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Part of a two-rider breakaway, Le Bon used superior technical skills to distance van Baarle and solo his way to the win in stage 5 of the Eneco Tour; Kelderman joined a strong chase group and took the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti














14.08.2015 @ 17:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Johan Le Bon (FDJ) took the biggest win of his career when he completed a successful long-distance breakaway in the fifth stage of the Eneco Tour. Having escaped with Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin), he used superior technical skills on the wet roads to distance his companion and narrowly managed to hold the Dutchman off to take the win. Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) was part of a strong chase group that escaped on the penultimate climb and a fifth place finish was enough to take the overall lead with a one-second advantage over van Baarle.


A few days ago Arnaud Demare got agonizingly close to a big stage win for FDJ in the Eneco Tour but his performance was overshadowed by their decision to send David Boucher home for not respecting the team tactics. With the sprinter having missed out in the sprint stages and no real climbers in the team, it seemed that the French team would leave the race empty-handed.


However, TT and cobbled classics specialist Johan Le Bon managed to turn everything around which a courageous and impressive ride on a wet day in the Limburg province when the riders tackled what was billed as a mini Amstel Gold Race on the fifth day of the race. After a disappointing 25th in the time trial which was his target in the seven-day race, the Frenchman refused to give up and ended the day by taking the biggest win of his career after a marvelous ride in horrendous conditions.


Le Bon was strong enough to join the early break that escaped after more than an hour of constant attacking in the hilly terrain that included no less than 23 climbs but as he was only joined by Dylan van Baarle, it looked unlikely that they would have much of a chance. However, they proved to be surprisingly hard to catch and when they started the final lap of the 22.4km finishing circuit that included four climbs, they still had an advantage of 2.08.


At this point, they had been given some help from a thunderstorm that had made the peloton split to pieces and made the roads extremely dangerous. This left the main teams with little resources to lead the chase.


Loic Vliegen had been doing most of the work for BMC but he was about to crack and so Maarten Wynants came to the fore for LottoNL-Jumbo. Surprisingly, it was André Greipel who took over with 20km to go when he started to trade pulls with Danilo Wyss (BMC).


BMC decided to sacrifice their sprinter as Jempy Drucker also took some turns but the escapees still had an advantage of 1.30 with 17km to go. When Lars-Petter Nordhaug (Sky) attacked on the next climb, closely marked by Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) and Lars Boom (Astana), the domestiques cracked and there was no one to lead the chase.


Manuel Quinziato (BMC) tried to attack as they hit flat roads and closed down a subsequent move from Boom. As the pace went down Kuznetsov took off again and was joined by Quinziato. However, the pair was brought back with 13km to go where Quinziato started to chase 1.05 behind the leaders.


Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin), Kuznetsov, Jasper Stuyven (Trek) and Victor Campenaerts (Topsport) briefly had a gap before Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) tried an unsuccessful move. The attacking didn’t make it easier to organize a chase and so the gap was still 1.10 with 10km to go.


Jelle Wallays (Topsport), Greippel and Stuyven were the next to attack and were joined by Magnus Cort (Orica-GreenEDGE) but Quinzaito brought it back as they hit the penultimate climb. Here Greipel launched a fierce acceleration that distanced Cort who tried to follow him and he had a gap as he crested the summit.


Preidler, Time Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Cort joined forces and later Wilco Kelderman also made the junction. They caught Greipel who waited for his teammate while Bakelants was dangling just 10 metres further back.


The gap was now down to 55 seconds and was coming down quickly as Greipel and Wellens started to ride hard. For a long time, Bakelants was just behind the quintet but he never made the junction.


With 5km to go, the two Lotto riders finally got some help from Cort and Preidler while more riders, including Boom, joined Bakelants further behind. As they hit the final climb, Kelderman also came to the fore and led the group across the line in the final Primus sprint which was won by Le Bon.


With 4km to go, the gap was still 20 seconds and the front duo were still working well together. Meanwhile, the Bakelants group had been brought back and it was now BMC chasing desperately in the small peloton.


With less than 3km to go, Le Bon used his superior technical skills to distance van Baarle and get an advantage of 10 metres. From there it was a fierce pursuit and the Dutchman briefly seemed to make it back. However, just as he was about to make the junction, Le Bon accelerated again and the Dutchman had nothing left to respond. Hence, Le Bon had time to celebrate the biggest win of his career.


9 seconds later Cort won the sprint of the chase group that had dropped Preidler in the finale while Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) beat Philippe Gilbert (BMC) in the sprint for 8th 27 seconds behind Le Bon.


It was a double blow for van Baarle as he missed out on the leader’s jersey too. Kelderman had reduced the deficit enough to move into the white jersey with a one-second advantage over his compatriot while Le Bon is now third, 8 seconds back.


Kelderman will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s queen stage which is like a mini version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. A total of 14 climbs in the Ardennes will challenge the riders, including the famous Cote Saint-Roch that will be tackled thrice. The final climb comes 11.9km from the finish and from there it is a mainly flat run to the finish.


A mini Amstel Gold Race

After yesterday’s time trial, the GC battle was expectec to continue in stage five which brought the riders over 179.6km from the Belgian city of Riemst to the Dutch city of Sittaard-Geelen. With no less than 23 short climbs in the Limburg province, the stage was billed as a small version of Amstel Gold Race and the many hills gave no room for recovery. In the finale, the riders did two laps of a 22.4km finishing circuit with four climbs, with the Windraak being the final challenge just 4.4km from the finish.


It was and cloudy and dry day when the riders gather for the start and all riders were present as they rolled out for their neutral ride. As expected, the relaxed racing from the first three days was over as it was a brutally fast start with lots of attacks.


Groenewegen wins the sprint

Dylan Groenewegen (Roompot), Gijs van Hoecke (Topsport Vlaanderen), Nico Denz (Ag2r) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana) were the first riders to get a small advantage but it was impossible for anyone to get clear. Hence, it was all together at the first Primus sprint where Groenewegen beat Van Hoecke, Laurens De Vreese (Astana), race leader Jos Van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty). This meant that Van Hoecke reduced his deficit to Jesper Asselman (Roompot) in the sprints competition to just one point.


The peloton was still together after 15km of racing but moments later Groenewegen, Danny Pate (Sky), Backaert and Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) formed what looked like a promising move. Unfortunately, they had no luck either and so the attacking continued.


Terpstra tries a solo move

As they approached the fourth climb of the day Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) launched a solo attack and while Boaro and De Vreese took off in pursuit, he built an advantage of 32 seconds. Further back, Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) had to stop due to an untimely puncture.


Terpstra had no luck and both he and the chasers were brought back. Meanwhile, several riders, including Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal), were getting dropped due to the fast pace and the hilly terrain.


Two riders get clear

Finally, the elastic snapped when Johan Le Bon (FDJ) and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin) attacked around the time they passed the Camerig climb. In a very short amount of time, they built an advantage of 45 seconds as the peloton finally slowed down.


Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) left the race while van Baarle and Le Bon continued to extend their advantage. As they approached the Marmelisserweg, it had gone out to 2.55.


LottoNL-Jumbo in control

As they hit the most famous climb on the course, the Eyserbosweg, the front duo had an advantage of 4.05 and it had even gone out to five minutes as they entered the final 100km of the stage. It stayed around that mark for a while as LottoNL-Jumbo tried to control things with Robert Wagner ad Maarten Tjallingii.


With 60km to go, Etixx-QuickStep had also come to the fore with Stijn Vandenbergh who was trading pulls with the two LottoNL riders who slowly started to bring the gap down. With 55km to go, it was sdown to 4.00 as the riders started to climb again after a flat section of the course.


Juul on the attack

With 50km to go, Andrea Guardini (Astana) stopped to fix a puncture while Martin Velits started to work for Etixx-QuickStep. Moments later they hit the Bergstraat and here Christopher Juul (Tinkoff-Saxo) took off in a solo attack.


The Dane slowly built a small advantage while Tjallingii finished a day of hard work. As they crossed the finish line to start the first lap of the circuit, the Dane was 3.12 behind the leaders while the peloton was at 3.35.


Bonus seconds for Gilbert and Van Avermaet

The fight for position started as Wagner ended his work and left it to Tom Leezer to protect the leader’s jersey. Meanwhile, the front duo reached the Golden Kilometre where they shared the bonus seconds as Le Bon won the first sprint and van Baarle was first in the final two.


Further back, Juul was brought back before Gilbert attacked and was joined by Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEDGE) who was unable to pass him in the first sprint. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) joined them before the second sprint where Gilbert was first across the line while his teammate took the final second in the third sprint.


Vliegen hits the front

It had now started to rain heavily and Vandenbergh nearly missed a turn as he was working with Leezer on the front with 30km to go. Moments, later Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) launched the next attack but race leader van Emden shut it down.


At this point, the gap was still 3.15 and after Niki Terpstra had taken a brief turn for Etixx-QuickStep, it was Loic Vliegen who hit the front for BMC. The Belgian took an impressive turn that made the peloton explode to pieces. He also quickly neutralized and attack from Thomas Springers (Topsport).


With 25km to go, Vliegen had reduced the peloton to around 50 riders but the gap was still 2.45. Moment later, he reached the finish to start the final lap with a deficit of 2.08 but it was all in vain as Le Bon took the win.



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