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With a powerful uphill sprint in La Gileppe, Hofland won the reduced bunch kick in the Ster ZLM Toer queen stage, holding off Lampaert and Waeytens; Greipel finished 10th and retained the overall lead

Photo: A.S.O.

ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MORENO HOFLAND

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STER ZLM TOUR

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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YVES LAMPAERT

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20.06.2015 @ 18:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) proved that he is more than a sprinter when he won the Ster ZLM Toer queen stage in the Ardennes. After his team had worked hard in the final part of the stage, the Dutchman powered clear in the uphill sprint to distance Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep) and Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin) and take his second win of the year. André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) finished 10th and defended his overall lead.

 

Moreno Hofland may be known as a sprinter but he is actually a much more versatile rider. He excels in tough classics condition and got his big breakthrough when he finished second in a very hard 2014 edition of the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

 

A few weeks after that performance, he took the biggest win of his career when he beat the likes of John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff and Nacer Bouhanni in an uphill sprint of Paris-Nice. Since then, his progress has stalled a bit but nonetheless he was the rider who took a long overdue first win for LottoNL-Jumbo in stage 2 of the Tour de Yorkshire.

 

Hofland recently finished the Giro d’Italia and he has clearly benefited from getting through a grand tour. He resumed competition in the Rund um Köln where he rode strongly in a break and he has been unstoppable in the Ster ZLM Toer this week.

 

Having done a decent prologue, he made the selection in the very windy second stage of the race but lamented his lack of aggression in the final sprint. He made amends yesterday when he was just centimetres from beating André Greipel in stage 3.

 

That performance made him confident for today’s queen stage whose hilly terrain in the Ardennes should actually have been too hard for him. However, the confident Hofland asked his team to control the race on the tough finishing circuit to set him up for an uphill sprint.

 

A late attack by Rob Ruijgh (Vastgoedservice) and Nikolas Maes (Etixx-QuickStep) nearly derailed his plans but they were brought back before the passage of flamme rouge. Moments later, Hofland powered clear to win the uphill battle, even distancing his nearest rivals Yves Lampaert and Zico Waeytens by a second.

 

Race leade André Greipel finished 10th in the same time as Lampaert and even though he missed out on bonus seconds, he retained his overall lead. He now has an advantage of 10 seconds over Lampaert and Hofland as he goes into the final stage. As it is almost completely flat, a bunch sprint is expected and so Greipel is in a great position to win the race overall.

 

The queen stage

After two days for the sprinters, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over 186.7km from Hotel Verviers to La Gileppe. The stage took place in the Ardennes and included six categorized climbs and was constantly up or down. After 54.4km of racing, the riders crossed the finish line for the first time and then tackled a big loop that included the famous Col du Rosier and Cote de la Redoute. The riders again crossed the finish line at the 154.3km mark and then they ended the stage by doing two laps of a 16.4km finishing circuit that was first uphill, then downhill and finally had a short, steep climb to the finish where the puncheurs were expected to shine.

 

The riders again had dry weather conditions when they gathered for the start. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they headed out on their neutral ride.

 

Lots of attacks

The course was uphill right from the start and so there attack right from the gun. Danny van Poppel (Trek), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) and Joris Blokker were the first to try but they were quickly brought back. The attacking continued and it briefly seemed like 8 riders had gone clear as they managed to build an advantage of 10 seconds. However, that move was unsuccessful too.

 

While Barry Markus (LottoNL), Bert de Backer (Giant-Alpecin), Tim Ariesen and Dennis Bakker were dropped, Rob Ruijgh (Vastgoedservice) and Jimmy Janssens (3M) attacked. They were joined by another 8 riders before they were brought back.

 

A 6-rider break gets clear

While the attacking continue, Markus and Bakker left the race. Moments later Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) beat Twan Castelijns and Jaco Venter (MTN-Qhubeka) in the first KOM sprint.

 

Just after the top of the climb, Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty), Thomas Degand (Wanty), Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Jochem Hoekstra (Jo Piels), Cees Bol (Rabobank) and Rob Peeters (Vastgoedservice) escaped. This was the right group as the peloton quickly slowed down and allowed the gap to grow to 3.45.

 

KOM points for Peeters

Babydump had missed the move and so they started to ride on the front. However, they were unable to bring the leaders back who extended their advantage to a massive 6.45 at the end of the first hour when Maurits Lammertink (Roompot) left the race due to a knee injury.

 

At the first passage of the finish line, Peeters beat Hoekstra and Veuchelen in the second KOM sprint and now the gap had gone out to 7.55. Moments later they hit the Col du Rosier where Veuchelen did most of the work before Peeters attacked to win the KOM sprint ahead of Hoekstra and Bol.

 

The gap comes down

Lotto Soudal and MTN-Qhubeka had now taken control of the peloton and brought the gap down to 6.05 as they went through the feed zone. Here De Backer and Dominique Rollin (Cofidis) left the race.

 

At the 90km mark, the gap was 5.25 and as they hit the famous Col de la Redoute, it had gone down to 4.50. Again Peeters accelerated near the top to take maximum points, leading Veuchelen and Thwaites across the line.

 

Topsport Vlaanderen hit the gas

Topsport Vlaanderen hit the front and they did a lot of damage on the climb, dropping several riders and bringing the gap down to 3.40. Moments later, Meersman suffered an untimely puncture and he had to work hard to rejoin the speeding peloton before Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) had similarly bad luck.

 

Piotr Havik left the race before Bol beat Thwaites and Peeters in the second intermediate sprint. With 55km to go, the gap was only 1.45.

 

The break splits up

Peeters was again fastest in the fifth KOM sprint, leading Degand and Twaites over the line while the peloton split into two big groups as they went up the steep slopes. At this point, the first peloton was just 1 minute behind the leaders.

 

The two main groups merged while Veuchelen had to abandon the race with keep problems despite riding in the break. Moments later, Peeters and Bol were dropped in the hilly terrain, leaving just Thwaites, Degand and Hoekstra to press on.

 

LottoNL-Jumbo in control

LottoNL-Jumbo were now leading the chase 55 seconds behind the front trio just before a Parkhotel rider crashed out on the race. Moments later, they hit the final climb to the finish La Gileppe where Degand attacked out of the front group.

 

Thwaites rejoined the Belgian and won the final KOM sprint, with Degand and Hoekstra taking second and third. The front duo entered the final 25km with an advantage of 30 seconds.

 

The break is caught

Degand dropped Thwaites who was 10 seconds behind with 20km to go. However, the strong Brit managed to rejoin the Belgian.

 

The gap was now coming down and the front duo hit the climb to the finish with an advantage of just 20 seconds. The steep slopes spelled the end for them and so it was back together as they started the final lap.

 

Ruijgh and Maes take off

Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen) attacked but he was quickly brought back by the LottoNL-Jumbo team. Kittel and Greipel were still in contention while Danny van Poppel (Trek) was dropped.

 

A LottoNL rider and one from Roompot briefly got a gap but they were brought back as the peloton was splintering to pieces. Instead, it was Ruijgh and Nikolas Maes (Etixx-QuickStep) who got clear and they quickly got an advantage of 15 seconds.

 

Kittel is dropped

With 4km to go, the gap had grown to 20 seconds and it even got out to 23 seconds with 2.5km to go. At this point, they hit the final climb and Kittel was one of the first to get dropped.

 

The steep slopes took their toll on the attackers and they were brought back before they passed the flamme rouge. In the end, it came down to a reduced sprint where Hofland took the win.

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