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Having been part of a formidable front quartet, Van Avermaet launched a strong sprint on the final climb to the Citadel in Namur to easily distance Gallopin and Bakelants and win the GP de Wallonie

Photo: Sirotti

GP DE WALLONIE

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GREG VAN AVERMAET

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JAN BAKELANTS

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TONY GALLOPIN

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17.09.2014 @ 17:25 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) proved that he is a serious contender for the World Championships when he took a convincing victory in the GP de Wallonie, one of the traditional warm-up races. The Belgian was part of a strong front quartet which was brought back near the top of the famous climb to the finish at the Citadel in Namur but still had enough left to launch a powerful sprint that allowed him to distance Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol) and Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

 

Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert both hope to be the designated captains of the Belgian team at the World Championships but today Greg Van Avermaet proved that he may be the best choice for nation coach Carlo Bomans. With an impressive display of power, the BMC rider won the hilly one-day race GP de Wallonie which is usually one of the key preparation races for the battle for the rainbow jersey.

 

Van Avermaet was the final rider to join a strong escape on a climb with 20km to go when he bridged the gap to Jan Bakelants and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol), bringing Frank Schleck (Trek) back to the front after the Luxembourger had been dropped. The quartet worked well together to build an advantage of 45 seconds over a 12-rider chase group that was not very organized.

 

However, another group rejoined from behind and with four riders in the small chase group, Tinkoff-Saxo decided that they wanted to try to bring it back. With solid assistance from a Verandas Willems rider, they had pegged it back to 25 seconds by the time the escapees hit the final 2km climb to the finish.

 

This is when the game of cat and mouse started and the chasers were now getting much closer. Knowing that he had no chance in a sprint, Bakelants launched two attacks and both times he got a small gap. However, Vanendert and Van Avermaet managed to bring the Belgian back and the speed went completely out of the group.

 

This allowed the chasers to bridge the gap just as they went under the red kite but just as the junction was made, Vanendert made his move. Only Bakelants and Van Avermaet could match his speed but when he sat down, his teammate Tony Gallopin also got across.

 

Schleck and Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty) made use of the slow pace to bridge the gap but they had barely sat down before Bakelants launched a strong sprint. This was the signal for Van Avermaet to go full gas and when he dropped the hammer, the outcome was never in doubt.

 

Blasting past the OPQS rider, Van Avermaet was the first rider to go through the final turns and he easily held off Gallopin and Bakelants to take his second win of the season. Vanendert held on to fourth while Rory Sutherland (Tinkoff) won the sprint of the chasers to complete the top 5.

 

For most of the riders, this was the final race before the World Championships. Some will be back in action on Friday or Saturday in the Kamioenschap van Vlaanderen or GP Impanis that complete the series of pre-Worlds races in Belgium.

 

A hilly course

The 56th GP de Wallonie was held on a 198.2km course starting in Chaudfontaine and ending at the top of the small climb to the Citadel in Namur. Early in the race, the riders tackled three climbs before a flat middle section led to the tricky finale. The first challenge was Cote d’Ermeton with 35km to go and then the riders climbed the Cote de Lustin and Tienne aux Pierres before they went up the famous climb to the finish.

 

Petr Vakoc (OPQS), James Vanlandschoot (Wanty), Jeremy Burton (Verandas) and Aime de Gendt (Belgium) were the four non-starters when the rest of the peloton left Chaudfontaine under a sunny sky with a 25-degree temperature. As expected the race was off to a fast start, with a 9-rider breakaway battling hard to get extend their advantage before they were brought back.

 

The break is formed

After 25km of racing, no one had managed to get clear and Thomas De Gendt (OPQS) and Jeg Van Meirhaege (Belgium) had no success either when they attacked just before the first climb. Nico Sijmens (Wanty) was the next to try but at the 45km mark, it was all back together.

 

At the bottom of the Cote des Brumes, Loic Chetout (Cofidis) attacked and he was first joined by Clement Koretzky (Bretagne) and Francois Bidard (Ag2r) and later by Guillaume Martin (FDJ), Serge Dewortelaer (Veranclassic) and Thomas Degand (Wanty). The peloton finally slowed down and while Sten Van Gucht (Verandas) set off in pursuit, the gap reached 1.09 after 50km of racing.

 

Tinkoff and OPQS take control

Both the peloton and Van Gucht were losing ground to the peloton but the race came back to lifte when Victor Campenaerts (Tosport) and Van Meirhaege tried to bridge the gap. The peloton reacted quickly and brought them back.

 

The peloton’s deficit reached 3.45 before OPQS and Tinkoff-Saxo started to control the situation. While Van Gucht continually lost ground, they kept the gap stable at around that mark. A sudden acceleration brought Van Gucht back and the gap down to 2.30 but the peloton again allowed it to grow to 3.30.

 

The gap comes down

The chase has kicked off in earnest and with 102km to go, the escapees were just 2.25 ahead. With Edwrad Beltran (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Iljo Keisse (OPQS) doing the work, the gap was melting away and with 70km to go, the escapees were less than a minute ahead.

 

Michael Mørkøv (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Stijn Vandenbergh (OPQS) were now riding on the front too and with 60km to go, they had brought the escapees’ advantage down to just 15 seconds. This was the signal for Chetout to attack and while the rest of the group was caught, he fought hard to maintain his advantage.

 

The break is caught

With 55km to go, it was all back together and now Veranclassics also started to contribute to the pace-setting. As they hit a small climb, however, the attacking started again.

 

Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) launched the first move and he was joined by Laurent Didier (Trek), a Tinkoff and a Topsport rider while Gianluca Brambilla (OPQS) was one of several riders to bridge the gap. When the dust has settled, only Didier remained in front but the attacking continued.

 

A new group is formed

Jelle Wallays (Topsport) was the first rider to rejoin Didier and later Quentin Jauregui (Roubaix), Clement Koretzky (Bretagne) and Rudy Molard (Cofidis) also made the junction. While FDJ started to chase, Julien Berard (Ag2r) became the final rider to join the front group.

 

With 46km to go, a big crash involving Romain Bardet (Ag2r) split the peloton and only a 50-rider group remained to press on. While a single Lotto Belisol rider led the chase, the gap reached 40 seconds.

 

The group is caught

Tim De Troyer (Wanty) made a futile attempt to bridge across but when a big group rejoined the peloton, the chase finally got organized. Beltran went back to work for Tinkoff-Saxo and together with Lotto, he brought the advantage down to 30 seconds.

 

OPQS hit the front hard, with Guillaume Van Keirsbulck doing a massive work, and with 24km to go, the break was caught. Didier made a small attack and was joined by Wallays and Molard but behind the attacking started when Bakelants launched his first move.

 

Bakelants makes his first move

The Belgian was brought back but his move had spelled the end for the front group. A 30-rider group hit the bottom of the Cote de Lustin and here Schleck launched a strong attack.

 

Brambilla and later Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff) joined the Luxembourger but when Bakelants and Vanendert also bridged the gap, the pace got really fast. The pair immediately passed the front trio and only Schleck managed to latch onto their wheel.

 

Van Avermaet bridges the gap

The Luxembourger fell off the pace but was thrown a lifeline by Van Avermaet who bridged the gap, drawing the Luxembourger back to the front. Behind a 12-rider chase group had formed but with no cooperation, they were quickly 30 seconds back.

 

Campenaerts and Breschel brought a third group up to the chasers but as only Cofidis and Francis De Greef (Wanty) were working the gap reached 40 seconds. With 10km to go, Topsport finally hit the front hard and moments later, Tinkoff-Saxo lined out four rider on the front, with Matti Breschel and Jay McCarthy working hard.

 

Bakelants tries twice

As the front group hit the final climb, they were only 25 seconds ahead and this was the signal for Bakelants to attack. Vanendert shut it down and so the group almost came to a standstill.

 

Bakelants tried again but this time Van Avermaet rbought it back together. Under the impetus of a rider from Verands Willems, it came back together as they went under the flamme rouge and this is when Vanendert made the move that kicked off the finale.

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