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Powering up the 440m, 13% climb to the finish, Gilbert held off Lammertink to take his first win of the 2016 season on stage 2 of the Tour de Luxembourg; Lammertink took the leader’s jersey as Drucker crashed in the finale

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport

ALEX KIRSCH

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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ROOMPOT-CHARLES

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TOUR DE LUXEMBOURG

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03.06.2016 @ 18:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) put a frustrating start to the year behind him when he finally managed to win his first race of the year on stage of the Tour de Luxembourg. In a finale tailor-made for his characteristics, he held of Maurits Lammertink (Roompot) in close sprint on the 440m, 13 wall in Schifflange. Race leader Jempy Drucker (BMC) crashed in the finale and so Lammertink took over the race lead by virtue of bonus seconds.

 

The 2016 season has been hugely frustrating for Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian crashed at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and when he fell ill at Paris-Nice, he had to skip Milan-Sanremo.

 

Gilbert still hoped to get back on track for the Ardennes classics but the mission failed. Already struggling to find his best form, he was involved in a training altercation that left him with a broken finger. He was nowhere near his best level at the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallonne and ultimately decided to skip Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro d’Italia.

 

This week Gilbert is making his return at the Tour de Luxembourg but he has mainly drawn headlines for the announcement that he will leave BMC at the end of the year. However, he finally got back in the spotlight for the right sporting reasons when he won today’s hard second stage at the five-day race. In a typical Gilbert finale on a short, steep wall, he beat Maurits Lammertink in an uphill sprint.

 

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the puncheurs were expected to come to the fore on stage 2 which brought the riders over 162.6km from Rosport to the Schifflange. After an early category 1 climb (2.1km, 7.97%) at the 29.3km mark, the riders travelled along mainly flat roads to the finishing city where they passed close by the finish line with 41km to go. Finally they tackled a mainly flat circuit that had a small category 2 climb (1.2km, 6.67%) with 37.7km to go but it is all just a warm-up for the finale. The stagd has a nasty sting in its tail as it ended with a short, steep category 1 climb of 440m and an average gradient of 13.16% that led to the final 300 metres of flat roads.

 

Unlike in the past two stages, it was nice weather when the riders gathered for the start. It didn’t take long for the early break to be established as Etienne van Empel (Roompot), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Thomas Deruette (Wallonie), Aksel Nommela (Leopard), Carmelo Foti (Leopard), Pontus Kastemyr (Differdange) and Martin Mortensen (ONE) escaped almost straight from the gun and they already had an advantage of 3.36 after 12km of racing.

 

There was no great cooperation in the break which briefly split up but the group merged again. However, the peloton had already started to chase and when they hit the first intermediate sprint, the escapees were only 2.16 ahead. Here Perichon beat Foti and Mortensen in the battle for the points.

 

Deruette and van Empel went on the attack on the first climb and it was the former who crested the summit as the lone leader with a 15-second advantage. When he was brought back, van Empel took off I a solo move and he had managed to open a 25-second advantage at the 36km mark.

 

The peloton suddenly accelerated hard and reduced the gap to just 40 seconds at the 43km mark but the gap soon went out to more than one minute again. Meanwhile, Tom Bohli (BMC) had to abandon the race due to illness.

 

The peloton slowed down again and while van Empel was brought back, they allowed the gap to go out to 2.30. However, the attacking soon started again and his time it was Perichon, Mortensen and Kastemyr who escaped. They pushed the gap out to 3 minutes while the rest of the group was caught.

 

With 81km to go, the gap reached a maximum of 3.48 but that didn’t stop Tim Kerkhof (Roompot) from trying to bridge the gap. Impressively, the made the junction and the front quartet could enter the final 72km with an advantage of 2.37.

 

The peloton was not chasing yet and so the gap had again gone out to 3 minutes with 46km to go. BMC were in charge of the pace-setting and slowly started to increase the speed. The gap had dropped to 2.30 when Perichon won the final intermediate sprint and moments later Kastemyr won the second KOM sprint.

 

While light rain started to fall at the finish and Deruette was dropped from the peloton, BMC started to ride full gas and with 22km to go, they had already reduced the gap to just 40 seconds. The gap stabilized at around 20 seconds for a little before Kastemyr and Kerkhof dropped Mortensen and Perichon and pushed the advantage out to 30 seconds. Patrick Olesen (Leopard) tried to bridge the gap but he failed to make the junction.

 

With 12km to go, Kerkhof dropped Kastemyr who was brought back and moments later is was also over for the Dutchman. From there, BMC said a brutal pace as they approached the finish before André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) took over with 4km to go. The German took a massive turn before he waved goodbye to the peloton and left it to the puncheurs to battle it out on the final climb. Here Gilbert turned out to be the fastest as he beat Maurits Lammertink and Alex Kirsch in the uphill sprint.

 

Race leader Jempy Drucker (BMC) crashed in the finale and as Lammertink who had finished second in the prologue, picked up six bonus seconds, the Dutchman moved into the race lead with a 9-second advantage over Gilbert and Kirsch. He faces a tough challenge in tomorrow’s queen stage which has an early category 1 climb and hen ends with two laps of a 9.5km circuit with the famous  Col de l’Europe (1.52km, 7.5%) which will be tackled a total of three times. The top comes with 6.1km to go and the descent is followed by slightly downhill roads that lead to the finish.

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