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In a hectic, crash-marred stage, Stybar joined a late attack from an elite selection that had been created due to wind and crashes, and finally held off Boom and Vanmarcke in a sprint to take the win and the overall lead

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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12.08.2014 @ 17:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) set himself perfectly up for another overall victory in the Eneco Tour when he won today’s hugely dramatic second stage of the race. Having made the selection when a crash split the peloton in the windy conditions, he swiftly responded to a late attack from local hero Lars Boom (Belkin) before outsprinting the Belkin rider in the finish to take both the victory and the leader’s jersey.

 

One year ago Zdenek Stybar first made himself a contender for the overall in the Eneco Tour when he escaped with Lars Boom in the finale of a flat stage that was destined to end in a bunch sprint before sprinting to the win. Today he put himself in a great position to win the race again when he won a dramatic stage that played out in an almost identical way.

 

Most of the stage was a pretty calm affair as race leader Andrea Guardini’s Astana team just controlled a 3-rider break but things got hectic in the finale when the escape trio proved to be much stronger than expected. Suddenly, the sprint teams were forced on the defensive and several teams had to ride very hard on the front to bring them back.

 

Things only got even more dramatic when pre-race favourite Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) suffered a puncture just as the peloton was splitting due to the hard pace in the windy conditions. With no caravan behind the peloton, last year’s runner-up had to work extremely hard with his teammates and was constantly dangling one minute behind the peloton.

 

This prompted a reaction from Belkin and Garmin-Sharp who rode hard in the wind to split the peloton and distance Dumoulin. At a point when the peloton was single-file, a crash brought down Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and this caused a major split in the peloton.

 

A select 20-rider group with the likes of Zdenek Stybar, Lars Boom, Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Bauke Mollema, Sep Vanmarcke, Manuel Quinziato, Andriy Grivko and Marco Marcato has escaped while key riders like Geraint Thomas, Greg Van Avermaet and Niki Terpstra had missed the split. This caused Omega Pharma-Quick Step, BMC and Belkin to ride hard in the front group to maintain the gap and the final 10km of the stage ended as a fierce pursuit.

 

The fast pace ended the day for the final escapee Pavel Brutt (Katusha) and instead the door was open for new attacks as everybody was on their limit. Boom and Stybar swiftly responded to an attack from Quinziato and after Marcato bridged the gap, the quartet was set to decide the stage.

 

Impressively, Mollema and Vanmarcke joined the group inside the final kilometre and the former tried to make a surprise attack. Not realizing that he had the entire group in tow he rode hard on the front and ended up giving Stybar the perfect lead-out. From here, the defending champion launched his sprint and easily held off Boom and Vanmarcke to take his third ever stage win in the race.

 

The Gilbert group caught the front group in the finale and so lost no time while the peloton reached the finish a few seconds later. Impressively, Dumoulin had bridged the one-minute gap on his own and so managed to limit his losses dramatically.

 

With the 10 bonus seconds, Stybar goes into tomorrow’s third stage with a 1-second lead over Boom but he faces a tough test in one of the race’s key stage. The 9.6km time trial is set to open the first major gaps between the overall contenders and offers Dumoulin a chance to strike back after today’s disappointment.

 

A flat, windy stage

After the flat and nervous opening stage, the second day was expected to be more of the same. The riders travelled over 175.8km from Waalwijk to Vlijmen on a course that was made up of two different circuit that brought the riders through both the start and the finish and that were tackled a different number of times. The terrain was completely flat but as strong wind and rain was forecasted, it was expected to be another hectic day in the saddle.

 

All riders who finished yesterday’s stage took the start in windy conditions but after it had rained earlier in the day, it was dry by the time the riders left Waalwijk. Even Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) who crashed hard yesterday and was a possible non-started signed in.

 

The break takes off

Surprisingly, the pace was fast right from the beginning as a few riders wanted to be part of the early break. Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Jens Mouris (Orica-GreenEDGE), Pavel Brutt (Katusha) and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty) launched the first attack but were quickly brought back,

 

While Yoann Offredo (FDJ) fought his way back from an early puncture, the break took off after 4km of racing. Brutt was again part of the action and this time he got company from Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty) and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r).

 

Astana in control

The peloton didn’t respond and so the gap started to grow. After 10km of racing, it was already 2.55 and at the first passage of the finish at the 15km mark, the escapees were 4.20 ahead.

 

The gap reached six minutes before the peloton started to stabilize the situation. At this point, it had started to rain heavily and while Modolo was suffering at the back, Rüdiger Selig (Katusha) became the first rider to abandon the race.

 

Brutt scores points

Brutt won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Gougeard and Van Melsen while Astana kept the gap stable at around 5.30. That was the case for around 100km in which Alexandr Dyachenko and Evan Huffman were just setting a steady tempo.

 

Brutt again led Gougeard and Van Melsen across the line in the second sprint while Valentin Iglinskiy replaced Dyachenko on the front of the peloton. With 65km to go, the sprint teams finally reacted as Tom Stamsnijder (Giant), Anthony Roux (FDJ) and Benit Vaugrenard (FDJ) started to ride with Iglinskiy

 

Modolo abandons

While Sacha Modolo abandoned the race, FDJ, Astana and Giant had a hard time bringing down the gap and so FDJ added Laurent Pichon to the team of chasers. With 45km to go, however, the gap was still 4.55 and nothing suggested that the situation would change.

 

Brutt led Gougeard and Van Melsen across the line in the final intermediate sprint which was the signal for OPQS to kick into action. Gert Steegmans took a massive turn on the front and got some assiatnce from a Topsport rider.

 

The chase gets organized

While Van Melsen led Brutt and Gougeard across the line in the first Checkpoint sprint, the gap started to come down and now Belkin also made a contribution with Tom Leezer. Tim Declercq made a small lead-out for Kenneth Vanbilsen who finished fourth in the sprint to extend his lead in the sprints competition.

 

Belin were now doing all the work in the peloton with Leezer and Maarten Wynants but with 30km to go, the gap was still 3.55. This prompted a reaction from the sprint team and now,  Giant, Belkin, Lotto, FDJ and OPQS were all riding on the front with Stamsnijder, Leezer, Wynants, Gert Dockx, Stig Broeckx, Roux and Iljo Keisse.

 

Dumoulin punctures

Jos Van Emden also started to work and Garmin also hit the panic button when they asked Jack Bauer and Dylan Van Baarle to take some turns. The concerted effort strung out the peloton and this caused the peloton to split into several group, with Belgian champion Jens Debusschere being one of the riders to lose ground.

 

Just as this happened, Dumoulin suffered his puncture. First Brian Bulgac and Simon Geschke were the only riders that waited for him but as there was no caravan, the entire Giant team dropped back to assist.

 

Garmin and Belkin ride hard in the wind

Van Melsen led Gougeard and Brutt across the line in the final Checkpoint sprint with 20km to go and the gap was still 2.50. In the peloton, Garmin and Belkin were now trying to split things in the crosswinds and David Millar, Tyler Farrar and Bram Tankink were now also contributing to the pace-setting.

 

The next few kilometers were a huge pursuit between Garmin and Belkin in the peloton and Giant in the second group but the gap remained stable at around a minute. When Bauer blew up as the final Garmin rider, all the work was left to Belkin.

 

A crash splits the peloton

With 12km to go, Brutt took a huge turn on the front that split the front group and the Russian was now the lone leader of the race. However, he was riding into a headwind and was rapidly losing ground.

 

With 10km to go, he was 1.25 ahead and now OPQS was riding with Belkin on the front, with Steegmans and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck taking some huge turns. Just as this moment, Rojas and Trentin crashed and this broke the peloton into two, with a 20-rider group getting off the front.

 

Brutt is caught

BMC, OPQS, Cannondale and Belkin realized that they were in a great position and they started to ride hard, even with their GC riders behind Lotto led the chase while Dumoulin had now dropped his teammates and was on his own.

 

With 5km to go, Brutt was the final escapee to get caught. With 3km to go, an impressive Dumoulin had bridged the gap to the peloton that was a few seconds behind the front group.

 

Stybar makes his move

With 3km to go, Grivko launched an attack on a cobbled section. Gilbert tried to bridge the gap but Boonen brought it back together. Vanmarcke and Stybar launched the next attack but had no success.

 

That was when Quinziato made his move and as Boom and Stybar joined him, the group briefly slowed down. Marcato managed to bridge the gap while Jose Ivan Gutierrez led the chase in the Gilbert group.

 

A lack of cooperation allowed Mollema and Vanmarcke to join the group and the former went straight to the front. He ended up giving Stybar the perfect lead-out and setting the Czech up for 10 important bonus seconds and a stint in the leader’s jersey.

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