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After his BMC team had blown the race to pieces, Van Avermaet attacked out of a front trio to narrowly hold off Benoot and win the queen stage of the Tour of Belgium; he also won the race overall

Photo: Sirotti

BELGIUM TOUR

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS

GREG VAN AVERMAET

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

TIESJ BENOOT

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS
31.05.2015 @ 16:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) lived up to his status as the overwhelming favourite in the Tour of Belgium when he took both the stage victory and the overall win on the final day of the race. After his BMC team had blown the race to pieces, he found himself in a strong front trio and with a powerful attack under the flamme rouge, he got a small advantage that was enough to narrowly hold off a fast-finishing Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) who was second in both the stage and the overall.

 

Greg Van Avermaet has twice finished second in the Tour of Belgium but as the race has often included a long time trial, it has never been easy for him to win his home tour. Instead, the race has been dominated by Tony Martin who has used a victory in the race against the clock to win the race overall.

 

This year the race didn’t include a long time trial and the only individual effort was the short opening prologue. As he had emerged as a prologue specialist in Tirreno-Adriatico, Van Avermaet found himself as the big favourite for the 2015 edition of the race.

 

The BMC captain did a solid prologue and picked up a few bonus seconds in yesterday’s hilly stage to go into today’s queen stage in the Ardennes in third overall. He used the tough terrain to live up to his status as he completed excellent BMC teamwork by winning both the stage and the race overall.

 

After a hectic start, his team had kept a front quartet of Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Dimitri Claeys (Verandas Willems), Alessio Taliani (Androni) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) under control and their fast riding had gradually whittled down the peloton.

 

Approaching the Cote de Sprieux, BMC accelerated and brought the gap down to 40 seconds by the time they hit the lower slopes. Here Manuel Quinziato took one final big turn before he swung off and left it to Michael Schär and Manuel Senni to set the pace.

 

The pair made the peloton explode to pieces and Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Julien Vermote, Thomas De Gendt and Nikolas Maes were among the many riders to lose contact. Meanwhile, Vorganov attacked from the front group and after he had initially gone clear solo, Claeys joined him.

 

Alexander Foliforov (Rusvelo) attacked from the peloton but he was quickly brought back when Rohan Dennis went full gas for BMC. The peloton quickly passed Taliani and Roelandts and also made it back to Claeys and finally Vorganov who had again dropped his Belgian companion.

 

At the top of the climb, only Dennis, Van Avermaet, Teuns, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal),Martin Elmiger (IAM), Vorganov, Egor Silin, Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha), Foliforov, Claeys and Gaetan Bille (Verandas Willems) were left. Dennis led Teuns, Van Avermaet, Vorganov and Kuznetsov over the top to win the final Primus sprint.

 

Dennis maintained the speed of the front group to prevent anybody from rejoining the group. However, Roelandts, George Bennett (LottoNL), Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP), Thomas Sprengers and Oliver Naesen (Topsport) still managed to make the junction.

 

As they went up the Cote de Stockeu with 25km to go, Roelandts was dropped for good while Elmiger, Bennett, Sprengers, Vorganov and Naesen also lost contact. Wout van Aert (Vastgoedservice) was not far behind but both he and Vorganov went down on the descent.

 

On a small climb, Benoot attacked but Teuns was quick to respond. Silin also joined them but as Dennis got back to the main group after a small crisis, he brought Van Avermaet, van der Poel, Bille and Foliforov back to the front.

 

Van Avermaet made a big surge but failed to get clear and so Dennis went back to work in the 8-rider front group. Further back a group with the De Gendt, Kuznetsov, Naesen, Sprengers, Elmiger, Rudy Molard, Marc De Maar, Duijn, MauritsLammertink, Bennett and Frederik Backaert had formed. With 20km to go, they were 25 seconds behind.

 

Dennis did an amazing job to keep the gap stable at 25 seconds even though several riders were working in the second group. As they got closer to the final climb of the Bergstrasse and the Golden Kilometre, the chasers lost ground and when they hit the bottom of the climb, the gap was 45 seconds.

 

Bille attacked right from the bottom of the climb to win the first sprint ahead of Van Avermaet and Benoot. Dennis and van der Poel were dropped immediately and later Teuns and Foliforov also lost contact.

 

Silin made a strong attack while Benoot started to chase hard. The Russian won the second sprint while Van Avermaet made an acceleration to take second in front of Benoot. This was too much for Bille who was dropped.

 

Benoot and Van Avermaet caught Silin before they got to the third sprint where the BMC riders again took maximum points ahead of the Lotto Soudal rider, with the Katusha rider taking third. Bille was dangling just a few metres behind and hadn’t given up yet.

 

Benoot attacked after the sprint but Van Avermaet didn’t give an inch and the trio crested the summit together with a 20-second advantage over Bille. Despite their good cooperation, Bille managed to reduce his deficit to 10 seconds before he again started to lose ground and so waited for Teuns and Foliforov.

 

With 3km to go, the chasers were 25 seconds behind but it was now evident that the front trio would make up the daily podium. Moments later, Teuns attacked from the chase group and no one had any response to the acceleration from the young Belgian.

 

The first attack from the front group was launched by Silin who gave it a go with 1.3km to go but he didn’t get any gap. Instead, Van Avermaet countered just as they passed the flamme rouge and he immediately got an advantage even though Silin reacted quickly.

 

Silin did his best to close the gap but Van Avermaet dug deep to maintain an advantage of around 10 metres. With 500m to go, Benoot made a big acceleration and he approached the lone leader very fast. In the end he ran out of metres and had to settle for second before Silin rolled across the line in third. Teuns took fourth, Bille fifth and Foliforov sixth.

 

With the win, Van Avermaet also takes the overall victory with a comfortable 41-second advantage over Benoot while Bille completes the podium, 15 seconds further adrift. Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) wins the points jersey, Philipp Walsleben (BKCP) takes the sprints jersey while BMC also wins the teams classification.

 

Racing in Belgium now takes a small break as many of the riders in this race head to the Criterium du Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse to prepare for the Tour de France. The next major race in the country if Halle-Ingooigem in the second half of June.

 

The queen stage

After three days that had been decided in bunch sprints, it was time for the queen stage in the Tour of Belgium. The course brought the riders over 199.2km in the hilly area around Sankt Vith and was like a mini version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The roads were never flat and included no less than 10 categorized climbs, including the famous Haute-Levee, Col du Rosier and Cote de Stockeu. The final climb was the Bergstrasse which was located just 10km from the finish and from there it was rolling terrain in the final part.

 

The riders had great weather when they gathered in the Ardennes for the start of the hardest stage of the race. The hilly terrain was an obvious opportunity to attack and the riders grabbed it with both hands as the opening phase was fast and uncontrollable.

 

A big group gets clear

Double stage winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ) was the first to attack. He was joined by Loic Chetout (Cofidis) and Joeri Calleeuw (Verandas Willems) but after they had built an advantage of 6 seconds, they were brought back.

 

A 15-rider group with Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) briefly got clear but it was the next 24-rider move which made the difference. The group included Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Philipp Walsleben (BKCP), Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep), Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty), Wout van Aert (Vastgodservice), Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Gert Dockx (Lotto Soudal), Floris De Tier (Topsport Vlaanderen), Olivier Pardini (Verandas Willems), Dylan Teuns (BMC), William Bonnet (BMC), Tom Leezer (LottoNL), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Jonas Vangenechten (IAM), Dries Devenyns (IAM), Tim De Troyer (Wanty), Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Huub Duijn (Roompot), Rob Ruijgh (Vastgoedservice), Dimitri Peyskens (3M), Olivier Chevalier (Wallonie) and Dimitri Claeys (Verandas Willems) and they had a 16-second advantage after 16km of fast racing.

 

Brändle abandons

When Walsleben beat Roelandts, Dockx, De Vreese and De Tier in the first Primus sprint, they had extende the gap to 47 seconds and at the 30km mark it had gone out to 2 minutes. 10km later it was 2.30.

 

At this point, a dramatic highlight occurred when race leader Brändle left the race. Despite his absence, the peloton didn’t give up and it was IAM, BKCP, Verandas Willems and Topsport Vlaanderen who brought the gap down to 2.05 at the 50km mark.

 

Demare abandons

Walsleben beat De Vreese, Teuns, Leukemans and Pardini in the second Primus sprint to secure himself th overall victory in the sprints competition before they crossed the finish line to start their lap of the 112km finishing circuit. At this point IAM, Topsport Vlaanderen and LottoNL-Jumbo had brought the gap down to 1.15. At this point, Demare had been distanced by 3.20 and the French champion would later leave the race, just like sprints later Benjamin Verraes.

 

The peloton continued its comeback and when the break was nearly caught, Roelandts, Claeys and Vorganov took off. Leukemans, Petit, Ruijgh and Duijn formed a chase group while the rest of the group was caught.

 

Taliani takes off

Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) bridged the gap to the chasers and later Rohan Dennis (BMC) and Maarten Wynants (LottoNL-Jumbo) also made it across to that group. At this point, the 8 chasers were 29 seconds behind the front trio while the peloton was at 50 seconds.

 

The peloton caught the chasers at a point when more than 40 riders had already been dropped. Instead, Alessio Taliani (Androni) took off and he got to within 20 seconds of the front trio before he again started to lose ground.

 

BMC take control

With Van Avermaet back in the peloton, BMC took complete control of the peloton. Manuel Senni and Manuel Quinziato set a fast pace that made the peloton explode to pieces. De Vreese was one of several riders to get dropped but nonetheless the strong front trio had extended their advantage to 1.30 when they entered the final 50km.

 

Taliani made a great comeback as the terrain got hiller and with 46km he made it across to the three leaders. Meanwhile, Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) fought his way back to the peloton after a puncture. Moments later, Quinziato swung off to start the exciting finale.

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