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Having made it into an elite 11-rider group with no less than 5 BMC riders, Gerts made a late attack to take a solo win at the Volta Limburg Classic; Colbrelli beat Gilbert in the sprint for second

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport








02.04.2016 @ 17:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Floris Gerts confirmed that BMC are loaded with talents from their development team when he rode to his first solo victory at his home race, Volta Limburg Classic, completing an impressive performance by the American team. Having been joined by four teammates in the elite group that escaped on the final climbs, he helped drive the pace before launching a surprise attack with less than 2km to go and holding off his chasers. Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) beat Philippe Gilbert (BMC) in the sprint for second.


Few teams have had as much success with development of young talents as BMC have had. In recent years, several riders have made the jump to the pro level and have immediately made an impact on the pro scene.


Silvan Dillier, Dylan Teuns and Stefan Küng are three of the most prominent riders from the team to have moved to the pro team with great success. This year Loic Vliegen and Floris Gerts have followed suit and both of them have clearly indicated that they have a huge potential.


Vliegen did so last week when he won the mountains jersey at the Driedaagse van de Panne and today it was Gerts’ time to shine. Having already shown his talent as a stagiaire in 2015, he finished off a dominant BMC performance by taking his first pro win on home soil at the Volta Limburg Classic.


The hilly one-day race is known as a mini version of Amstel Gold Race as it takes in many of the same climbs and it was always evident that BMC were going to be the ones to beat. Going into the race with Philippe Gilbert at the helm, the team had lined up most of their most exciting talents who were ready to grab an opportunity to chase some personal success.


Most had expected Vliegen and Teuns to be the riders to potentially grab a victory and those two riders were both part of a promising move in the finale. In the end, BMC really played with the muscles as they put five riders in the small group that decided the race and while everybody had their eyes on Gilbert, Gerts used the lack of attention to launch a race-winning attack inside the final 2km.


BMC had had the upper hand all day and had taken a back seat while Vliegen and Teuns had been in the 6-rider group in the finale. However, that move was neutralized on a small climb with 20km to go where a very strong Crelan rider brought it back together.


BMC went straight on the attack again. Gerts launched the next move and was joined by his teammate Rick Zabel as they crested the summit.


Hitting it the next climb, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) accelerated. He failed to get clear and it was a relatively big group that reached the top just a few seconds behind the leaders. Meanwhile, one of the favourites, Damiano Cunego (Nippo), was now suffering at the back.


Vliegen patrolled the front and was quickly to join the attack from Olivier Pardini (Wallonie). Krister Hagen (Coop) also responded and that trio joined the two BMC riders to make it a quintet with 15km to go.


In the peloton, Crelan chased hard until they hit the final climb where Jos Van Emden (LottoNL), Teuns and a Metec rider attacked. Colbrelli countered the move and crested the summit with Teuns and Huub Duijn (Roompot) for company, less than 10 seconds behind the leaders.


The trio made the junction with 12km and Gilbert also joined the move. Teuns made an immediate counterattack but he was quickly brought back. Meanwhile, Iuri Filosi (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Vliegen dug deep to also make it across, meaning that 11 riders had gathered in front.


BMC had five riders in the front group and were keen to keep the move going. In the peloton, it was a single Crelan rider keeping the gap at 10 seconds with 7km to go.


At the passage of the finish line with 6km to go, the gap was still around 10 seconds and it was BMC doing most of the work. Gilbert was saving energy until he made a surprise attack but Colbrelli quickly shut it down before BMC went back to work.


The chase got more organized as ONE, LottoNL-Jumbo and De Rijke hit the front. However, they were still 15 seconds behind when 3km to go even though Dylan Groenewegen and van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) took some huge turns.


Just after the 2km to go mark, BMC played their first card when Gerts attacked and that turned out to be the right move. With four teammates to control the group, he extended his advantage and had a solid gap at the passage of the flamme rouge.


Inside the final kilometre, Colbrelli did a final desperate attempt to get back. Gilbert struggled to keep up with him and could only watch while the Italian approached his teammate. However, Gerts had enough of an advantage to claim the victory while a frustrated Colbrelli had to settle for a third second place in the race, with Gilbert crossing the line in third.


With the Volta Limburg Classic over, the next big event in the Netherlands is the Amstel Gold Race which will be held in two weeks on many of the same roads.


A mini Amstel Gold Race

The 43rd edition of the Volta Limburg Classic was held on the same 198.6km course around Eijsden that was used for last year’s race. After a 3.9km circuit in the city, the riders tackled the Kampeweg climb and then did two laps of an 86.6km circuit that included no less than 12 climbs. After the final climb of the circuit, there was the final ascent of Moerslag with just 13.9km to go as the riders headed back to Eijsden where they ended the race by doing one lap of a flat 6km circuit. The finishing straight was cobbled, making it a tricky finale to a hilly race.


It was a fantastic spring day in the Netherlands when the riders gathered for the start. As soon as the flaf was dropped, the attacking started and it was a Jo Piels rider who made the first attempt. However, no one had managed to escape as they ended the lap of the short circuit in Eijsden.


Eight rider escape

At the bottom of the Bemelerberg, six riders had managed to escape and when another two made the junction, a front octet had formed. Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC), Marcin Bialoblocki (ONE), Mitchell Cornelisse (Rabobank), Koos Kers (Babydump), Bram Nolten (Parkhotel), Gert-Jan Bosman (Jo Piels), Jasper Hamelink (Metec), Thomas Wertz (Wallonie) quickly pushed their advantage out to 2 minutes.


However, they never got much of an advantage and after it had reached 3minutes, the peloton accelerated hard, reducing it to 1.40. That’s when things slowed down again and the gap slowly went out to four minutes.


BMC in control

Bialoblocki suffered a puncture after 68km of racing but quickly managed to rejoin the leaders. Meanwhile, the gap again started to come down.


As they entered the final 90km, the gap was only 2.50 and it was BMC that had taken control. Manuel Senni and Floris Gerts was setting pace while most of the teams were fighting for position on the narrow roads.


Stölting up the pace

BMC kept the gap relatively stable until they hit the Bergenhuizen climb with 78km to go. Here Alex Kirsch (Stölting) accelerated hard and this made the peloton explode. After the initial attack, the Luxembourger rode on the front and lots of riders fell off the pace, including Steven Lammertink (LottoNL) and Gerald Ciolek (Stölting).


At the top of the climb, Kirsch again slowed down and this allowed riders to get back to the peloton as BMC were keeping things in check on the front. The gap had been reduced to 1.25 and they were pleased with the situation. Hence, they didn’t react when Ike Groen (De Rijke) took off in a solo move.


Roompot take over

Stölting were keen on making the race hard so they went back to work, upping the pace significantly. They quickly brought Groen back and had reduced the gap to 45 seconds when they entered the final 70km.


Stölting stopped their work and after a brief slowdown, Roompot took over the pace-setting. They rode hard on the front while disaster struck for Jasper Ockeloen as the Parkhotel captain suffered a very untimely puncture.


Nolten takes off

Roompot were keen to make the race hard and so had reduced the gap to just 20 seconds when they hit a climb with 64km to go. Here, the break started to split up as Wertz was dropped from the front. Meanwhile, Ockeloen, was sprinting past the many riders that had been dropped.


Senni again hit the front for BMC and now had the breakaway just a few metres up the road. While most of the group gave up, Nolten gave it one final try and crested the summit as the lone leader.


Rebellin makes his move

Nolten was brought back and when Senni briefly slowed down, another rider tried to take off. Senni quickly brought him back and the next attempt didn’t work either.


Senni tried to restore order and set a solid pace that prevented further attacks until Davide Rebellin(CCC) attacked surprisingly early with 56km to go. Senni tried to keep him under control until his captain Philippe Philippe Gilbert took off.


A dangerous group

Only a small group of riders could keep up with him and they quickly caught Rebellin. Loic Vliegen and Gilbert went straight to the front to ride hard while Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) had to dig deep to rejoin the group. Teuns, Maurits Lammertink (Roompot), Ivan Savitskiy (Gazprom), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Damiano Cunego (Nippo), Lilian Calmejane, Fabien Grellier(Direct Energie), Eliot Lietaer (TopsportVlaanderen), Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank) were all part of the group.


With 55km to go, the gap had gone out to 15 seconds and as LottoNL-Jumbo had missed the move, the local team had to chase. As they hit the next climb, they managed to send Martijn Keizer across to the group.


BMC play their next card

Gilbert was taking some massive turns in the front group to keep the peloton at bay and while he was increasing the advantage, Stölting captain Fabian Wegmann suffered a puncture. The group had to work really hard to maintain a 15-second advantage as Crelan were now chasing hard as they had missed the move.


The gap was down to just 10 seconds at thebottom of the next climb with 45km to go. Here BMC played their next card as they sent Vliegen and Teuns off in a big attack. Rebellin joined them and the trio quickly got a big advantage.


A strong sextet

Calmejane bridged the gap and the group quickly started to work together. Meanwhile, Boem and Lammertink attacked from the chase group, with the rest of the attackers being brought back by the peloton.


The front quartet had increased the advantage over the peloton to 40 seconds with 42km to go while the two chasers were gradually getting closer, reducing the gap from15 to 10 seconds. They made the junction on the Varentstraat climb with 37km to go.


The chase gets organized

In the peloton, Nippo-Vini Fantini and LottoNK-Jumbo started to chase hard, with Twan Castelijns taking some huge turns on the front and keeping the gap at around 40 seconds. When the Nippo rider blew up, Keizer also stated to work and ONE also put Kristian House and Bialoblocki on the front. Nonetheless, the gap stayed at 40 seconds.


As they entered the final 30km, the balance started to tip and when the gap had dropped to 25 seconds, De Rijke also started to chase. It was only 20 seconds when LottoNL-Jumbo tried what had worked earlier in the race, seconding Jos van Emden off in an attack. Colbrelli joined the move but Gilbert refused to let them go, shutting it down with a few riders on his wheel.


The break is caught

As the pace went down, Jasper Ockeloen (Parkhotel) took off) and he got a small advantage while a regrouping took place further back. He stayed a few metres ahead for a few kilometres but was swallowed up as they hit the next climb with 22km to go.


Nippo were setting the pace and easily brought a continental rider back before sending Pierpaolo De Negri off in a failed attempt. Crelan started to ride on the front, with the gap constantly hovering around the 15-seconds mark until it was back together with 20km to go where the foundation for the race-winning move was laid.



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