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Doing the lead-out for Meersman, Trentin kept Bagdonas and his captain at bay to win the reduced bunch sprint on stage 4 of the Tour de Wallonie; Meersman extended his lead over Claeys to six seconds

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

GEDIMINAS BAGDONAS

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GIANNI MEERSMAN

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MATTEO TRENTIN

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SOUDAL - QUICK STEP

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TOUR DE WALLONIE 

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26.07.2016 @ 17:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) took an unexpected victory on stage 4 of the Tour de Wallonie when he came out on top in a reduced bunch sprint. Working as a lead-out man for Gianni Meersman, he realized that his captain was unable to come around Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) and so kept going all the way to the line to hold off the Lithuanian. Meersman finished third and so extended his lead on the eve of the queen stage.

 

During the last few years, Matteo Trentin has developed a reputation as one of the best lead-out men in the business, playing a key role in the trains of Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel. Hence, he hasn’t taken the number of personal victories that he deserves but he has still proved his worth in reduced bunch sprints and in harder races, with two Tour de France stage wins, one stage victory at the Giro d’Italia and Paris-Tours all featuring on his palmares.

 

This week he went into the Tour de Wallonie as one of two GC candidates for Etixx-QuickStep. Both he and Gianni Meersman are known for their fast finish after a tough race and so both were expected to feature in the hilly Belgian race. However, the hierarchy was set in stone yesterday when Meersman finished second and Trentin was unable to follow the best in the tough third stage.

 

That meant that Trentin was set to play his usual lead-out role in today’s penultimate stage and this time he made the selection alongside his teammate. When a reduced bunch arrived at the finish, he dutifully hit the front to set his captain up for the win but this time his domestique role gave an unexpected reward. Realizing that Meersman couldn’t come around Gediminas Bagdonas, he kept going all the way to the line, taking the victory with apparent ease.

 

After yesterday’s first hilly stage, the riders faced another tough affair on day 4 as they covered 180km between Aubel and Herstal. There were four category 2 climbs and one category 1 climb in the first 65km and then the road leveled out until the riders hit the finishing circuit with 50.3km to go. They almost did a full lap of the 18.9km circuit and then finally did two laps. The circuit included the category 1 Cote de Sarolay (1km, 7.5%) just 10.9km from the line and so the riders tackled the ascent a total of three times.

 

The 138 remaining riders were all there when the peloton rolled out on cloudy, dry and calm day. As it jas been the case every day, the start was crazy fast, and after 3km of racing 20 riders, including Gianni Meersman, Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) and Thomas Deruette (Wallonie), built a lead of 17 seconds. While the field chased hard, Martin Palm (Color Code) crashed and Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) punctured in what was a very hectic phase of the race.

 

The group consisted of Tom Boonen, Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quick Step), Damien Gaudin (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Daniel Hoelgaard (FDJ), Vladimir Isaychev, Nils Politt (Team Katusha), Hugo Hofstetter, Kenneth Van Bilsen (Cofidis Solutions Crédits ), Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie), Boris Vallée (Fortunéo-Vital Concept), Alexander Kolobnev, Arthur Ershov, Roman Kustandichev, Andrei Solomennikov (Gazprom), Reinier Honig (Roompot Oranje Peloton), Stijn Steels (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Julien Duval (Armée de terrre), Jens Adams, Dennis Coenen (Crelan-Vastgoedservice), Jerome Mainard (Armée de Terre) and Thomas Deruette (Wallonie-Bruxelles), and as IAM were not represented, it was the Swiss who led the chase. The gap went out to 48 seconds before IAM tried to send Vicente Reynes, Jonas Van Genechten and Oliver Zaugg across but the project failed.

 

The hard hunting in the hilly terrain meant that the peloton exploded, and briefly there were only 25 riders left in the first part of the peloton. However, a regrouping took place, and at the bottom of the first climb after 17km the front group was also brought back.

 

Duval attacked again and was joined by Adams, Van Melsen and Vallee who had also been part of the original break. Deruette reached them before the top where he strengthened the lead in the mountains competition by beating Van Melsen and Adams in the sprint. Further back, several riders were dropped, including Sam Lennertz (Vera Classic Ago), Julien Simon (Cofidis), Johan Henroulle (Color Code-Arden'Beef), Julien Kaise (Color Code-Arden'Beef) and Kai Reus (Roompot Oranje Peloton), and Gaëtan Bille (Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Martin Palm (Color Code-Arden'Beef) and Maximilien Picoux (Color Code-Arden'Beef) had to abandon.

 

The front group was caught, and instead Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) attacked. He was joined by Dries Devenyns (IAM) whom he dropped before he got to the first intermediate sprint which he won ahead of Meersman who secured two bonus seconds, and Huub Duijn (Roompot).

 

The peloton exploded to pieces on the second climb where Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom) was first at the top, followed by Planckaert, Clement Chevrier (IAM), Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r) and Loic Chetout (Cofidis). Along with Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen), those five riders escaped while Yann Guyot (Armee) and Dimitri Peyskens (Veranlassic) took off in pursuit. At the 46km mark, they 30 were seconds behind the front group while the peloton was 10 seconds further adrift.

 

Planckaert beat Chevier and Foliforov in the third KOM sprint before Guyot and Peyskens made the junction. Later Laurent Pichon (FDJ) also made it across and finally the field took a breather. At the bottom of the next climb, the gap has gone out to 2.05. Here Planckaert beat Sprengers, Guyot, Chevrier and Foliforov in the KOM sprint, but further back the peloton accelerated again. The group split in two, and quickly the distance between the two groups went out to 45 seconds. However, a regrouping took place and at the bottom of the fifth climb, the peloton 1.45 behind the leaders.

 

Planckaert beat Guyot and Peyskens in the next KOM sprint, while the peloton reached the top 2.00 later. Unsurprisingly, Etixx-QuickStep led the chase. A little later Jauregui won the second intermediate sprint ahead of Pichon and Sprengers. At the same time, the peloton accelerated again, and they were only 1.31 behind when they reached the feed zone. Later it went out to 2.03 but it is back down to 1.30 with 76km to go.

 

Pichon beat Sprengers in a close battle for bonus seconds in the third intermediate sprint while Etixx-QuickStep led the peloton across the line just one minute later. There was no great cooperation in the group and so Guyot and Peyskens attacked. Planckaert was the first to make the junction and later Chetout also bridged the gap. Further back, Sprengers sat up to wait for the peloton.

 

Chevrier, Pichon, Jauregui and Foliforov made it back to the leaders but just as the junction was made, Chetout attacked again. Only Guyot and Planckaert could follow while Jauregui and Peyskens sat. The peloton had slowed down, was now 2 minutes behind the leaders and was led by Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh.

 

The front trio hit the final climb for the first time with 50km to go 15 seconds ahead of the three chasers and with an advantage of 2.20 over the peloton. Moments later, the junction in the front was made and it was a sextet that had been gathered with an advantage of 2.45.

 

The big gap forced Etixx-QuickStep to react and so Tom Boonen started to work with Vandenbergh and Terpstra after Van Keirsbulck had fallen off the pace. They shaved the gap down to 2.10 with 42km to go.

 

As they sped down the descent to the finish, Cheout crashed out of the front group. Despite hurting his head, he got back on the bike but he was brought back by the peloton.

 

At the first passage of the line, the gap was down to just 1.05 and it had dropped to 45 seconds with 35km to go. This was the signal for Guyot to attack again and he soon got a small advantage of 5 seconds.

 

Guyot did his best to stay clear but he was soon brought back. However, he was unstoppable and with 31km to go, he went again.

 

In the peloton, the attacking started when Julien Duval (Armee) attacked alongside a Nils Politt (Katusha). They sprinted past the chase group and as they hit the climb, they also passed Guyot. Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) gave chase and also passed the original attackers who were all caught.

 

Politt dropped Duval who fell back to the peloton and then Van Hecke joined the Hermans just before the top of the climb where he sprinted to win the KOM sprint. Boonen was leading the chase just 10 seconds later.

 

Over the top of the climb, Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), Wout Van Aert (Crelan), Kevin Lebreton (Armee) and Remy Mertz (Color Code) attacked and they immediately caught Politt and Van Hecke. They managed to push the advantage out to 10 seconds but Etixx-QuickStep kept them firmly under control.

 

The gap was kept stable at 10 seconds for a few kilometres before Etixx-QuickStep brought everything back together on the descent. Van Aert tried to counterattack but Van Keirsbulck and Boonen shut it down and then kept the speed high on the front.

 

As they approached the finish, Duval attacked again and he was joined by Steels. The pair crossed the line for the penultimate time with an advantage of 10 seconds over the peloton which was still led by Terpstra, Vandenbergh, Van Keirsbulck and Boonen.

 

Ludovic Robeet (Color Code) took off in pursuit but he ever made the junction. The front duo pushed the gap out to 20 seconds before Etixx-QuickStep again upped the pace.

 

When the pair had almost been caught, Steels tried a solo move. He managed to prolong his stay in the front by a few minutes but Terpstra brought him back just before they hit the ascent.

 

Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha) led the peloton onto the climb but it was Boonen who attacked right from the bottom. The Belgian drew a Fortuneo-Vital Concept rider clear and then exploded completely.

 

While Boonen came to a standstill, the Fortuneo rider and Egor Silin (Katusha) surged clear. They were joined by a Topsport rider but he was soon dropped.

 

The front duo reached the top with a small advantage but they had a hard time against a fantastic David De La Cruz who set a brutal pace. He had almost caught them when they crested the summit and even though the Fortuneo rider tried a solo attack, it all came back together with 9km to go.

 

Yves Lampaert and De La Cruz kept riding on the front for Etixx-QuickStep and so prevented anyone from attacking. Instead, all the sprinters tried to position themselves for the sprint.

 

With 4km to go, Etixx-QuickStep changed tactic as Lampaert attacked. He was joined by Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) and Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha). The latter two worked together with Lampaert on their wheel but it was hard to get much of an advantage as De La Cruz was chasing hard. The strong Spaniard brought them back with less than 2km to go.

 

Antoine Warnier (Wallonie) launched an immediate counterattack and this forced Lampaert to lead the chase. The young Belgian was first under the flamme rouge and it briefly looked promising when Lampaert swung off.

 

FDJ started to chase and when Trentin launched a long lead-out, the Wallonie rider was brought back. The Italian kept looking back to see when Meersman came through but as the Belgian was unable to pass Gediminas Bagdonas, he just kept going. He won the stage with apparent ease, easily holding off the Lithuanian.

 

Meersman was unable to come around but still took third. With a total of six bonus seconds in the stage, he now leads Dimitri Claeys (Wanty) by six seconds. He faces the hardest test in tomorrow’s queen stage which is a very hilly affair. The opening sections between the start and the finish includes a total of two category 1, four category 2 and one category 3 climbs so the riders will already be tired when they get to the 17.3km finishing circuit. It includes the category 2 climb of Cote La Haute Saurée (1.1km, 4.6%) with 11.2km to go and the category 2 Cote de Val Fassotte (1.4km, 5.8%) just 2.2km from the line. The peloton will do almost a complete lap before they get to the finish line for the first time and then end the race by doing one full lap, meaning that they will tackle both climbs twice.

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