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Greipel beats Kittel in the highly anticipated clash of the German titans on the final day of the Ster ZLM Toer while Gilbert avoids the late crashes and wins the race overall

Photo: Sirotti

ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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GIANNI MEERSMAN

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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ROBERT WAGNER

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STER ZLM TOUR

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TIM WELLENS

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TYLER FARRAR

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22.06.2014 @ 15:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) got a very important confidence boost for the Tour de France when he won today’s final stage of the Ster ZLM Toer in a bunch sprint, beating his key rival Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano). For the third time in the race, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) was second while Philippe Gilbert (BMC) avoided the many crashes and secured the overall victory.

 

Going into the Ster ZLM Toer, André Greipel had won a stage in the last three stage races he had done and he hoped to continue his streak in the Dutch race which potentially offered three bunch sprints. With just one stage to go, however, the German still hadn’t taken that elusive victory and with the Tour de France looming on the horizon, the pressure was on him to deliver in the final stage.

 

Today his efforts paid off as Greipel emerged as the fastest in the bunch sprint that ended the race on a very beautiful day in the Netherlands. In a crash-marred finale that caused the peloton to split to pieces, only 15 riders were left to contest the bunch sprint but the Lotto Belisol train was always there.

 

After Omega Pharma-Quick Step had taken the initial control, Greipel’s boys hit the front and they delivered their fast sprinter perfectly. The German crossed the line in first position while Tyler Farrar had to settle for second for the third time in the race.

 

The final stage was held on an almost completely flat 173.7km course from Gerwen to Boxtel that consisted of a first section between the start and finish and then one lap of a 30.9km circuit and two laps of a 19.1km finishing circuit. With several top sprinters on the start line, the stage was expected to be decided in a bunch sprint.

 

The only aspect that could potentially change the expected outcome was the wind. However, the riders took the start under beautiful sunny conditions and so no one really believed that a sprint could be prevented. Hence, the early break took off straight from the gun when Brian van Goethem (Metec) and Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) attacked.

 

The pair quickly built an advantage of more than 4 minutes while BMC assumed their position on the front of the peloton to control the situation for race leader Philippe Gilbert. A crash brought down Corne van Kessel (Sunweb), Bert De Backer (Giant-Shimano) and Jos van Emden (Belkin) and unfortunately the former two had to abandon the race.

 

Giant-Shimano and Lotto Belisol took over the pace-setting and for most of the stage they kept the gap stable between the 4- and 5-minute marks. Meanwhile, van Goethem beat Keisse in both intermediate sprints while Nicola Testi (Androni) and Gianni Meersman (OPQS) took the final points on offer on those two occasions.

 

Having crossed the finish line for the first time, the peloton significantly increased its speed and when the escapees started their first lap of the finishing circuit, they were 1.45 ahead. As they started the final lap, they still had one minute in hand but now Garmin had taken over and just after the 10km to go banner, the duo were caught.

 

Androni now took control in a quest to set up Kenny Van Hummel for the sprint but inside the final 5km they were passed by Omega Pharma-Quick Step. The Belgian led the group under the 2km to go banner but then a big crash brought down several riders and split the peloton to pieces.

 

15 riders were left to contest the sprint – including race leader Gilbert – and now Lotto Belisol hit the front. They delivered Greipel perfectly to another victory in the Dutch race while Farrar had to settle for second.

 

Gilbert finished safely within the bunch and so won the race overall ahead of Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Farrar’s consistency was rewarded with the win in the points classification while Dries Hollanders (Metec) won the mountains jersey and Timo Roosen (Rabobank) the sprint jersey. Garmin-Sharp won the teams classification.

 

With the largest Dutch stage race now done and dusted, many of the Tour de France stars will now only race their national championships before they start the biggest race in the world. Meanwhile, racing in the Netherlands will take a long break, with the next major event being the Eneco Tour which is held in August.

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