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After a frantic finale that saw Debusschere miss out due to chain problems, Van Genechten won the bunch sprint on stage 2 at the Tour de l’Eurometropole; Roelandts and Verhelst rounded out the top 3

Photo: IAM Cycling

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ALEXIS GOUGEARD

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JONAS VANGENECHTEN

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TOUR DE L'EUROMÉTROPOLE

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02.10.2015 @ 17:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jonas Van Genechten (IAM) finally brought a string of near-misses to an end when he came out on top in the bunch sprint on stage 2 of the Tour de l’Eurometropole. After a hectic finale that saw Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) getting dropped, regaining contact and being taken out of contention by chain problems, he beat Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) and Louis Verhelst (Cofidis) in the final dash to the line while Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) overcame a difficult situation on the final climbs to defend his lead.

 

With several wins, including a WorldTour victory in the Tour de Pologne, Jonas Van Genechten had a breakthrough year in 2014. However, his opportunities were limited as he was part of a Lotto Belisol team that was loaded with sprinters.

 

Hence, he decided to leave for IAM in an attempt to get more personal opportunities but things have not been easy for the Belgian in the Swiss team. He had a poor spring season until he finally broke the drought in a stage of the Tour de Wallonie.

 

That set him up for a great final part of the season but the next win seemed to never come. In the recent GP d’Ísbergues, he claimed to have had excellent legs but he always missed out due to poor positioning.

 

He was determined to make up for that in this week’s Tour de l’Eurometropole and after missing out in yesterday’s first sprint where he could only manage 8th, he finally made it in today’s second stage. With formidable support from the likes of Heinrich Haussler and Sondre Holst Enger he came out on top in the bunch sprint after a hard day in the saddle.

 

The stage finished with 3 laps of a tough finishing circuit that included the three short climbs of the Zandberg, Rodeberg and Zwarteberg in quick succession. However, the final 14km were flat so the strong sprinters were expected to shine.

 

Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Ivar Slik (Team Roompot), Adrien Petit (Cofidis Solutions Crédits), Dieter Bouvry (Roubaix -Lille Métropole) and Gregory Habeaux (Wallonie-Bruxelles) had been in front all day and still led as they started the final 26.2km lap. Ag2r were in control and were now getting support from IAM and Lotto Soudal. However, the gap was still 2.27.

 

Lotto Soudal took the initiative as they entered the final 20km but the gap was still 2.20 with 18km to go. However, as they hit the hills, a long day in the saddle took its toll on the leaders who were just 1.30 ahead as they went up the Zandberg.

 

Surprisingly, Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) and race leader Alexis Gougeard were suffering at the back as they tackled the hills. However, the faster pace had a big effect as the gap was only 1.14 with 12km to go when the final climb had been passed.

 

At this point, Slik was dropped from the front group and it was quintet that entered the final 10km with a one-minute advantage. While they fought hard to stay away, Debusschere and Gougeard were desperately trying to rejoin the bunch.

 

Bouvry was the next to get dropped from the break but his four former companions were still riding strongly, holding a 28-second advantage with 7km to go. Roompot were leading the chase while Debusschere and his teammates managed to get back with 6km to go when the gap was 21 seconds.

 

With 5km to go, the gap was only 30 metres and with 3km to go, the break was caught. Lotto Soudal started to prepare the sprint for Debusschere but he had chain problems with 2km to go, leaving the Belgian team with Jurgen Roelandts as their sprint option.

 

In the end, it came down to a big battle between IAM and Lotto Soudal and it was the Swiss team that managed to deliver Van Genechten to the win, with Roelandts and Louis Verhelst (Cofidis) completing the podium.

 

Gougeard managed to rejoin the peloton and so defended his 3-second lead over Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo). He should get an easier day tomorrow as stage 3 is almost completely flat and only includes two smaller climbs in the early part. However, the wind could play a role as most of the stage takes place near the coast.

 

A difficult finishing circuit

After yesterday’s sprint stage, it was time for the hardest road stage of the Tour de l’Eurometropole on the third day when the riders tackled a 192.2km course that brought them from Roubaix to Poperinge. Most of the course was flat and only included one early climb but things got difficult in the final when the riders hit the 26.3km finishing circuit that included the Zandberg, Rodeberg and Zwartberg climbs. First they did almost a full lap with all three climbs and then they did three laps for a total number of 12 climbs in the finale. The final ascent was located 14km from the flat finish.

 

It was another sunny day when the riders gathered for the start in from of the mythical velodrome in Roubaix. All riders that finished yesterday’s stage were present.

 

Six riders get clear

The hilly finale invited to attacks and this meant that it was a fast and aggressive start. After 20km of attacking, six riders finally got clear when Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Ivar Slik (Team Roompot), Adrien Petit (Cofidis Solutions Crédits), Dieter Bouvry (Roubaix -Lille Métropole) and Gregory Habeaux (Wallonie-Bruxelles) escaped. The peloton was content with the situation and the gap had already gone out to 2.10 after 24km of racing.

 

Wallays beat Laborie, Slik and Habeaux in the first KOM sprint where the gap was already more tha four minutes. The Belgian was also fastest in the first intermediate sprint where he beat Habeaux and Bouvry.

 

More points for Habeaux

At the 40km mark, the gap was 4.40 and the gap hovered between the 4- and 5-minute marks for a while. At the 54km mark, it was 4.15 and at the 75km mark, it was 4.05.

 

Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) abandoned the race as they hit the finishing circuit and started to climb the Zandberg for the first time. At the top of the ascent, Habeaux beat Bouvry, Wallays and Slik in the KOM sprint while the peloton followed at 3.50.

 

Habeaux dominates KOM sprints

Habeaux also won the sprint on the Rodeberg, beating Slik, Wallays and Bouvry, and he made it three in a row on the Zwarteberg where he was followed by Slik, Wallays and Bouvry. Meanwhile, the peloton had accelerated and brought the gap down to just 2.35.

 

Ag2r led the peloton across the line for the first time where they had allowed the gap to go out to 3.57 again. Moments later, the hit the climbs again and it was Habeaux who beat Wallays, Slik and Petit in the KOM sprint on the Zandberg. The peloton now trailed by 3.30.

 

Ciolek abandons

Habeaux led Wallays, Petit and Boubry over the top of the Rodeberg and Wallays, Slik and Petit over the top of the Zwarteberg before they headed back to the finish. At one point, the gap was down to 1.35 but when Ag2r led the peloton across the line, they were 3.38 behind the leaders.

 

Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) became the next rider to abandon before Lotto Soudal took over the pace-setting in the peloton. In front, Habeaux beat Wallays, Laborie and Slik on the Zandberg and Wallays, Bouvry and Laborie on the Rodeberg. At this point, the gap was till 3.21.

 

Wallays was doing a lot of work in the break but it was still Habeaux who won the KOM sprint on the Zwarteberg, beating the Topsport rider, Laborie and Petit. Moments later, they started the final lap where most of the action happened before Van Genechten took the win.

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