Another bad crash caused by motorbikes prompted the organizers and the riders to cancel the queen stage of the Baloise Belgium Tour. After an aggressive start to the stage, 19 riders hit the deck and when 11 were brought to the hospital by ambulance, the decision was made to ride slowly to the finish, meaning that Dries Devenyns (IAM) retains the lead on the eve of the final stage.
Everything was set for a huge spectacle in the queen stage of the Belgium Tour. The stage was set to tackle 12 climbs in the Ardennes, including the famous Cote de la Redoute, and was expected to create a huge shake-up of the GC.
However, as it has happened too often in recent years, another crash involving motorbikes prompted the organizers and the riders to reach an agreement to end the stage prematurely. No less than 19 riders hit the deck when two motorbikes collided on a descent 65im into the stage and after an initial neutralization, the decision was made to roll slowly to the finish.
No less than 11 riders were taken to hospital, with Stig Broeckx (Lotto Soudal) being worst affected. The Belgian who was also taken out by a motorbike at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, is in coma and has been brought to the hospital in Aachen.
At the time of the crash, a strong breakaway with Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) had a four-minute advantage but IAM had just upped the pace to control the race for leader Dries Devenyns. However, their efforts were all in vain as the stage ended soon after.
At the moment, it is uncertain whether the race will continue but the race organizer has told Belgian media that he expects the race to go on. Hence, Dries Devenyns (IAM) goes into the final stage with a 4-second advantage over teammate Reto Hollenstein. He has a much easier task at hand tomorrow as the final challenge is mainly flat and only includes two early pave sectors. In the end, the riders will do three laps of an 18.8km finishing circuit where the sprinters are expected to battle it out.
The queen stage
After yesterday’s mini Tour of Flanders, the organizers had planned a mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege for the queen stage which brought the riders over 206.9km with a start and finish in Verviers. It was made up of two circuits with a total of 12 climbs. After four early climbs, the riders got to the famous Cote de Maquisard (2.9km, 5%) and Cote de la Redoute (1.65km, 9.7%) which are both known from Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finally the Cote de Banneux (3.8km, 5.2%) and the short Rue de la Paix (700m, 8.6%) and then reached the finish for the first time with 66.3km to go. The final circuit included the same four climbs, with La Redoute coming 37.1km from the finish and the final ascent coming just 5.2km from the line. The final kilometre was also slightly uphill.
It was a sunny day in Belgium when the riders gathered for the start in Verviers and as expected the hilly terrain was an invitation to aggressive riding. Kristoffer Skjerping (Cannondale) was the first to get a small gap but things were together when they hit the first climb.
Martin makes a solo move
The peloton split on the first climb where Ludwig De Winter (Wallonie) was one of the first riders to get dropped. It was Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) who split the field and the German took off in a solo move.
Jack Bauer (Cannondale), Matvey Mamykin (Katusha), Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) and Rob Ruijgh (Crelan) took off in pursuit while the German pushed his advantage over the peloton out to 22 seconds. The quartet joined the lone leader while Jimmy Janssens (3M) became the next rider to try to bridge across.
IAM up the pace
Janssens made the junction and while the peloton slowed down, the gap went out to more than 2 minutes, meaning that Janssens was the virtual leader of the race. The advantage ballooned to more than four minutes as they approached the second climb.
IAM hit the front as they got to the second ascent and made a big acceleration. That’s when the big crash happened and after the stage had first been neutralized, the organizers and the riders agreed to cancel the stage and roll slowly to the finish in Verviers.
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