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After a late attack from Gilbert had been neutralized, Van Genechten powered clear to win the fourth stage of the Tour de Wallonie in a bunch sprint, beating Mørkøv and van Poppel; Terpstra finished safely and retained the lead

Photo: IAM Cycling

DANNY VAN POPPEL

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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IAM CYCLING

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JONAS VANGENECHTEN

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MICHAEL MØRKØV

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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TOUR DE WALLONIE 

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28.07.2015 @ 17:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jonas Van Genechten finally took his first win since joining IAM at the start of the season when he powered clear to come out on top in the bunch sprint on stage 4 of the Tour de Wallonie. After a late attack from Philippe Gilbert (BMC) had been neutralized, he held off Michael Mørkøv (Tinkoff-Saxo) and stage 2 winner Danny van Poppel (Trek) in the final dash to the line while Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) finished safely to defend his overall lead.

 

The 2014 season was a breakthrough for Jonas Van Genechten who took several victories. Most notably he beat some of the biggest sprinters in the world to claim his first WorldTour win at the Tour de Pologne and that marked him out as a future top sprinter.

 

However, the Lotto team is loaded with fast guys so there was little room for Van Genechten to take his own opportunities. Hence, he decided to jump the ship as he was given the chance to be one of the main sprinters at the IAM team.

 

However, the first time at the Swiss team has been hard for Van Genechten who has been unable to open his account despite being given several chances in races that suited him well. Most recently, he came up short when he had to settle for 8th in the bunch sprint on stage 2 of the Tour de Wallonie.

 

Yesterday IAM sports director Thierry Marichal clearly indicated that he had expected more from his team in a race that only has a few WorldTour teams at the start. He expected the win to come in the final two stages and he didn’t have to wait long as Van Genechten finally broke his drought in stage 4, signaling another great late summer season for the Belgian.

 

As expected, the easiest stage of the race came down to the expected sprint finish after a four-rider break had been kept firmly under control throughout the entire stage. Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) was the last rider to be brought back with 12km to go and a counterattack from Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo), Arthur Vichot (FDJ) and Kevin Ista (Wallonie) didn’t work either.

 

Things got more dangerous when yesterday’s winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) attacked with 5km to go and he stayed clear until just 2km remained. It was the Tinkoff-Saxo team that brought the Belgian back but their sprinter Michael Mørkøv was unable to finish it off in the ensuing bunch sprint. Instead, it was Van Genechten who came out on top by holding off Mørkøv and Danny van Poppel.

 

Race leader Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) finished safely in the bunch and so retained his 14-second lead over Victor Campenaerts (Topsport Vlaanderen). He now just needs to survive the final stage but that won’t be easy for the big Dutchman. Stage 5 is the queen stage as a very flat first part is followed by four late passages of the tough Mur de Thuin (800m, 7.9%) inside the final 50km. The final passage comes just 800m from the line and that gives no time for a regrouping in a finale that is tailor-made for another Gilbert victory.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s stage for puncheurs, it was back into flatter terrain for stage 4 which brought the riders over 164.6km from Waterloo to Quaregnon. It was expected to be the easiest stage of the race as there was not a single climb in the first part of the race. In the end, the riders did two laps of a 16.7km circuit that included two very short climbs but as there were 8.2km to the finish from the top of the final ascent, a sprint was the expected outcome.

 

The riders were pleased not to have rainy conditions when they gathered for the start. However, there was a relatively strong wind and that made them cautious and nervous about what to expect on the Wallonian plains.

 

The break is formed

Like in the first stages, the race got off to a fast start with lots of attacks but no one seemed to be given the green light to escape. Finally, Jerome Cousin (Europcar) and Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie) managed to get clear after 11km of fast racing and after a short chase, Simone Antonini (Wanty) and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) joined the pair.

 

The peloton decided to slow down and so the gap had gone out to 42 seconds when Marcus Burghardt (BMC) tried to bridge the gap. That caused a big acceleration in the peloton which brought the German back and reduced the gap to just 12 seconds.

 

Delfosse wins the sprint

With Burghardt back in the fold, the peloton slowed down again and so the gap had gone out to 2.20 after 19km of racing. 7km later, it was 3.20 as the peloton was still not in chase mode.

 

While Boris Dron (Wanty) left the race, Delfosse beat Antonini and Cousin in the first intermediate sprint. At this point, the gap had gone out to 3.55.

 

Delfosse punctures

Etixx-QuickStep and Topsport Vlaanderen took control in the peloton and started to slowly bring the break back. With 128km to go, it was 3.40 and as Etixx-QuickStep suddenly accelerated hard when the rain started to fall, the gap had been reduced to just 2.40 13km later.

 

Delfosse beat Antonini and van der Sande in the second intermediate sprint at a point when the gap was 2.32. As the peloton took a natural break, the escapees were able to extend their advantage to 3.15 and so there was no panic for Delfosse when he had to chase back to the front group after a puncture.

 

More points for Delfosse

That allowed the Belgian to win the final intermediate sprint where he held off Antonini and van der Sande and so took over the lead in the sprints competition.  Meanwhile, the gap was kept stable and it was still 3.05 when the riders entered the final 45km.

 

With 37km to go, the gap was 2.50 and at the start of the first lap of the finishing circuit, it was only 2.20. Moments later, Delfosse beat van der Sande and Cousin in the first KOM sprint. At this point, the gap had been reduced to just 1.35.

 

Delfosse makes it a clean sheet in the sprints

Delfosse also took maximum points on the second climb where he beat van der Sande and Cousin in the sprint. Meanwhile, his teammate, KOM leader Ludwig De Winter, was dropped from the peloton.

 

Entering the final 20km, the gap was only 1.05 and when the escapees started the final lap, they were only 40 seconds ahead. With 15km to go, it had been reduced to 26 seconds and all was set for a sprint finish.

 

Van der Sande takes off

That was the signal for van der Sande to make an attack and while he soloed clear, Katusha took control in the peloton. As he hit the first climb, he was 19 seconds ahead of his former companions and 26 seconds ahead of the peloton.

 

With 12km to go, the three chasers were caught before van der Sande was the first to crest the summit. Christopher Juul Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) led the peloton across the line.

 

Gilbert goes on the attack

Van der Sande decided to wait for the peloton and with 11km to go, it was back together. However, that didn’t made it any easier for the sprint teams as Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Kevin Ista (Wallonie) made an immediate counterattack.

 

Breschel led Vichot and Ista over the summit of the final climb where the trio had an advantage of 6 seconds over the peloton. However, Etixx-QuickStep and BMC had now gone into full chase mode and with 8km to go, it was back together.

 

Fabrice Jeandesboz (Europcar) was the next to try an attack but he was passed by an aggressive Gilbert with 5km to go. The Belgian stayed clear until 2k remained when Tinkoff-Saxo brought it back together. However, it was all in vain as Van Genechten came out on top.

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