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The former world champion proves that he is ready to challenge for the overall in the biggest Dutch stage race by beating Van Baarle and Timmer in the 7.2km prologue in Bladel

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERT TIMMER

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DYLAN VAN BAARLE

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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STER ZLM TOUR

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NEWS
18.06.2014 @ 17:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has kicked off the Ster ZLM Toer in the best possible way by winning today’s 7.2km prologue in the Dutch city of Bladel. On a dramatic day that saw the stage being put on hold twice, he beat youngster Dylan van Baarle (Garmin) and Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano) into the minor positions to take the first leader’s jersey in the race.

 

Going into the Ster ZLM Toer, many had tipped Philippe Gilbert as the favourite to win the biggest Dutch stage race. With three sprint stages, a prologue and a hilly stage in the Ardennes, the event is tailor-made for the explosive Belgian who uses it as his final preparation for the Belgian champioships.

 

Today he proved that he up for the challenge of winning the race overall when he won the short 7.2km prologue that kicked off the Dutch race. Blasting around the course in a time of 8.37, he beat Dylan van Baarle and Albert Timmer who was the leader of the race for a long time.

 

Gilbert was a pretty early starter and faced a long wait in the hot seat. The final wave of riders was stacked with prologue specialists who were all obvious challengers to his position but none of them managed to beat his time. Van Baarle got closest but his time of 8.38 was only good enough for second and when last year’s winner of the prologue, Robert Wagner (Belkin), had crossed the line, the Belgian could step onto the podium.

 

The stage was way more dramatic than a usual prologue as it was put temporarily on hold twice. First, a fire on the course forced the organizers to postpone their event at a time when 17 riders had finished their riders and later a dramatic crash by Kenneth Vanbilsen again forced a temporary stop.

 

Gilbert, however, was unfazed by the drama and when the race was restarted he set his fantastic time. Hence, he goes into tomorrow’s first stage with a 1-second lead over van Baarle. The route for the opening road stage is almost entirely flat and unless the wind plays a role, it should be a straightforward affair for the sprinters. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) did a good stage to finish in the top 10 and could take the leader’s jersey off Gilbert’s shoulders by virtue of bonus second if he wins the stage.

 

A flat prologue

As usual, the Ster ZLM Toer kicked off with a short prologue and this year it took place on a 7.2km course in Bladel. The first part was pretty technical but most of the course consisted of long, straight roads that suited the powerful riders.

 

The first rider down the ramp was Quinten Hermans (Telenet) who set an early mark of 9.21. However, he was soon beaten by Dennis Bakker (Metec) and Stan Wjkel (Jo Piels), Piotr Havik (Rabobank)and Joeri Adams (Vastgoedservice) both enjoyed short stints in the hot seat before the first really fast time was set.

 

Best time for Lampaert

Belgian TT specialist Yves Lampaert (Topsport) was the first rider to go beyond the 9-minute mark, stopping the clock in 8.48 to shave 17 seconds off the best time. Omar Bertazzo (Androni) moved into second before the race was stopped due to a gire on the course.

 

After a little while, the race was resumed and Yannick Eijssen (BMC) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto) both did good rides to move into the top 3. Tim De Troyer (Wanty) moved into second but was quickly relegated be Sean De Bie (Lotto) who was slightly faster.

 

Great ride by Timmer                                                                                    

Tom Veelers (Giant-Shimano) set the third fastest time before Greg Henderson (Lotto) finally pushed Lampaert out of the hot seat, setting a time of 8.47. Moments later, however, Timmer did an impressive ride to go 9 seconds faster than the Kiwi.

 

Timmer faced a long wait but got a scare when his teammate Kittel set a time that was just 0.4 seconds slower. Gianni Meersman (OPQS) set the third fastest time but missed 2 seconds to take the lead.

 

Gilbert takes the lead

Paul Martens (Belkin) made it into fifth before the race was again put on hold due to a crash by Kenneth Vanbilsen (Topsport). When the race was resumed, Gilbert was one of the first riders to start and he went 1 second faster than Timmer.

 

Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin) moved into fifth but was beaten by Tyler Farrar (Garmin) who took over that spot a little later. The next rider to take fifth was Jos Van Emden (Belkin) before Brian Van Goethem (Metec) did a surprisingly good ride to take fourth.

 

Steven Lammertink (Jo Piels) was the next continental rider to surprise when he set the third fastest time but moments later he lost his podium spot when van Baarle moved into seconds. Rick Flens (Belkin) set the ninth fastest time but among the late starters, no one seemed to be able to challenge Gilbert. When Wagner stopped the clock in a time of 8.43, the BMC rider’s wait was over and he could step onto the podium to receive his leader’s jersey.

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