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After a perfect lead-out from LottoNL-Jumbo, Groenewegen beat Dupont and De Bie in the bunch sprint on the third stage of the Ster ZLM Toer; Kittel could only manage 19th and De Bie is the new leader

Photo: Team LottoNL-Jumbo












17.06.2016 @ 19:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) got one of his biggest victories in his short career when he won the sprint on the third stage of the Ster ZLM Toer. After an excellent lead-out, he easily held off Timothy Dupont (Veranda’s Willems) and Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal) who picked up enough bonus seconds to take the overall lead. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) could only manage 19th.


Every year the Ster ZLM Toer is the big Tour de France dress rehearsal for the biggest sprinters. André Greipel and Marcel Kittel always clash in the Dutch race and this year the race is even more anticipated than usual as the emergence of Dylan Groenewegen has added an additional level of excitement.


Yesterday we never got the chance to see a real sprint for victory as a break stayed away but it was Kittel who won the first battle as he held off Groenewegen in the battle for fourth, with Greipel only taking fourth in the sprint. Today the titans finally got the chance to sprint for victory and it was Groenewegen who proved he is fully ready to challenge the best as he won the stage and so took his third win in what has been a marvelous month of June.


Groenewegen’s good results have already made LottoNL-Jumbo want to build a Tour de France train around him for the Tour and today the Dutch team proved what they can do. They dominated the finale and delivered Groenewegen perfectly. The Dutchman easily won the stage while Kittel was never in contention and had to settle for 19th. Greipel chose an unusual approach as he attacked earlier in the stage and then helped to lead his teammate Sean De Bie out for the sprint.


After yesterday’s completely flat stage, the riders headed into hillier terrain on stage 3 which brought them over 210.5km around the city of Buchten. The first part saw the riders head towards the hills where they tackled the famous Amstel Gold Race climbs of Cauberg, Bemelerberg, Loorberg, Camerig, Gulperbergweg and Eyserbosweg – the latter being known as one of the steepest climbs in the Dutch classic. The top came with 111.4km to go and then the rolling terrain continued for a while before the riders hit descending roads that led back to Buchten. The stage ended with two laps of a flat 11.2km circuit with a very technical finish as there were numerous turns inside the final kilometre.


Leigh Howard (IAM) was the only non-starter when the peloton gathered in Buchten under a sunny sky. There were a few mechanicals as they rode through the neutral zones but everyone was back when the race got started.


As soon as the flag was dropped, there were lots of attacks and Joey Rosskopf (BMC) was the first rider to get a solid advantage. He was joined by another three riders but things soon came back together. Andrea Dal Col (Wilier), David Boucher (Crelan) and Gilbert Ducournau (Wilier) abandoned the race.


The next three-rider attack had no luck either and instead it was yesterday’s winner and runner-up Wesley Kreder (Roompot) and Twan van den Brand (Jo Piels) who managed to get a 40-second advantage. While Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis) worked his way back after a crash and Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) abandoned with knee pain, Jaap De Man (3M) joined from behind.


The peloton slowed down and the gap had gone out to 3.35 when van den Brand beat De Man and Kreder in the KOM sprint on the Cauberg. It even reached 4.30 at the end of the first hour during which 44km had been covered. Van den Brand also won the second KOM sprint


Lotto Soudal took control and started to reduce the gap quickly. When Barry Markus (Roompot), Tom Stamsnijder (Giant) and Peter Lenderink (Rabobank) abandoned, they had already more than halved the advantage to less than two minutes.


It was too early though and so the gap was again 4.05 when van den Brand beat Kreder and De Man in the third KOM sprint. Van den Brand was again the fastest in the fourth sprint where the peloton again arrived 4.05 later.


After the sunny start, rain had started to fall by the time van den Brand won the fifth KOM sprint where the gap had been reduced to 3.30 and the mass exodus continued, with Sander Cordeel and Jarno Gmelich both leaving the race. Van den Brand made it a clean sweep when he beat Kreder and De Man in the final KOM sprint too.


De Man was unable to follow the leaders and so only two riders were left in front when André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) launched a surprise attack from the peloton. At the 100km mark, he was 2.50 behind De Man who had already lost 1.35.


While small crashes in the peloton disrupted the chase, Greipel reduced his deficit to 3 minutes and he quickly picked up De Man. Further back, more attacks were launched as 12 riders got clear and they caught Greipel and De Man to make it a 14-rider chase group. However, they were only 15 seconds ahead and were quickly brought back.


Filippo Pozzato (Wilier) was one of the many riders to get dropped on the Camerig where Alan Marangoni (Cannondale) and Aime De Gendt (Topsport) both suffered mechanicals. At this point, the gap was already down to 1.45 and the fast pace meant that only one minute was left when the small 30-rider group reached the flatter terrain.


The small peloton caught the leaders in time for the first intermediate sprint where Sean De Bie beat the BMC pair of Taylor Phinney and Stefan Küng. At this point, they were 30 seconds ahead of the next big group.


Wout Van Aert (Crelan) attacked and while heavy rain fell, he was joined Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot) and Peter Lenderink (Rabobank). As the peloton slowed down and a regrouping took place, they pushed their advantage out to 2.30. Meanwhile, Jason Lowndes (Drapac) left the race.


With 50km to go, the gap was still 2.30 but now the gap started to come down. Under the heavy rain, the escapees only had 1.30 ten kilometres later and with 25km to go, it had been reduced to 1.10.


Etixx-QuickStep and LottoNL-Jumbo were making no mistakes and crossed the line for the first time with a deficit of just 50 seconds. Here Lenderink beat Van Aert and Van Ginneken in the second intermediate sprint.


One of the attackers was dropped but it didn’t play any role as it was all back together with a little more than 10km to go. Lotto Soudal set the pace but with 5km to go, LottoNL-Jumbo moved up. The two Lotto teams fought hard for position but it was the Dutch team that won the battle.


Groenewegen’s train led under the flamme rouge where Etixx-QuickStep tried to move up. However, they never made it and the Dutchman finished it off in the perfect way as he easily held off Timothy Dupont and De Bie to take his third win this months. A disappointed Kittel could only manage 19th while Greipel didn’t contest the sprint.


With a total of seven bonus seconds, De Bie moves into the race lead with a 1-second advantage over Jos Van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) and a 2-second advantage over Phinney. He now faces the biggest test in the queen stage which includes the famous Liege-Bastogne-Liege climbs of Col du Rosier and Cote de la Redoute in addition to the Cote d’Annette et Lubin in the second half. The final part of the stage consists of two laps of a 16.4km finishing circuit where the final 2.5km are all uphill and technical with numerous turns. Traditionally the puncheurs have done well here but the sprinters have often limited their losses quite well.



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