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Having bridged across to the early break, Küng dropped his companions with less than 20km to go and time trialled away from a strong chase group of favourites to win the Volta Limburg Classic

Photo: ©Tim De Waele/TDW Sport






04.04.2015 @ 18:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two days after his excellent time trial at the Driedaagse van de Panne, Stefan Küng (BMC) again underlined that he is destined for a great future when he took his first pro win at the Volta Limburg Classic. The strong time triallist first bridged across to the early break before he escaped alone with less than 20km to go and he managed to hold off an excellent chase group to take the victory, with Maciej Paterski (CCC) and Dylan Teuns (BMC) completing the podium.


Last year Stefan Küng marked himself out as one to watch when he achieved several notable results at the U23 level. He won the European Championships, finished on the podium at the U23 world time trial championships and delivered an excellent performance in the battle with Fabian Cancellara at the Swiss TT championships.


The performances made it possible for him to turn pro with the BMC Racing Team but due to track commitments he has had a slow start to his career. After winning the individual pursuit world championships, he has been able to commit fully to the road and he has been able to confirm his potential right from the beginning.


This week he finished an excellent fourth in the Driedaagse van de Panne after he had taken an impressive second place behind world champion Bradley Wiggins in the final time trial. That set him up for a good performance in today’s Volta Limburg Classic where BMC lined up a young team that gave Küng room to take his own chances.


The hilly course in Limburg suited the young Swiss who was further helped by the fact that the riders only had to do a single flat lap in the finishing city of Eijsden at the end of the race. This made the race more selective than it had been in the past as the final of the 33 climbs was now closer to the finish.


Küng bided his time while his teammates Danilo Wyss and Manuel Senni were part of an early breakaway that was gradually whittled down. He made his move with less than 50km to go when he joined a small chase group that bridged the gap and from then he was unstoppable.


The relentless Swiss launched a few attacks before he finally got clear with Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Dimitri Claeys (Verandas Williems). Just before he hit the final climb with 17km to go, he launched another attack and this time no one was able to follow him.


Behind, the battle between the pre-race favourites was on and a very strong 9-rider chase group with Wilco Kelderman, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani), Rasmus Guldhammer (Cult), Søren Kragh Andersen (Trefor-Blue Water), Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Maciej Paterski and his BMC teammates Amael Moinard and Dylan Teuns was formed. They crested the summit of the final climb with a deficit of 15 seconds but there was no way they were going to catch the in-form Küng.


The Swiss had gone into time trial mode and as Kruijswijk didn’t get any help in the chase, the gap had grown to 30 seconds by the time he started the flat 6km lap in Eijsden. Kruijswijk was unable to get any closer in the final part of the race and so Küng had plenty of time to celebrate his win before Paterski beat Teuns in the sprint for second.


The Volta Limburg Classic is the traditional warm-up race for the Amstel Gold Race which is held in the same area in two weeks. With today’s performance, Küng may have earned himself a spot on the roster that is expected to be led by defending champion Philippe Gilbert.


A hilly course

The 42nd Volta Limburg Classic was held on a 198km courset hat started and finished in Eijsden in the hilly Limburg province. The route was littered with the many small climbs that characterize this part of the mainly flat country, with a total of 33 small ascent spread throughout the course. The final climb, the Kalleberg, summited just 16.1km from the finish and from there it was a fast descent and a short flat stretch back to Eijsden. In the end, the riders did one lap of a flat 6km finishing circuit in the city.


The riders took the start under a beautiful sunny sky but a strong northerly wind was expected to maybe cause some troubles while the riders tackled the hilly terrain in Limburg. The many climbs made it a perfect race to go on the attack and so it was no surprise that the race got off to a brutally fast start.


A big front group

In the opening part of the race, 28 riders managed to get clear and the first 30 minutes of the race developed into a huge battle between the front group and the peloton. The gap reached 35 seconds before one half of the front group – including the talented Dylan Teuns (BMC) – dropped back to the main group. Moments later, it all came back together.


This opened the door for new attacks but for a long time, it was impossible for anyone to get clear. Finally, Ike Groen (De Rijke) snapped the elastic and when he reached the Gulperberg at the 64.8km mark, he had distanced a 7-rider chase group by 25 seconds while the peloton was 20 seconds further adrift.


A break is formed

Groen was swallowed up by his chasers and so an 8-rider front group was formed, with Bram Nolten (Park Hotel), Manuel Senni (BMC), Sam Oomen (Rabobank), Reiner Honig (Roompot), Lindeman, Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC) and Michael Vingerling (3M) joining the Dutchman. While Nolten got distanced, the gap started to grow and after two hours of racing, they were 2.10 ahead. At this point, Nolten was still ahead of the peloton while 2 chasers, including Robbert De Greef (De Rijke) had attacked from the peloton.


Those chasers were brought back while the peloton continued to lose ground. This opened the door for more attacks and it was another 7-rider group with Danilo Wyss (BMC), Eugert Zhupa (Southeast), Enrico Barbin (Bardiani), Twan Brusselman (Jo Piels), Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen), Dimitri Peyskens (3M) and Stef van Zummeren (Verandas Willems) that got clear. With 90km to go, they were 1.20 behind the leaders while the peloton was 1.20 further adrift.


Parkhotel lead the chase

The Parkhotel team had missed the move and so they started to chase, keeping the gap stable at around 2.50. They neutralized a small attack from Twan Castelijns (Babydump) and a 3M rider but didn’t get any closer to the leaders.


With 78km to go, Rutkiewicz had bad luck to puncture out of the lead group and he fell back to the chasers. Meanwhile, Wanty had now started to chase in the peloton and the Wallonie team also took a few turns on the front.


De Greef hits the front

Francis De Greef (Wanty) was doing a massive amount of work in the peloton and the gap was now coming down quickly. The same was true for the distance between the chasers and the front group and with 64km to go, Rutkiewicz was the first rider to bridge the gap, followed by the rest of the group except Brusselman who fell back to the peloton.


At this point, an impressive De Greef had brought the gap down to just 1.10 but as Roompot launched two successive attacks from the peloton, the Belgian blew up. This caused the group to slow down as BMC hit the front, patrolling the bunch for their teammates Wyss and Senni who were in the break.


Küng takes off

The gap was down to 40 seconds and Parkhotel again tried to up the pace. However, they soon disappeared from the front and the gap again started to grow.


Zhupa was the next rider to puncture out of the lead group while Küng, Jetse Bol (De Rijke), Huub Duijn (Roompot) and Clays used the slower pace in the peloton to escape. They passed Zhupa and picked up Barbin who was the next rider to puncture out of the lead group.


Küng makes the junction

Vingerling was the first rider to get dropped from the leaders and he also fell back to the Küng group. In the front, Senni had been doing a massive amount of work for Wyss but when Rutkiewicz and Oomen attacked on the Gulperberg climb with 49km to go, he and Honig were distanced.


While the latter decided to sit up, the former managed to rejoin the leaders. Vingerling had now been distanced by the chase group which made the junction with 40km to go.


CCC take control

Van Zummeren was the third rider to puncture out of the breakaway while the peloton had again upped the pace. CCC had taken complete control and with Branisaly Samoilau and Mateusz Taciak riding on the front, they kept the gap stable at around a minute for a long time.


On the Hoofstraat climb, Senni, Barbin, Groen, Jacobs and Rutkiewicz were distanced and while Jacobs managed to rejoin the leaders, the latter dropped back to assist his teammates in the chase. At this point, Küng made his first small attack but he was quickly brought back.


Rebellin and Paterski attack

CCC were now giving it their all and when they hit the Kutersteenweg climb with 25km to go, team captains Paterski, Davide Rebellin and Grega Bole only had Samoilau left. When the Belarusian swung off, Paterski and Rebellin made a big attack and while Kelderman led the chase, they got clear.


Küng was now splitting the front group and he escaped on his own before being joined by Claeys and Lindeman. Oomen was their nearest chasers while Wyss and Duijn tried to make the junction further back.


More attacks from the favourites

Rebellin and Paterski had been caught by a bigger group with most of the favourites while Küng briefly distanced his companions before the front trio came back together. On the next climb, Kelderman and Cunego made separate attacks but none of them could make a difference.


The front trio were now the only surviving escapees 20 seconds ahead of the peloton from which Maurits Lammertink (Roompot) launched an attack. He was brought back before Paterski made another move.


Küng gets clear

With 15km to go, the front trio were nearly caught but Küng refused to give up. He made another move and this time Lindeman and Claeys were distanced.


In the peloton which was down to around 20 riders, Lammertink attacked again and this time he was only followed by Teuns. Cunego, Bole and Søren Kragh Andersen (Trefor) joined him and later Francesco Gavazzi (Southeast), Kelderman, Paterski, Kruijswijk, Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani), Moinard, Guldhammer also made it across.


A chase group is formed

Küng was now the lone survivor from the early escape and he had extended his gap to 25 seconds. Paterski attacked again and was first joined by Kelderman, Cunego and Moinard and later also by Battaglin and Guldhammer. Finally, Kragh Andersen, Kruijswijk and Teuns also made it across. Bole, Gavazzi, Lammertink, Mike Terpstra (Roompot) and Jasper Ockeloen (Valkenburg) formed the next group but they were soon picked up by the peloton.


Kruijswijk went straight to work but with 10km to go, the chasers were still 30 seconds behind Küng. Despite the hard work by the Dutchman, they never got any closer to the Swiss who held on to take the win while Paterski’s sprint win was only good enough for second place.



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