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Van Der Poel takes the biggest win of his short career by beating WorldTour riders Martens and Henderson in a sprint at the end of the hilly Ronde van Limburg.

Photo: Sirotti

GREGORY HENDERSON

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MATHIEU VAN DER POEL

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PAUL MARTENS

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16.06.2014 @ 13:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Mathieu Van Der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) proved that he is a future star in the making when he beat several WorldTour stars to win the Ronde van Limburg. When the hilly race came down to a bunch sprint, the youngster held off Paul Martens (Belkin) and Greg Henderson to take the biggest win of his career.

 

Less than a year ago, it became apparent that Mathiey Van De Poel is more than just an outstanding cyclo-cross racer when he won the junior world championships in impressive fashion. Today he proved that there is a lot to come from this talented youngster when he won the hilly Ronde van Limburg in a bunch sprint.

 

Having been on the attack in the very fast first part of the race, Van Der Poel stayed attentive in the bunch all day while the big home team Belkin controlled the race that included no less than 14 small climbs and six pave sectors. On a number of occasion, the fast pace caused the bunch to split into a few groups but every time Van Der Poel raced with great maturity and made the first group.

 

Every time it came back together and so everything was set for a bunch sprint when Belkin gobbled up the 3 early attackers just a few kilometres from the line. Riding for the small continental BKCP-Powerplus team, Van Der Poel could be forgiven for feeling a bit intimidated by going up against the WorldTour Belkin and Lotto Belisol trains but apparently he was unfazed by the high level of competition.

 

When the sprint was launched, Van Der Poel proved that he is extremely fast at the end of a hard, selective race when he held off Paul Martens and Greg Henderson, both prolific winners on the WorldTour. The win is the biggest of his short career and comes just a few weeks after he made a very impressive showing in the Tour of Belgium.

 

For Belkin it was a big disappointment. Going into the race as the big home team, they had said that they felt almost obliged to win the race but they came up short against one of the biggest talents from their Dutch home country.

 

The Dutch season continues later this week when the Ster ZLM Toer takes place from Wednesday to Sunday. The sprint-friendly race is a very important preparation event for the Tour de France and will be the scene of some big pre-Tour battles between Marcel Kittel and André Greipel.

 

A hilly course

Upgraded to 1.1 status, the Ronde van Limburg welcomed two WorldTour teams that were ready to tackle the 199.5km course that started and finished in Tongeren. The first part of the route was made up of three different circuits around the start and finishing city before it all ended with 3 laps of a 13km finishing circuit that included the Kolmontberg. A total of 14 climbs and 6 pavé sectors were expected to make it a pretty selective race.

 

167 riders took the start under cloudy conditions and they were all ready to race. The start was very fast as the riders used the hilly terrain to go on the attack and already from the very beginning, riders got dropped.

 

A fast start

The first rider to get a significant gap was Marco Frapporti (Androni) but he was quickly swallowed up by the peloton. The next riders to take off were Jonathan Dufrasne (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Jens Debusschere (Lotto Belisol), Wesley Kreder (Wanty Groupe Gobert) and Daan Hoeyberghs (BKCP-Powerplus) but after 25km of racing that group was brought back.

 

Frapporti was keen to make use of his Giro condition and he made the next attack with Thijs Van Amerongen (Telenet-Fidea) and Bjorn De Decker (Cibel) but again he had no luck. Instead, another Giro rider, Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) attacked on the Lenteberg and was joined by Kreder and Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice).

 

The break takes off

The trio was first joined by Frederik Backaert (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Mike Teunissen (Rabobank Development Team) and Jarno Gmelich (Metec) and later Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie), Jos Van Emden (Belkin), Roy Jans (Wanty), Tiziano Dall Antonia (Androni) and Van Der Poel to form a very strong group. They got a 32-second gap at the end of the first circuit but Topsport knew that it was a dangerous situation and started to chase hard. After 54km of racing, it was all back together.

 

The attacking continued and on one of the climbs, the peloton split in two but the second group reacted and brought things back together. After 77km of racing, Antoine Demoitié (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Nico Sijmens (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Stijn Steels (TopSport Flanders Baloise), Jesper Asselman (Metec) attacked and now the peloton finally decided to take a breather, allowing the quartet to build a 1.40 gap in just 4km of racing.

 

The peloton splits

Demoitie was not on a good day and fell back to the peloton while the front trio pressed on. With 95km to go, the advantage reached a maximum of 6.15 but now Belkin had taken control. The Dutch team gradually started to reduce their deficit, bringing it down to 4.20 with 58km to go.

 

The peloton now hit a series of pave sectors and Belkin went on the attack. The peloton broke into three pieces, with the first group being made up of Amorison, Delfosse (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Henderson, Sieberg, Wellens, Bol, Brown, Martens, Van Emden, Helven, Salomein, Van Asbroeck, Van Stayen, Van Bilsen (TopSport Vlaanderen),  Jans, Robert (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Baestaens, David et Mathier Van der Poel (BKCP), Vermeersch (Sunweb), Van Amerongen (Telenet-Fidea), Meisen (Kwadro-Stannah), Kevin Hulsmans, Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice), Julien Duval, Baptiste Planckaert (Roubaix Lille Eurométropole), Teunissen (Rabobank Development Team), Krieger (Team Stuggart), Pardini, Vereecken (Verandas Willems), Te Brake, Van Goethem (Metec) and Naesen (Cibel). The acceleration brought the gap down to just 1.46 and things became even more complicated when Steels had to battle back to the front after a puncture.

 

The peloton regroups

The peloton regrouped with 41km to go which caused them to slow down. As they started the three final laps, the gap was back up to 2.02 but Belkin soon went back to work. With 22km to go, the gap was down to 1 minute.

 

Quentin Jauregui (Roubaix Lille Métropole), Jeroen Meijers (Rabobank Development Team), Peter Koning (Metec) and Peter Schulting( Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental) attacked from the peloton and behind those four riders another strong 15-rider group formed. However, Belkin had no intention of letting this one slip away and neutralized both moves before they started the final lap.

 

Van Der Poel takes the win

Steels tried to take off on his own but with 9km to go, the trio was back together. At this point, they were still 34 seconds ahead but now Roubaix had taken control of the peloton. As the break was about to get caught, a few riders tried to attack but with 3km to go, it was all back together for a bunch sprint.

 

Belkin took control in the final in an attempt to set up Martens for the win but in the end he had to settle for second behind the very impressive Van Der Poel.

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