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After his Trek team had worked hard to set up a bunch sprint, birthday boy van Poppel beat Breschel and Burghardt in the final dash to the line to win stage two of the Tour de Wallonie; Terpstra retained the lead

Photo: Trek Factory Racing












26.07.2015 @ 17:21 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Danny van Poppel (Trek) made up for yesterday’s disappointment and gave himself the perfect birthday present when he won the second stage of the Tour de Wallonie in a bunch sprint. After his team had worked to control an aggressive finale, he beat Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Marcus Burghardt (BMC) in the final dash to the line while Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) retained the lead.


Yesterday Trek sports director Dirk Demol found it hard to hide his disappointment after his team had missed the decisive move in the first stage of the Tour de Wallonie and saw their GC ambitions being ruined already on the opening day. Instead, he set his sights on stage wins with Danny van Poppel in the sprints and Fabio Felline in the harder finales.


The team couldn’t have asked for a better turnaround as van Poppel delivered on the first possible occasion by winning stage two in a bunch sprint. To make things even better, it all happened on his birthday.


However, it was no easy thing to bring things together for the sprint finish. A strong Christopher Juul Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) who had been part of a break that escaped after a regrouping at the midpoint, proved to be hard to catch.


Trek chased hard to set up van Poppel but things weren’t made any easier by a small climb just 5km from the finish. Here the big guns like Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty) tested their legs and made the peloton split.


Nonetheless, the peloton managed to control the situation to bring Juul Jensen back with less than 3km to go. A late move by Antoine Duchesne (Europcar) and Dries Devenyns (IAM) threatened to destroy the party but just after the passage of the flamme rouge, it was all back together. Van Poppel showed his good form by coming out on top, holding off Matti Breschel and Marcus Burghardt.


Niki Terpstra finished safely in the peloton and so defended his 10-second lead over Victor Campenaerts (Topsport Vlaanderen). He faces a much harder test in stage 3 which includes six climbs in the first galf before the riders get to a flatter part. In the finale, the riders will tackle four tough climbs before they get to the bottom of the famous climb to the citadel in Namur where the puncheurs are expected to decide the stage.


A hilly course

The second stage of the Tour de Wallonie was held over 171.4km that brought the riders from Beaufays to Bassenge. The first half was very hilly with five tough climbs before things got flatter in the finale. There were another three climbs to tackle before the riders started their lap of the 32.5km finishing circuit that included the short Cote d’Hallembaye just 5.4km from the finish.


Unlike yesterday, the riders had relatively pleasant weather condition when they gathered for the start in Beaufays. One rider was absent as Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) suffered a concussion in a crash yesterday.


The break is formed

As soon as the flag was dropped to signal the official start, Olivier Chevalier (Wallonie-Bruxelless) attacked and he was quickly joined by Boris Dron (Wanty). Those two riders fought hard to stay clear but aft 7km of racing, they were brought back.


The peloton briefly split on the first climb where Antoine Warnier (Wallonie) won the KOM sprint by beating Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie). The attacking continued and it was a five-rider group that was formed with Julien Berard (Ag2r), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Fabrice Jeandesboz (Europcar) and Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie).


Etixx-QuickStep in control

Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty) took off in pursuit and after being joined by Michael Mørkøv (Tinkoff-Saxo), he bridged the gap. They had an advantage of 1.13 when Delfosse won the second KOM sprint ahead of Berard, Jeandesboz, Burghardt and Mørkøv.


Etixx-QuickStep took control of the peloton and kept the gap at around a minute while Mørkøv beat Delfosse and van der Sande in the first intermediate sprint. However, they finally slowed down a bit and when Delfosse beat Burghardt and Jeandesboz in the third KOM sprint, the gap was 1.41. At the bottom of the fourth climb, the gap was only 1.24 and here it was again Delfosse who took maximum points ahead of Jeandesboz and Mørkøv.


Gilbert on the attack

Moments later, they hit the famous Cote de la Vecquee and here the action heated when 10 riders attacked. Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep), Alessandro De Marchi, Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Jelle Vanendert, Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha), Matti Breschel, Christopher Juul Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Oliver Naesen, Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen), Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty) and Serge Dewortelaer (Veranclassic) joined the front group and it was Burghardt who led Delfosse, Gilbert and Vanendert over the top.


The peloton was unwilling to let such a dangerous group go and so it all came back together in the feed zone. Moments later, the next group was formed when Axel Domont (Ag2r), Jempy Drucker (BMC), Juul Jensen, Naesen and Gregory Habeaux (Wallonie) took off.


A small gap

At the bottom of the sixth climb, the escape had built an advantage of 1.20 before Habeaux led Juul Jensen and Domont over the top. However, the peloton was unwilling to give them too much leeway and their advantage only reached a maximum of 1.45.


Habeaux beat Drucker and Juul Jensen in the seventh KOM sprint with 54km to go at a point where the gap was 1.22. The Belgian was again first over the top of the penultimate climb, followed by Drucker and Naesen.


The break splits up

Drucker won the final intermediate sprint at the first passage of the finish line by holding off Naesen and Juul Jensen. At this point, the gap was 1.24.


The breakaway accelerated and this was too much from Domont who was dropped. Later Habeaux was also distanced, leaving just three riders to press on.


Juul Jensen takes off

While Nikolas Maes (Etixx-QuickStep) had to fight his way back from a puncture, Trek took control of the peloton with Yaroslav Popovych who had brought the gap down to 58 seconds with 18km to go.


Sensing that the break was about to get caught, Juul Jensen attacked while Naesen dropped Drucker. The Dane fought hard to stay clear but it was difficult as BMC had taken control in the peloton. Nonetheless, he still had an advantage of 8 seconds over Naesen and 40 seconds over the peloton when he hit the final climb.


Van Poppel wins the sprint

Surprisingly, Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) was dropped as the favourites accelerated. They brought Naesen back and it was Gilbert and Leukemans who were first over the top behind Juul Jensen.


The Dane stayed clear until 3km remained but finally he had to surrender. Instead, Antoine Duchesne (Europcar) and Dries Devenyns (IAM) took off and they were still ahead at the passage of the flamme rouge. However, they had no luck and in the end it was van Poppel who came out on top in the bunch sprint



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