Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) continued his excellent run of success in the Tour de Luxembourg when he won today’s queen stage of the 5-day race just 24 hours after winning stage 2. The Dane was joined by two teammates in the 5-rider group that escaped in the finale and beat Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and Sergey Lagutin (Rusvelo) in the sprint to take both the stage victory and the leader’s jersey.
24 hours ago Matt Breschel brought a long drought to an end when he won the second stage of the Tour de Luxembourg. History proves that the first win is the hardest to get and after today’s queen stage, Breschel can certainly confirm that assessment.
The Dane doubled his tally when he won the hardest stage of the race, emerging as the fastest from a 5-rider group that emerged in the finale. Tinkoff-Saxo really played with their muscles as he had two teammates, Oliver Zaugg and Ivan Rovny, at his side and they worked together to keep the diminished peloton at bay.
Arriving with an 18-second advantage over the chasers, it all came down to a sprint from the 5-rider group and here Breschel didn’t disappoint. He beat Rudy Molard and Sergey Lagutin to make it two in a row in the small Benelux country.
The finale had been dominated by a very aggressive Trek team that tried to set local hero Frank Schleck up for a win but despite repeated attacks, he failed to get clear on the Col de l’Europe. Instead, the final escapees were caught 6km from the line and as no one had many teammates at their side, the race was impossible to control.
Breschel and Tinkoff-Saxo exploited the situation to put three riders into the group that emerged and then combined forces to stay away to the finish. Race leader Jempy Drucker (Wanty) finished in the first group of chasers but with 5 riders up the road, it was not enough to keep the lead.
Instead, Breschel took it all as he now moved into yellow with a 15-second advantage over Molard and Drucker. He takes it into tomorrow’s finale stage which is a very difficult affair. A hilly first part is followed by 5 laps of a finishing circuit in Luxembourg that ends with a steep climb to the finish. Last year the overall win came down to the very last metres of the climb and so all is still to play for in Luxembourg.
The queen stage
After yesterday’s small uphill finish, it was time for the traditional queen stage in the Tour de Luxembourg. The stage brought the riders over 205.8km from Eschweiler to Differdange and while the first part was only slightly lumpy with a few categorized climbs, all the excitement was saved for the finale. The riders ended the race by doing three laps of a 9.4km finishing circuit that included the steep Col de l’Europe and had the potential to split the peloton.
For the third day in row, the riders took the start under beautiful sunny conditions, and today was even a very hot day in Luxembourg. A hilly course usually invites to attacks but surprisingly the early break was established already after 3km of racing.
The break is formed
Local rider Pit Schlechter (Leopard) initiated the escape and he was soon joined by Ivan Balykin (Rusvelo), Tom Dernies (Wallonie) and Ruben Menendez (Differdange) to form a 4-rider front group. The quartet worked well together and after 28km of racing, they were 4.10 ahead.
While Menendez led Schlechter and Dernies across the line in the first intermediate sprint, Drucker’s Wanty team took control of the peloton and kept the gap stable at around 4 minutes for most of the day. Up ahead, Dernies secured himself a lot of KOM points, winning the first three KOM sprints.
Wanty up the pace
After 80km of racing, the gap started to come down a bit but as the peloton passed through the feed zone, they allowed it to go back up to 4.20. A crash brought down Egoitz Garcia (Cofidis) and unfortunately, the Spaniard had to abandon the race.
While Balykin won the second intermediate sprint ahead of Schlechter and Menendez, the peloton started to gear up for the finale. Always under the control of Wanty, they started to bring down the gap and as they neared the finishing circuit, they had it down to just 2.40.
Thomson bridges the gap
At this point, Jay Thomson (MTN-Qhubeka) attacked on his own and the South African did an amazing job to bridge the gap just before they hit the finishing circuit. The peloton was still 2.25 behind but as they approached the Col de l’Europe, Trek hit the front to put their rivals under pressure.
Menendez was dropped during the first passage of the climb while Trek had now brought the gap down to less than 30 seconds. As they hit the climb, the break was caught and instead Frank Schleck (Trek) made his first attack.
Henderson and Teklehaimanot form a strong group
The Luxembourger failed to get clear and instead Linus Gerdemann (MTN-Qhubeka) made a move. He was joined by Michael Mørkøv (Tinkoff-Saxo) and later André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) but soon a 30-rider group found back together.
As they passed the climb for the second time, Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) got clear and they crossed the line for the penultimate time with a 15-second advantage over the small peloton that still contained Drucker. As they hit the climb for the final time, Schleck attacked again while Henderson was dropped by Teklehaimanot.
Breschel makes his move
With 6km to go, all escapees were swept up by the small peloton but as the teams now had limited domestique resources, the door was open for new attacks. A 5-rider group with Breschel, Sergey Lagutin (Rusvelo), Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and two of Breschel’s teammates got clear and with 3km to go, they were 25 seconds ahead.
The peloton failed to bring them back and so Tinkoff-Saxo could set up Breschel for the sprint. The Dane didn’t disappoint and took his second consecutive victory.
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