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With a powerful acceleration on the Mur de Thuin, van Poppel distanced all his rivals and rode to a solo victory on the final stage of the Tour de Wallonie; Terpstra took the overall win

Photo: Trek Factory Racing














29.07.2015 @ 17:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Danny van Poppel (Trek) confirmed that he has made an amazing progress when he took his second stage win on the final stage of the Tour de Wallonie. In a finale made for puncheurs, he accelerated hard the final time up the Mur de Thuin and managed to distance the pre-race favourites by 3 seconds, with Philippe Gilbert (BMC) beating Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the sprint for second. Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) finished sixth and so secured the overall victory.


Danny van Poppel has been known as a sprinter who has never been able to have much impact on the climbs. However, it seems that it is time to change that impression after he took a very impressive win in today’s final stage of the Tour de Wallonie.


With a stage win on stage 2, van Poppel had clearly indicated that he was in great condition and he confirmed that assessment with a surprise seventh place in the uphill sprint in Namur one day later. Yesterday he was left frustrated in the bunch sprint where he felt that he had had the legs to win.


That made him hungry for revenge in today’s final stage of the race but with four passages of the Mur de Thuin in the finale, it seemed that the stage could be a bit too hard for him. Instead, most were looking to Philippe Gilbert to come away with the goods and it was his BMC team who did most of the work to bring back the early break before Etixx-QuickStep took over on the final lap.


With 7km to go, a 5-rider break with early escapees Gregory Habaeaux (Wallonie), Kenny Dehaes (Lotto Soudal), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty) and late attackers Christopher Juul Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) still held a 15-second advantage over the diminished peloton where Stijn Vandenbergh was setting the pace for Etixx-QuickStep. When the big Belgian swung off, Tom Boonen took over and with 5km to go, he had brought the gap down to 10 seconds.


The speed ramped up as the fight for position started while Dehaes took a big final turn for van der Sande before he was dropped. Fabio Sabatini was the next Etixx-QuickStep rider on the front before Nikolas Maes brought the break back with to go.


Boonen and race leader Niki Terpstra hit the front but were passed by Michael Mørkøv and Matti Breschel who seemed to be in pole position as they approached the bottom of the 600m Mur de Thuin as the first riders. However, Boy van Poppel did a great job to pass the two Danes, allowing his brother to slot into fourth.


Boy van Poppel was the first rider to hit the climb before Breschel made a big acceleration. As Boris Vallee (Lotto Soudal) created a gap, the Dane and Danny van Poppel surged clear and left Gilbert in chase mode.


Just as most thought that van Poppel was on his limit, he countered Breschel’s acceleration and immediately got a big gap. While the Dane was caught by a small chase group with the likes of Gilbert and Terpstra, the Dutchman crested the summit as the lone leader.


Van Poppel rode strongly in the final flat 800m to keep his advantage and had plenty of time to celebrate his win. Pieter Serry led the chase for Etixx-QuickStep before Gilbert surged ahead to beat Breschel in the sprint for second 3 seconds later.


Terpstra was in that group too and rolled across the line in sixth to confirm his overall win with a 22-second advantage over Victor Campenaerts (Topsport Vlaanderen). Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) was third while van Poppel moved into fourth.


Van Poppel won the points classification while Ludwig De Winter (Wallonie) was the best climber. Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie) came out on top in the sprints classification while Camepanerts was the best young rider. Finally, Topsport Vlaanderen won the teams classification.


With the Tour de Wallonie done and dusted, there’s a few days of rest before racing resumes in the cycling-mad country when the Eneco Tour kicks off on August 10.


The queen stage

After a day for the sprinters, the puncheurs were expected to be back in action on the final stage which brought the riders over 167.3km from Chimay to Thuin. After a flat start with just one category 3 climb, the riders entered the decisive finishing circuit after 129km of racing before going up the category 1 Mur de Thuin (600m, 7.9%) for the first time. In the end, they did three laps of the 12.2km circuit that included the famous wall which summited just 800m from the line, making it a perfect day for the punchy Ardennes specialists.


Like yesterday, there was no rain when the riders gathered for the start in Chimay but as it has been the case during the entire race, it was relatively windy. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they headed out for their neutral ride.


The break is formed

As it has been the case every day, it was a very fast start with lots of attacks. The first serious attempt was made by Axel Domont (Ag2r), Olivier Chevalier (Wallonie) and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty) who were chased by Tony Hurel (Europcar), Edwig Cammaerts (Veranclassic) and Kevin Ista (Wallonie). However, the race was back together after 3km of racing when it started to rain.


Veuchelen was in a determined mood so he attacked again after 6km of racing. This time he was joined by Kenny Dehaes (Lotto Soudal), Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne) and Gregory Habeaux (Wallonie) and those four riders were given the green light to ride clear.


The gap grows

After 11km of racing, the escapees already had an advantage of 2.40 and 5km later it had gone out to 3.37. The gap continued to grow and at the 27km mark it was 4.20. With no urgency in the peloton, it had reached 5.40 after 45km of racing.


Habeaux beat Dehaes and Veuchelen in the first KOM sprint at a point when the gap was 6.10. That was as much as they would get though and when they entered the final 100km, their advantage had been reduced to 5.55.


Puncture for Jarrier

It was the BMC and FDJ teams that had joined forces with Etixx-QuickStep on the front of the peloton as Martin Velits (Etixx-QuickStep), Peter Velits (BMC) and Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) took care of the early pace-setting. They slowly started to bring the break back and had brought the gap down to 4.20 when they entered the final 75km. When Habeaux beat Dehaes in the first intermediate sprint at the 63km mark, it was only 3.35.


Jarrier had bad luck to suffer a puncture but he managed to rejoin his companions after just a few kilometres of chasing. Meanwhile, Anthony Geslin took over the pace-setting for FDJ and by cooperating with the Velits twins, he brought the gap down to 3 minutes at the entrance of the final 50km.


Maximum points for Veuhelen on the Mur

Martin Velits blew up on a small climb with 45km to go when the gap was only 2.45 but Geslin and Peter Velits continued to slowly bring the gap down. Meanwhile, the fight for position slowly started and Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) had to work his way back to the peloton after a small crash.


The front group hit the Mur for the first time with an advantage of 2.25 and the Veuchelen’s fast pace was enough to briefly send Habeaux out the back door. The Wanty rider took maximum points on the climb, leading Jarrier, Dehaes and Habeaux over the top.


Tinkoff-Saxo come to the fore

Meanwhile, Peter Velits had swung off and it was Geslin who took one final turn before he left the work to Rick Zabel and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC). Pavel Brutt also came to the fore for Tinkoff-Saxo and his pace on a small climb ended the day for Zabel.


Habeaux led Veuchelen and Jarrier across the line in the second sprint at a time when the gap was only 1.30. When they hit the climb for the second time, it had been brought down to a minute.


De Marchi does some damage

Dehaes set a fast pace to split the group before he led Veuchelen over the line. Jarrier and Habeaux were slightly distanced but managed to rejoin the group before they crossed the line.


In the peloton, De Marchi tried to make things hard but was passed by a very strong Fabio Sabatini (Etixx-QuickStep) who made the peloton split on the slopes before he again left it to De Marchi to set the pace. Jean-Pierre Drucker quickly came to the fore to lend him a hand.


Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front

With 20km to go, De Marchi and Drucker had brought the gap down to just 35 seconds. Moments later, Brutt had recovered enough to take another few turns on the front as they approached the Mur for the penultimate time.


Zabel managed to get back on the front to help in the hard fight for position while Sabatini led an Etixx-QuickStep train next to the BMC riders. However, it was Tinkoff-Saxo who won the battle as Michael Mørkøv, Christopher Juul and Matti Breschel hit the front.


The break splits up

Sabatini again took over as they sped down the descent to the bottom of the Mur. However, he was passed by Marcux Burghardt who set a fast pace as soon as the road pointed upwards. Meanwhile, Jarrier was dropped from the break and fell back to the peloton.


Veuchelen led Dehaes and Habeaux over the top while Tom Boonen and Sabatini were first from the peloton 10 seconds later. Stijn Vandenbergh took over for Etixx-QuickStep and as he slowed down, Edwig Cammaerts (Veranclassic) tried a move. However, Burghardt quickly brought him back.


Juul Jensen and van der Sande on the attack

Vandenbergh got back to work and as he slowed down, the gap went out to 15 seconds where it stayed for a while until they hit a small climb. Here Juul Jensen and van der Sande went on the attack and they quickly caught Dehaes who had been dropped from the break.


Dehaes dug deep for his teammate and those three riders joined the front group with 7km to go. At this point they still had a 15-second advantage but it was all in vain as van Poppel came away with the win.



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