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Having been part of a 10-rider group, Leukemans joined forces with Claeys whom he beat in 2-rider sprint to win the Ronde van Limburg; Mol completed the podium

Photo: ©Kramon

BJÖRN LEUKEMANS

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14.06.2015 @ 20:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Björn Leukemans (Wanty) took his first win of the season when he emerged as the strongest in the hilly Dutch one-day race Ronde van Limburg. The Belgian made it into a 10-rider group inside the final 40km and finally joined forces with Dmitri Claeys (Verandas Willems) whom he beat in a 2-rider sprint after they had managed to keep the peloton at bay.

 

For several years, Björn Leukemans has been known as one of the most consistent classics riders and he is one of the select few who have managed to finish in the top 10 in both the cobbled and the Ardennes classics. Even though he has failed to take that big classics victory, he has also been a prolific winner who has been on the top step of the podium of a major race every year since 2009.

 

This year he has been empty-handed in the first part of the season and as age has started to have an impact on his performances, he was unable to shine in the biggest one-day races. However, he still remains very competitive and today he continued his impressive string of victories when he won the Dutch one-day race Ronde van Limburg.

 

The hilly event was held in the tough Limburg terrain and included several small climbs. However, it has often been decided in a reduced bunch sprint and so most were looking at Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) as the man to beat.

 

However, Leukemans had different plans and he was active when the riders reached the 11km finishing circuit that included a small climb 4km from the finish and would be covered 3 times. He joined an 8-rider group that caught early escapees Philipp Walsleben (BKCP) and Sjoerd Kouwenhoven (De Rijke) to form a 10-rider move.

 

They worked well together to keep the peloton at bay and could start the final lap with a 40-second advantage. However, Rusvelo and Lotto Soudal were now chasing hard and when the gap was down to 14 seconds, it seemed that it would be decided in a sprint.

 

However, Dmitri Claeys refused to give up and he launched a solo attack. Leukemans joined him and they managed to extend their advantage to 28 seconds with 2km to go. The peloton never made the junction and in the end Leukemans beat his companion in the 2-rider sprint.

 

Wouter Mol (De Rijke) and Jesper Asselman (Roompot) managed to stay clear to take third and fourth while Debusschere lived up to his status as favourite by winning the bunch sprint. Unfortunately, it was only good enough for fifth.

 

Racing in the Netherlands continues on Wednesday when the 5-day Ster ZLM Toer serves as a final Tour de France preparation for some of the best sprinters in the world, including Marcel Kittel and André Greipel.

 

A hilly course

The 2015 Ronde van Limburg was held on a 199.2km route around the city of Tongeren in the hilly Limburg province. It was made up of four different circuits. The first one was 58km long and included three climbs and one pave sector while the second one had a length of 68km and was the hardest with 7 categorized climbs. The third circuit was 51km long and only included two climbs but had no less than four pave sectors. In the end, the riders did 4 laps of a short 10.8km circuit that included the small Kolmontberg just 4.2km from the finish, meaning that the riders would tackle a total of 15 climbs.

 

It was a nice day in Limburg when the riders took the start and got it off to a very aggressive opening phase. Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) and Timothy Stevens (Vastgoedservice) were the first to attack and they were joined by another two riders before they were brought bacl.

 

The break is formed

Vastgoedservice set the pace in the early part of the race to control the aggression. Christophe Premont (Verandas) was the next rider to get a decent advantage but he was brought back after 23km of racing.

 

Defending champion van der Poel was part of a 7-rider group before Philipp Walsleben (BKCP), Joeri Stallaert (Cibel) and Sjoerd Kouwenhoven (De Rijke) escaped. Kobus Hereijgers (De Rijke) took off in pursuit and he made it across at a point when the gap had gone out to 1.20.

 

Lotto Soudal in control

The peloton slowed down and allowed the gap to go out to 2.50 at the end of the first hour. At the 50km mark, it was 4.10 and at the first passage of the finish line it was 6.00.

 

The gap went out to more than 7 minutes before Lotto Soudal, Wanty and Vastgoedservice started to chase. As they sped up, a crash forced James Vanlandschoot (Wanty) and Stef Krul (Metec) to abandon the race.

 

The gap comes down

With 100km to go, the gap was still 6.18 but now the peloton started to accelerate. 15km later it was only 4.57 and at the next passage of the finish line it was 3.50.

 

Lotto Soudal were doing the work in the peloton and they were riding very fast. Several splits occurred as they brought the gap down to just 1.50 with 60km to go.

 

The attacking starts

Walsleben attacked form the front group but they came back together. Moments later Dimitri Claeys (Verandas Willems) tried to bridge the gap but he was brought back at a time when the gap was 1.10.

 

Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal) and Pieter Jacobs (Topsport) were the next to try but they were back in the fold with 46km to go. At this point the gap was one minute.

 

The break splits up

As they hit the finishing circuit, Walsleben and Kowenhoven attacked and they managed to build an advantage over their chasers. Meanwhile, Jasper Ockeloen (Parkhotel) attacked from the   peloton which was 50 seconds behind.

 

Ockeloen made it across to the chasers but they were brought back with 35km to go. The front duo managed to extend their advantage to one minute while the peloton started to split.

 

A strong chase group takes off

At the start of the first lap of the finishing circuit, the gap was 58 seconds and moments later Jasper Asselman (Roompot) tried to briedge the gap. He was joined by Leukemans and later Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal), Sander Helven (Topspoirt), Wouter Mol (De Rijke), Benjamin Verraes (Cibel), Claeys and Laurens Sweeck (Corendon) also joined the move.

 

They caught Walsleben who had been dropped by Kowenhowen and moments later they also caught the lone leader. At this point the peloton was just 26 seconds behind but at the start of the final lap, they had extended it to 40 seconds.

 

Claeys and Leukemans get clear

Rusvelo were chasing hard and as they had brought the gap down to 14 seconds, the attacking started. Claeys was the first to take off and he was joined by Leukemans.

 

The pair managed to extend their advantage over the peloton to 28 seconds with just 2km to go. While Bak tried to bridge the gap, they worked well together and still had 22 seconds in hand at the flamme rouge. In the end, Leukemans turned out to be the fastest of the pair while Mol and Asselman managed to stay clear, leaving Debusschere with 5th place.

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