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Having joined an early breakaway, Pibernik won the five-rider sprint to take a surprise win on stage of the Eneco Tour; McNally and Van Lerberghe completed the podium and Dennis retained the lead

Photo: A.S.O.

BERT VAN LERBERGHE

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BINCKBANK TOUR

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LUKA PIBERNIK

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MARK MCNALLY

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ROHAN DENNIS

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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24.09.2016 @ 17:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Luka Pibernik (Lampre-Merida) delivered a massive surprise when he rode to victory on the tough stage 6 at the Eneco Tour. Part of a 6-rider breakaway, he was one of five riders to narrowly keep the peloton at bay and with a perfectly timed sprint, he beat Mark McNally (Wanty) and Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen) in the final dash to the line. Rohan Dennis (BMC) finished safely and retained the lead on the eve of the queen stage.

 

At the start of the Eneco Tour, Lampre-Merida was one of the team to get the least amount of attention in a star-studded field that included almost all the top sprinters and classics riders. During the first five days, the team did little to enter the spotlight, most notably because they have no GC riders.

 

Nonetheless, the team was close to a surprise win in stage 3 when Yukiya Arashiro was in the beak which was caught just metres of the line and that spurred the Italians on to keep attacking. Today they got their just reward for their aggressive riding style when youngster Luka Pibernik took a hugely surprising victory on the sixth stage of the race.

 

Pibernik was one of six riders who attacked early in the stage and as the sprinters were all uncertain whether they would be able to overcome the many climbs in the Ardennes, the chase got organized way too late. Like in stage 3, it came down to a thrilling finale and this time it was the escapees who got the upper hand. Pibernik timed his sprint to perfection to hold off Mark McNally and Bert Van Lerberghe and so the future Bahrain-Merida rider added a WorldTour win to his two Slovenian road race title.

 

The stage had been expected to be a firework of attacks but that never materialized and instead BMC had everything under control until the sprint teams came to the fore in the finale. Hence, it was a largely intact peloton that crested the summit of the final climb with 18km to go 1.30 behind Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin), Luka Pibernik (Lampre-Merida), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).

 

Van Lerberghe beat Gougeard, Haga, McNally and Pibernik in the final Primus sprint and then the group again started to work together. However, the chase was now getting organized and while Berden De Vries who had once been in the break was brought back, Michael Valgren (Tinkoff), Fredrik Frison, Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal), Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff) and Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) were riding hard in the peloton.

 

The front group hit the final 10km with an advantage of 45 seconds and as the fight for position in the peloton intensified, the fight for position resulted in a small crash that brought down Reinardt Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Patrick Bevin (Cannondale) and Alexandr Porsev (Katusha).

 

With 6km to go, the gap was still 30 seconds and the domestiques were starting to blow up. Instead, Cofidis and FDJ took control with the likes of Borut Bozic and Yoann Offredo working hard on the front.

 

Surprisingly, the peloton slowed down as the sprint teams were missing horsepower and with 4km to go, Offredo was doing all the work. Daniel Hoelgaard came to the fore to lend his teammate a hand. The two FDJ riders shut down a move from Tony Martin and then continued to ride on the front.

 

With 3km to go, the gap was still 20 seconds and now Trek took control with Boy Van Poppel, Jasper Stuyven and Giacomo Nizzolo. Stuyven then took over and as they hit the final kilometre, the escapees were only 10 seconds ahead.

 

While Katusha hit the front, Haga took a massive turn and as the game of cat and mouse never unfolded, it became apparent that the group would stay away. Gougeard launched a long sprint but Pibernik timed his effort perfectly. The Slovenian easily came around and in a tough battle, he narrowl held McNally and Van Lerberghe off to take his first win on the WorldTour. Five seconds later a frustrated Giacomo Nizzolo beat Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) in the battle for sixth place.

 

Rohan Dennis finished safely in the bunch and so retained his 27-second advantage over his teammate Taylor Phinney. He still faces the hardest challenge, the final stage which is like a small version of the Tour of Flanders. After a relatively flat start, the riders will do three laps of the well-known circuit that has been used several years in a row. It includes the famous hellingen of Bosberg, Onkerzelestraat, Denderoordberg and Muur van Geraardsbergen. The penultimate climb comes inside the final 10km while the finish comes halfway up the Muur, meaning that the stage is likely to come down to a huge battle between the classics specialist.

 

A tough course

After yesterday’s team time trial, it was time for the Ardennes stage in this year’s Eneco Tour. After a lumpy first half with just one climb after around 60km, things were set to heat up in the final 70km. Here the riders tackled six climbs in quick succession, with the hardest challenge being Cote Bois Le Dame (900m, 12.2% with 54.6km to go. The final climb was the Muizenberg which was located just 18km from the finish and from there it was a flat run to the final kilometre which was uphill at 3%.

 

It was another great summer day when the riders gathered for the start. Two riders, Henrich Haussler (IAM) and Alexander Edmondson (Orica-Bike Exchange), were both absent, and thus only 168 riders headed out on the course.

 

Six rides get clear

Unsurprisingly, there were many attacks right from the start, but no one had escaped when they reached for the first time after 10 kilometers. Moments later, Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin), Luka Pibernik (Lampre-Merida), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Berden De Vries (Roompot Orange Peloton) and Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) managed to get a gap. The first 20 minutes were done at an impressive average speed of 52.8 km/h, but the pace soon dropped and the advantage quickly grew to 2.45. After 25km of racing, the escapees were four minutes ahead of the peloton and it reached five minutes before Gougeard had to stop to fix a mechanical problem. However, he quickly returned to the front.

 

In the peloton, BMC and EtixxQuick-Step took responsibility for the chase, and while they controlled the race, Van Lerberghe beat  McNally, Pibernik, Gougeard and Haga in today's first Primus sprint. After two hours they had covered 88 km, and the break was still 3.42 ahead of the peloton.

 

BMC in control

The gap started to grow again and had reached 4.45 when the front group entered the final 75km. BMC had now taken full control and it was Stefan Küng, Joey Rosskopf and Tom Bohli who did the early work for the Americans.

 

With 60km to go, the gap had dropped to 3.50 and now it was time for Tinkoff to kick into action. Matteo Tosatto hit the front and started to share the work with Küng and Bohli. Meanwhile, the fight for positon intensified dramatically and in the chaos Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale) hit the deck hard. The German was in a lot of pain and forced to abandon the race.

 

Benoot takes off

Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) led the peloton onto the steep Cote Bois Le Dame three minutes behind the leaders but it was Anriy Grivko (Astana) who set the pace as they went up the climb. Riders started to get dropped as the group got strung out.

 

Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) attacked as they approached the top and together with Daniel Oss (BMC) and Jack Bauer (Cannondale), he created a small advantage. Nathan Haas (Dimesnion Data) took off in pursuit and made the junction before they hit the next climb.

 

Kittel is dropped

Oss took control and strung out the group as they headed up the climb. At the rear end of the field, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) was suffering and the German lost contact with a small group.

 

Grivko, Bob Jungels, Bauer, Chirstopher Juul and Timo Roosen launched the next attack but Oss shut it down and then returned to the front as they hit the final 50km. Küng returned to the front and led the group onto the next climb 2.10 behind the front group.

 

BMC in control

Patrick Bevin (Cannondale) launched the next attack and he reached the top with a small advantage. After a bit of hesitation, Grivko attacked again but the Ukrainian was unable to get clear.

 

Küng and Rosskopf. took control for BMC and things calmed down significantly which allowed Kittel to rejoin the peloton. While Bevin was stuck in no man’s land 40 seconds ahead of the peloton, the gap started to grow again and it has reached 2.25 with 40km to go.

 

Bonus seconds for Haga

The race settled into a steady rhythm during the next 10km where the gaps were kept relatively stable. With 25km to go, the front group hit the Golden Kilometre with an advantage of 1.10 over Bevin and 2.00 over the peloton.

 

Haga was allowed to win all the sprints ahead of McNally, with Pibernik taking third in the first two sprints and Gougeard taking the final second in the third sprint. The pace on the climb was too hard much for De Vries who was left behind.

 

Tinkoff take control

The fight for position started as they hit the climb but no one took initiative on the ascent. Nonetheless, the pace was too much for Kittel and Rosskopf who were among the riders to get dropped.

 

Gatis Smukulis (Astana) took control of the descent before Tinkoff finally took charge with Pvel Brutt. However, he still had to close a gap of 1.55 as he entered the final 20km. Michael Valgren also came to the fore to help his teammate.

 

The gap had dropped to 1.30 as they hit the final climb where Christopher Juul (Orica-BikeExchange) attacked. Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) took off in pursuit as they sprinted past Bevin and at the top a small group with the likes of Juul, Martin Jungels, Valgren, Dennis, Van Avermaet, Boasson Hagen, Phinney and Boom had gone clear. However, they were soon brought back and instead Tinkoff went back to work with Nikolay Trusov. Frederik Frison also came to the fore for Lotto Soudal but even though the chase got organized, it turned out to be too late.

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