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In a tough uphill sprint on the third stage of the Tour de Wallonie, Lobato powered clear to pass Dillier and Sprengers who had opened a small gap; Meersman finished strongly to take second and extend his overall lead

Photo: Sirotti












28.07.2014 @ 17:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) finally broke his string of near-missed when he won today’s hilly third stage of the Tour de Wallonie in impressive fashion. In a tough uphill sprint, he powered clear of the peloton to easily hold off Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Silvan Dillier, passing several riders who had started their sprint too early. Meersman finished second for the third day in a row which was enough to extends his overall lead.


In the last few weeks, Juan Jose Lobato has been frustratingly close to a victory but so far he has always been up against faster riders. In the first stage of the Tour de Wallonie, he finished 3rd and in the Tour of Austria he secured himself another couple of podium places.


Today he finally got everything right when he won the third stage of the Tour de Wallonie in commanding fashion. Unlike most of his rivals, he timed his sprint perfectly on the tricky uphill finishing straight to take his first win in Movistar colours.


A few kilometres from the finish, nothing suggested that Lobato was going to win the stage as he was rolling along in the rear end of the peloton after having been dropped on the many climbs in the second half of the race. However, he recovered from his efforts in time for the sprint in which he was in a class of his own.


Kris Boeckmans tried to lead Tosh van der Sande out but it was Thomas Sprengers (Topsport) and Silvan Dillier who did long sprints and opened a big gap. However, they have both started too early while Lobato was hiding himself a little further back.


With 200m to go, the Spaniard launched his sprint and he quickly flew past the leading pair to open a big gap. Behind, race leader Gianni Meersman who had been poorly positioned, found an opening to produce a similarly strong sprint and take second place for the third day in a row. Dillier held onto third.


The sprinters had nearly been foiled as Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) launched an attack inside the final 5km and as the chase was pretty disorganized, he managed to get a 10-second gap. However, BMC moved to the front and shut it down with a few hundred metres to go.


With another second place, Meersman scored six bonus seconds and as he also scored 3 seconds in the intermediate sprints, he extended his overall lead. He goes into tomorrow’s fourth stage with an 11-second advantage over Lobato while Zico Waeytens is four seconds further adrift in third.


Meersman faces an even harder jersey defence in the penultimate stage which includes no less than 11 categorized climbs spread throughout the entire course. The steep Mur d’Amay comes just 17km from the finish but from there it is a flat run to the finish in Waremme.


A hilly stage

After two stages for the sprinters, the Tour de Wallonie headed into hillier terrain on the third day when the riders travelled 174.1km from Somme-Leuze to Neufchateau. After a relatively flat start with just one categorized climb, things got significantly hiller in the middle section where the riders tackled no less than 6 pretty hard climbs. The final one was located 30.4km from the finish and then it was mostly flat all the way to Neufchateau.


After two very hot days, the 113 remaining riders took the start under torrential rain, with a temperature of just 16 degrees. That didn’t seem to dampen their spirits though as the first part of the stage was extremely fast.


Meersman takes a bonus second

The attacking continued for a long time but no one was able to get a significant gap. At one point, Florent Delfosse (Color Code) seemed to have a decent advantage but he was brought back. Later 20 riders slipped clear but that was too dangerous and so the group was reeled in.


At the first intermediate sprint, things were still together and so the GC riders could sprint for the bonus seconds. Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r) beat stage 1 winner Jens Debusschere (Lotto Belisol) and overall leader Gianni Meersman (OPQS) to score 3 important seconds.


The break gets clear

Just after the sprint, the elastic finally snapped when Christopher Juul Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo), Ludwig De Winter (Color Code), Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r) and Antoine Demoitie (Wallonie) managed to build a gap. They had to fight for a little while to extend their advantage beyond the one-minute mark but while Juul Jensen beat Demoitie and Turgot in the first KOM sprint, the peloton finally accepted its fate and slowed down a bit.


With 121km to go, the gap was 2.54 but Meersman’s OPQS team was not intent on letting this get out of control. They allowed the gap to reach 3.40 but as they approached the second climb, they started to accelerate.


Demoitie scores KOM points

Demoitie beat Juul Jensen in the sprint for the points while Andrew Fenn and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck maintained stable 3-minute gap. On the third climb, a Color Code rider made a small attack but he was quickly brought back by the peloton. Demoitie beat Juul, Turgot and De Winter in the KOM sprint while Pieter Jacobs (Topsport) moved ahead to pick up the final 2 points.


On the fourth climb, OPQS applied a bit more pressure as Pieter Serry set the pace and riders now started to drop off. Meanwhile, Demoitie again beat Juul Jensen in the sprint at the top.


The break splits up

The gap had now come down to 2.10 and this prompted Juul Jensen to ride harder as they hit the fifth climb. De Winter was the first to drop off and moments later, Turgot also cracked. Finally, Demoitie had to surrender and so the Dane was the lone leader.


Juul Jensen crested the summit but Turgot managed to rejoin him on the descent. Meanwhile, the peloton was blowing to pieces and over the top Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) slightly accelerated but quickly fell back to the main group.


Amador attacks

Juul Jensen and Turgot hit the longest climb of the day and Turgot immediately fell off the pace. Meanwhile, Amador launched the first attack from the peloton and quickly got a nice little gap.


Turgot rejoined Juul Jensen while the attacking continued in the peloton. Everybody, including Amador, were brought back but as most of the sprinters fell off the pace, only around 20 riders remained in the bunch as they crested the summit.


Beltran goes down

Edward Beltran (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked on the descent but was unfortunate to crash in a slippery corner. Moments later, Julien Berard (Ag2r) and two Katusha riders went down at the same spot but none of them were badly hurt.


OPQS had now lost control and several riders started to attack. Christophe Kern (Europcar), Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Amador were part of a 7-rider group that got clear but as four fell bac, only Amador, Tim Wellens (Lotto) and Kern remained in the lead.


OPQS back in control

They picked up Demoitie – De Winter had already been caught – while Wout Poels started to chase for OPQS. He managed to bring back the chase trio but there was an immediate counterattack by Pablo Lastras (Movistar).


The Spaniard stayed clear to take third in the second intermediate sprint before he was brought back. OPQS now regained control as Julian Alaphilippe set a fast pace.


Juul Jensen takes off

Van Keirsbulck managed to rejoin the peloton and led them halfway up the final climb. Juul Jensen dropped Turgot for good and was now only 1 minute ahead.


Juul Jensen crested the summit as the lone leader to secure himself the mountains jersey while Alaphilippe was back on the front for OPQS. Stybar led Meersman out for the final intermediate sprint and the pair managed to finish 3rd and 2nd respectively.


Many attacks

After the sprint, the attacking started again as Lastras, Matti Breschel (Tinkoff), Dillier and Stybar opened a gap. Yoann Offredo (FDJ); Pieter Serry (OPQS) and Waeyens were the next to try but it was Enrique Sanz (Movistar) who opened the first significant gap.


When he was caught, Offredo and Delfosse both launched counterattacks and this spelled the end for Juul who was brought back with 22km to go. His teammate Boaro tried the next move and he opened a nice little gap.


A strong trio

A big chase group took off in pursuit, with Stybar being very aggressive. OPQS were clearly not in control as the attacking continued when that move was brought back.


Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) and Florian Senechal (Cofidis) managed to bridge the gap to Boaro and they built an advantage of 12 seconds. Meanwhile, Poels and Serry started to chase for OPQS.


Waeytens takes off

With 12km to go, the front trio was caught which opened the door for new attacks. Sanz, Stybar an Dillier tried their hands but it was Waeytens who got clear on his own.


Serry and Poels led the chase and brought the Belgian back just 6km from the line. The sprinters were now readying themselves but things got complicated when Martin Kohler (BMC) took off.


Stybar launches a strong attack

Stybar joined the Swiss and on a small climb 4km from the finish, he took off on his own. Kohler fell back to the peloton where only a single Lotto rider did the work.


Just as it seemed that Stybar would take the win, BMC got organized and started to chase with Thor Hushovd. A few hundred metres after the flamme rouge, Stybar was caught as Cofidis hit the front.


Hushovd tried to lead Dillier out but it was Boeckmans who hit the front inside the final 500m. In the end, however, his teammate van der Sande came up short as Lobato took his first Movistar win. 



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