However, he had bare caught his breath before Bohli powered across the line in 4.24 to take a comfortable lead.

 

Bohli came under threat immediately as already the next rider on the course, Vanspeybrouck, narrowly missed out on the lead as he was just one second slower than the Swiss. Alex Kirsch (Stölting) became the first local rider to do well as he slotted into third with 4.30.

 

Best time for Drucker

Alexander Krieger (Leopard) would quickly push Kirsch into fourth as he stopped the clock in 4.27. As André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) could only manage 4.42, the attention soon turned to Drucker and the local rider lived up to expectations as he beat his teammate Bohli by four seconds.

 

Amaury Capiot (Topsport) cracked the top 10 with 4.34 and Brändle was left disappointed as 4.29 was only good enough for fifth. Gilbert was even three seconds slower and had definitely hoped for more.

 

No glory for Durbridge

Sander Helven (Topsport) did well with 4.38 but then the top positions stayed unchanged for a long time, with only Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEDGE) breaking the monotony with a time of 4.34.  The next rider to do well was Francis Mourey (Fortuneo) who was close to the top 10 with 4.38 which was four seconds slower than Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) who also had a fine ride.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE GC rider Christopher Juul was left disappointed as he could only manage 4.38. That was one second faster than his teammate Luke Durbridge who also failed to crack the top 10.

 

Lammertink gets close

Last year’s third place finisher Huub Duijn (Roompot) showed that he is ready to do well as he stopped the clock in 4.31 to move into seventh but he was quickly pushed down one spot by Marcato who slotted into fourth with 4.26. Track specialist Alexander Edmondson finally allowed an Orica-GreenEDGE rider to challenge for the top positions as his time of 4.27 saw him take provisional fifth place.

 

Pit Schlechter (Leopard) continued the local success by making it into the top 20 with 4.38 before Pardini and Bille had disappointing rides with 4.34 and 4.30 respectively. Instead, it was Ewan who made it into the top 7 with a time of 4.29.

 

Gijs Van Hoecke (Topsport) confirmed his good ride from the Belgium Tour prologue with a time of 4.32 but it was Lammertink who would be the final threat for Drucker. The Dutchman got close as his time of 4.23 was good the best of the rest but it was not enough to deny Drucker the win. When Reihs had crossed the line in 4.59, the local hero could step onto the podium to receiver the leader’s jersey.

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