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In a finale tailor-made for him, Gilbert powered clear to win the uphill sprint on the Citadel in Namur on the third stage of the Tour de Wallonie, relegating Serry and Sprengers to the minor podium positions; Terpstra defended the lead











27.07.2015 @ 20:10 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) lived up to his status as the overwhelming favourite when he came out on top in the uphill sprint on the famous Citadel in Namur on stage 3 of the Tour de Wallonie. After Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) had been caught less than one kilometre from the finish, he unleashed his lethal sprint and distanced Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep) and Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen) who completed the podium. Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) finished a fine 8th and defended his overall lead.


After his win in the GP Cerami, Philippe Gilbert entered the Tour de Wallonie as the overwhelming favourite. However, a failed chase by BMC on the opening stage has made it very difficult for him to secure the overall victory and in the second half of the race, it seems that the former world champion will have to focus on stage wins.


It was always evident that he would have two great chances to add to his growing palmares in stages 3 and 5 which have the kind of uphill finishes that suit a puncheur like Gilbert perfectly. Hence, he was the big favourite for today’s third stage which ended at the top of the famous Citadel in Namur.


Like on the opening day, rain and wind made it a race of attrition and this again benefited a strong breakaway which nearly denied Gilbert again. This time it was the pair of Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) and Antoine Duchesne (Europcar) that proved to be very hard to catch.


The Etixx-QuickStep team of race leader Niki Terpstra had done most of the work but BMC were also forced into action when the break held an advantage of almost 1.30 with 10km to go. At the bottom of the final 2km ascent, the gap was still 15 seconds and the front duo were still riding strongly.


Lemoine left Duchesne behind and dug deep in an attempt to deny the favourites but it wasn’t to be. With less than 1km to go, he was brought back and all was set for another Gilbert show.


The BMC captain didn’t disappoint as he launched one of his trademark sprints and had plenty of time to celebrate his win. Pieter Serry and Thomas Sprengers had to settle for the minor podium positions, 4 seconds behind the stage winner.


Race leader Niki Terpstra did very well in a finale that didn’t really suit him to come away with 8th place and so he defended his overall lead. He now has an advantage of 16 seconds over Victor Campenaerts (Topsport Vlaanderen) while Gilbert moves into 9th, 1.08 behind the leader.


Terpstra faces an easier stage tomorrow when the riders tackle the flattest course of the race. There are no hills before the riders get to the finishing circuit which they will cover twice. It includes two very short climbs and with a flat finish a bunch sprint is expected before the riders get to Wednesday’s queen stage.


One for the puncheurs

After two days with flat finales, it was time for the puncheurs to come to the fore in stage 3 which brought the riders over 218km from Bastogne to an uphill finish on the famous citadel in Namur. After a relatively flat start, the riders entered the hills as they tackled six climbs in quick succession just before the midpoint. From there the terrain got significantly flatter with just a small climb before the riders got to the difficult finale. Here they would tackle two climbs inside the final 25km before they hit the bottom of the final 1.9km climb which averaged 5.4%.


After one day in dry conditions, it was again very bad weather when the riders gathered for the start of the longest stage of the race. They got it off to a fast start with several attacks before a break was established after 13km of racing.


A break is formed

Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) managed to get a small advantage and after a failed attempt to bridge the gap from Kevin Ista (Wallonie), they battled hard to maintain a 10-second gap. Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) and Antoine Duchesne (Europcar) saw their chance to try to join the move and they made the junction after 21km of racing.


Ludwig De Winter (Wallonie) was the next rider to try to attack and as they peloton slowed down, he found himself 30 seconds behind the leaders. After 28km of racing, he was at 48 seconds at a time when the peloton had been distanced by 3.25.


The gap grows

The front group decided to wait for their chaser who made the junction at the 33km mark.  At the same time, Robin Stenuit (Veranclassic) abandoned, leaving just two riders from the team in the race.


After 45km of racing, the gap had gone out to 5.03 and there was plenty of time to contest the first intermediate sprint. Here Lemoine beat De Winter and Bagdonas.


KOM poins for De Winter

The gap hovered between 5 and 6 minutes as the break entered the hilly zone. Smukulis beat De Winter and Duchesne in the first KOM sprint while De Winter was faster than the Latvian and the Canadian in the second sprint.


De Winter also won the third KOM sprint, beating Lemoine, Duchesne, Bagdonas and Smukulis. The Belgian was fastest in the fourth sprint too, relegating Smukulis, Lemoine, Bagdona and Duchesne to the minor positions.


A big crash

At this point the gap was still 5.35 which meant that Bagdonas was the virtual leader of the race. Nonetheless, the peloton slowed down and when De Winter beat Lemoine and Duchesne in the fifth KOM sprint, the gap had gone out to 6.40.


It was Etixx-QuickStep who controlled the race as they entered the feed zone where a big crash involved riders like Jonas Ahlstrand (Cofidis), Danilo Napolitano (Wanty), Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal), Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r), Hayden Roulston (Trek) and the Katusha pair of Alexei Tsatevich and Viacheslav Kuznetsov. The former five riders were forced to abandon the race.


BMC come to the fore

The peloton started to slowly bring the gap down and when De Winter beat Lemoine and Smukulis in the sixth KOM sprint with 107km to go, the gap was only 6 minutes. At this point, Tsatevich also had to give ip after his crash.


Bagdonas beat Duchesne and De Winter in the second intermediate sprint with 84km to go and a time when Etix-QuickStep had brought the gap down to 5.30. The Belgian team was now getting some assistance from BMC that wanted to set Gilbert up for the win.


Smukulis is dropped

Nonetheless, it was still Etixx-QuickStep who did most of the work and when De Winter beat Smukulis and Bagdonas in the seventh KOM sprint, they had reduced their deficit to 3.55. A little later Duchesne beat De Winter and Lemoine in the final intermediate sprint with 38km to go.


The leaders were only losing ground slowly and still held an advantage of 2.25 when they entered the hilly final 25km. As they hit the first of the finale three climbs, Smukulis was the first to be left behind.


The break splits up

Lemoine was the first to reach the top followed by Duchesne and De Winter and the break had now blown to pieces. Lemoine and Duchesne escaped and with 14km to go, they had a 22-second advantage over Bagdonas and 36 seconds over De Winter while the peloton still was at 1.22.


Smukulis and De Winter were brought back before Tom Boonen ended a day of hard work on the front of the peloton. Topsport Vlaanderen had now taken control but it had little effect as the peloton was still 1.21 behind with 10km to go.


BMC chase hard

Bagdonas was brought back when they hit the penultimate climb where Lemoine led Duchesne over the top. Behind it was BMC making the race hard and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) was third over the top followed by Serry and Gilbert.


Tinkoff-Saxo took control but the two leaders rode impressively well to keep a 32-second advantage with 3km to go. That forced BMC back onto action and when they hit the final climb, the gap was only 15 seconds.


Lemoine dropped Duchesne and managed to pass the flamme rouge as the lone leader. However, it was all in vain and instead Gilbert made one of his lethal accelerations to take the win.



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