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Trying to lead out Greipel for the sprint, Henderson takes a surprise victory ahead of Farrar and his German teammate; Kittel is not in the mix but defends his overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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GREGORY HENDERSON

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MARCEL KITTEL

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STER ZLM TOUR

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TYLER FARRAR

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20.06.2014 @ 18:06 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol) was expected to play his usual role as a lead-out man in today’s third stage of the Ster ZLM Toer but the Kiwi did so well that he ended up taking the win. He held off Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and his team captain André Greipel while Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) finished back in 22nd but defended his overall win.

 

Greg Henderson is known as the final lead-out man for André Greipel in the very strong Lotto Belisol train and rarely gets his chance to chase personal success. Today he was expected to be given the chance either but ended up taking a surprise win in the third stage of the Ster ZLM Toer.

 

Going into the final kilometres, all was set for another big bunch sprint and like yesterday it was a fierce battle between Giant-Shimano, Lotto Belisol and Omega Pharma-Quick Step for control. Yesterday the Giant train had won the battle but today it was their Belgian rivals from Lotto that did everything right.

 

Lotto Belisol hit the front in the finale and everything seemed to be going according to the pre-race plan until Henderson got a surprising gap when he tried to lead out Greipel. The Kiwi held his advantage all the way to the line to take a hugely unexpected victory.

 

Moments later Farrar beat Greipel in the sprint for second, taking his second consecutive runner-up spot, while there was no glory for race leader Kittel who rolled across the line in 22nd. As none of the three riders in the top 3 were any danger for his overall lead, however, the German could console himself by keeping the leader’s jersey.

 

After yesterday’s flat stage, the second legs was held on a tougher 190.5km course starting and finishing in Buchten. The first part was loaded with climbs known from the Amstel Gold Race but as the second half was a downhill and flat run back to a flat finishing circuit in Buchten, another bunch sprint was expected.

 

That didn’t dampen the attacking spirit as a lot of riders wanted to make use of the hilly terrain to attack. The first part of the stage was raced at an impressive speed as riders kept going off the front on the many climbs.

 

After a 4-rider group had briefly had a gap, things exploded when the peloton split in two on one of the climbs. The first group was made up of Tjallingii, Van Emden, Maes, Meersman, Vermote, Kittel, Timmer, Gilbert, Hermans, Bak, Debusschere, Wellens, Van Baarle, Salomein, De Troyer, Minnaard, Pfingsten, Van Zandbeek, Ruijgh, Van Aert, Teunissen, Tusveld, M.Lammertink, Vermeer, Asselman Van Goethem, Vermeersch who managed to build a 50-second gap at one point.

 

Androni had missed the move and chased hard to get back in contention, dropping several riders in the process. Graeme Brown and a sick Theo Bos were some of the first to fall off, with both later abandoning the race.

 

The efforts paid off for Androni and when they got some assistance from Topsport Vlaanderen to close the final small bit of the gap, things came back together. This opened the door for Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) to attack and he was joined by Yannick Eijssen (BMC), Johnny Hoogerland (Androni), Marco Minaard (Wanty), Ronan Van Zandbeek (De Rijke) and Dries Hollanders (Metec) to form the break of the day.

 

The peloton briefly slowed down but Giant-Shimano was in no mood to let the break get too much leeway. The gap reached a maximum of 2.40 before the peloton started to reel them in

 

Giant got some assistance from OPQS and with 25km to go, they had the escapees in sight, with the gap down to less than 25 seconds. Van Zandbeek, Hollanders and Hansen tried to attack but just after the 20km to go mark, Hollanders was the final rider to get caught.

 

Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) beat Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Tim Wellens (Lotto) in the final intermediate sprint to score important bonus seconds. Later Sjoerd Kouwenhoven (De Rijke) and Piotr Havik (Rabobank) both tried late attacks but the sprinters were not to be denied.

 

In the finale, Androni took control but had to battle for position with Lotto Belisol, OPQS and Giant-Shimano and in the end it was the former that took the win with Henderson.

 

Kittel takes a five-second lead over Meersman and Farrar into tomorrow’s third stage which is the queen stage of the race. After a hilly start that includes the Cote de la Redoute, the stage ends with two laps of a difficult finishing circuit around La Gileppe and an uphill sprint that suits the puncheurs.

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