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Having made it into a 20-rider breakaway, Van Keirsbulck dropped his companions to take an impressive solo victory on the final day of the Eneco Tour; Wellens never came under the attack and won the race overall

Photo: Sirotti














17.08.2014 @ 17:31 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took his first victory in a WorldTour race when he emerged as the strongest from a 20-rider breakaway in the final stage of the Eneco Tour. Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) never really came under attack on the many climbs in the Limburg province and won the race overall ahead of Lars Boom (Belkin) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano).


Guillaume Van Keirsbulck again underlined his great potential when he helped Omega Pharma-Quick Step bouncing back from the loss of Zdenek Stybar by winning the final stage of the Eneco Tour with an impressive solo ride. The Belgian put his rouleur skills to good use in the hilly Limburg province when he attacked from a 20-rider breakaway and held off his chasers to take the first WorldTour win of his career.


In a stage that included many of the climbs known from the Amstel Gold Race, the terrain proved to be very difficult to control for the favourite teams and so the many early attacks formed a very big 20-rider group that was loaded with firepower. For race leader Tim Wellens, it was the perfect situation as the break would swallow up all the bonus seconds and so they were allowed to build an advantage of more than 5 minutes.


Belkin had different plans and inside the final 50km, the Dutch team decided to kick into action. Riding hard in the crosswinds, they whittled the peloton down to just around 25 riders in the finale as they desperately tried to bring back the break and so allow Lars Boom to pick up bonus seconds.


However, the break proved to be too big and too strong for the Belkin riders to catch and even though the managed to bring back around half of the move, 10 riders were left to battle it out for the stage victory. Among those, Van Keirsbulck was clearly the strongest as he made a brave solo move with almost 30km to go at the top of one of the many climbs.


No one managed to respond to his strong attack and with two teammates to disrupt the cooperation in the chase group, he quickly opened a gap that reached 45 seconds with 20km to go. Even though he started to fade a bit in the end, and lost a bit of ground to the chasers, the outcome was never in doubt and Van Keirsbulck held on to take the biggest win of his career.


In the sprint for secon, Matteo Trentin made it a great day for Omega Pharma-Quick Step by beating Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen) and making it a 1-2 for the Belgian team. To make things even better, Julien Vermote even finished fourth to complete an excellent showing by the squad.


For Wellens, things panned out perfectly as the escapees took away the bonus seconds. He easily responded to accelerations from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and as his rivals all seemed to have given up in terrain that proved too easy, he safely rolled across the line to win the race overall ahead of Boom and Tom Dumoulin.


Dumoulin could console himself with the win in the points competition while Kenneth Vanbilsen (Topsport Vlaanderen) won the sprints jersey. Belkin won the teams classification.


The WorldTour continues on Saturday when the Vuelta a Espana kicks off with a team time trial. One day later, the Vattenfall Cyclassics will see the return of many of the riders from the Eneco Tour as the first of a series of late-season one-day races on the finest calendar.


A mini Amstel Gold Race

After yesterday’s mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Eneco Tour was brought to an end with another small edition of one of the famous spring classics. The final stage of the race took place over 183.4km from Riemst in Belgium to Sittard in the Netherlands and was a very undulating affair that included several climbs known from the Amstel Gold Race. Along the way, the riders tackled no less than 22 small and the stage ended with two laps of a tough finishing circuit that included four of those climbs. The top of the final climb was located just 4km from the finish, offering the perfect chance for attackers to make a difference.


The riders took the start under crisp but dry conditions. Two riders failed to sign in as Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) and Bryan Nauleau (Europcar) decided to head home one day earlier than planned.


A big break

Going into the stage, team tactics were expected to play a major role and many predicted that the early break would have a good chance. Hence, the stage was off to a very fast start with lots of attacks that made it difficult for Lotto Belisol to control the situation.


After 15km of racing, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (both OPQS), Tom Leezer (Belkin), Silvan Dillier, Daniel Oss (both BMC), Jesse Sergent (Trek), Moreno Moser, Kristijan Koren (Cannondale), Dyla Van Baarle (Garmin-Sharp), Michael Hepburn (Oricaa-GreenEDGE), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) and Pablo Lastras (Movistar) got a small gap and they fought hard to extend their afvantage. While Van Keirsbulck beat Hepburn, Dillier, Smukulis and Lastras in the first intermediate sprint, Julien Vermote (OPQS), Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff-Saxo), Enrique Sanz (Movistar), Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) and Maximilano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) set off in pursuit.


More riders join from behind

That group was joined by Danilo Hondo (Trek), Laurens De Vreese (Wanty) and Yves Lampaert (Topsport) and after 16km of racing, they made the junction to form a 20-rider led group. At that point, the escapees were 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.


The peloton slowed down a bit and so allowed the gap to grow. At the 30km mark, they were 2.43 ahead and while Lotto Belisol set a steady pace, the advantage grew even further. It reached a maximum of 4.03 before the peloton started to react.


Lotto Belisol in control

The bunch upped the pace and started to peg back the front group. At the 66km mark, they had rduced their deficit to 2.40.The escapees had a strong reaction though and 15km further up the road, they had reopened their advantage to 5.20.


That was as much as they would get as Lotto Belisol started to control the situation a bit more and kept the gap stable for a little while. With 80km to go, however, the peloton hit a crosswinds section where Belkin launched their first attack.


Belkin attack in the crosswinds

Sep Vanmarcke, Bram Tankink, Jos Van Emden and Maarten Wynants rode hard on the front for a few kilometres which created several splits and sent riders out the back door. They brought the gap down to 4.10 before they stopped their attack and allowed Lotto to hit the front again.


For a long time, Gert Dockx and Marcel Sieberg set a steady pace for the Belgian team, with occasional contributions from Jens Debusschere. Even though they didn’t go full gas, the tempo was fast enough to tail riders off in the windy conditions.


The attacking starts

While Boom fought his way back to the peloton after an untimely puncture, the gap came down to 3.40 but then Lotto again slowed down. Meanwhile, Van Baarle had used the Windraak climb to make a small attack but he was quickly brought back before the riders crossed the finish line for the first time.


Vermote made the next attack and was briefly joined by Lastras, Smukulis and Ven Keirsbulck but things came back together a little later. In the meantime, Belkin had again started to chase, with Wynants, Tankink, Van Emden and Wynants working hard on the front.


Van Keirsbulck makes his move

The increased pace caused several riders to get dropped while the attacking continued in the breakaway. Van Baarle, Smukulis and Lastras got a small gap but didn’t have much success.


With 34km to go, Van Keirsbulck made his move and this time no one had any response. When he crossed the finish line to started the final lap, he was 42 seconds ahead of Sergent and Bagdonas who were his nearest chasers while De Vreese and Smukulis followed a little further back. Oss had dropped out of the big chase group while Vanmarcke had blown up in the peloton, leaving the work to Tankink, Wynants and Van Emden.


Belkin start to blow up

Van Emden led the peloton across the line to start the final lap with a deficit of 2.40 but moments later, Wynants cracked, leaving just Tankink and Van Emden to do the work. Despite their fast pace, they failed to get any closer to the leader who was also putting time into his chasers who hadfound back together.


As Tankink blew up, Leezer fell back from the chase group to assist Van Emden with the pace-setting. The pair rode really fast in the crosswinds and this caused the peloton to split to pieces, leaving just 25 riders in the main group with 15km to go.


Lotto back in control

At this point, they were still 2.10 behind the lone leader but now they were gaining ground. Lotto did their best to disrupt the chase, often hitting the front to slow down but Leezer and Van Emden kept riding fast.


Sanz, Smukulis and Moser were all brought back but on the penultimate climb, it was over for Leezer and Van Emden. This allowed Lotto to again assume their position on the front and Jurgen Roelandts and Jelle Vanendert did a good job to set a steady pace that kept the gap at around 1.20.


Van Avermaet makes his move

With 7km to go, Gilbert launched the first attack from the peloton but Roelandts easily shut it down. Next Manuel Quinziato (BMC) gave it a go but Simon Geschke brought him back for Giant-Shimano.


On the final climb, the peloton caught Sergent, Petrov, Richeze, Hepburn and Bagdonas just as Van Avermaet launched a fierce attack. However, Dumoulin, Boom and Wellens were glued to his wheel and it all came to nothing.


Lampre lead the chase

Gilbert made a brief counter-attack but it was the subsequent move by Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) that gained some ground. The German dangled a few metres ahead for some time while Richeze started to chase for Lampre-Merida.


However, there was no one stopping Van Keirsbulck who took an impressive solo win while Trentin made it an OPQS 1-2 by winning the sprint for second. Van Avermaet won the sprint from the peloton but Wellens was safe in the group and won the race overall.



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