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With a powerful sprint, Waeytens took his first pro victory on the wet final stage of the Belgium Tour as he held off McLay and Dupont; Devenyns won the race

Photo: Sirotti

BELGIUM TOUR

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DANIEL MCLAY

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DRIES DEVENYNS

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RETO HOLLENSTEIN

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STIJN VANDENBERGH

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TIMOTHY DUPONT

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ZICO WAEYTENS

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29.05.2016 @ 18:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin) took his first professional victory when he came out on top in a hectic, wet sprint on the final stage of the Belgium Tour. Coming off the Bora-Argon 18 train, he held off Daniel McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Timothy Dupont (Veranda’s Willems) to open his account while Dries Devenyns and Reto Hollenstein stayed safe in the wet conditions to make it a 1-2 for IAM in the overall standings.

 

When he turned professional with the Topsport Vlaanderen team, Zico Waeytens was known as a fast rider but he specialized in hilly races and the classics. The one-day races are still his big focus but since he joined the Giant-Alpecin team at the start of the 2015 season, he has become more involved in the bunch sprints too.

 

Until today, he hadn’t won a race though. Despite his speed, Waeytens is not a pure sprinter and so he needs a hard race to have a chance against the pure fastmen.

 

Hence, he was probably pleased when he woke up this morning for the final stage of the Belgium Tour. Rain was falling and as the stage finished with three laps of a lumpy 18.8km circuit in Tongeren, there was a chance that the sprint stage would be tougher than expected.

 

That’s exactly how it turned out and this allowed Waeytens to take his first professional victory. Having made it into the relatively small group that arrived at the finish, he came off the Bora-Argon 18 train and convincingly held off Daniel McLay and Timothy Dupont to open his account.

 

The race had been made hard right from the beginning and so the early break had already been brought back as they approached the finish line for the first time. The many attacks made it very hard to control and it was Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Etixx-QuickStep) who surged clear as they headed up the finishing straight,

 

At the passage of the line, the Belgian had a small advantage over his teammate Tony Martin, Boy van Poppel (Trek), Angel Vicioso (Katusha),  Ruslan Tleubayev (Astana), Jonas Ahlstrand (Cofidis), Toon Aerts (Telenet), Jimmy Janssens (3M) and Christophe Premont (Veranda’s) who had taken off in pursuit. They made the junction with 55km to go to form a very strong group.

 

IAM saw the danger and went straight to the front to lead the chase in defence of Dries Devenyns’ overall lead. Vicente Reynes, Martin Elmiger and Oliver Naesen did a massive job for the Swiss team but could prevent Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie) and Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) from taking off in pursuit.

 

With 50km to go, the two chasers made the junction and so 11 riders had gathered with a 25-second advantage. IAM were not getting any help so they failed to get much closer. However, there was no great cooperation in the break and so Van Keirsbulck, Keisse, Vicioso and Aerts briefly surged clear before the group came back together.

 

Entering the final 45km, Bora-Argon 18 and Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen) came to the fore to lend th three IAM riders a hand and their fast pace continued to send riders out the back door. Androni sprinter Francesco Chicchi had to give up in the tough conditions. Meanwhile, Van Keirsbulck led Aerts , Martin, Janssens and Van Poppel across the line in the final Primus sprint.

 

Just before the second passage of the finish line, the gap had gone out to 38 seconds but Keisse and Delfosse took off, sensing that the lack of cooperation made them get nowhere. A duck family crossed the road in front of their chasers but luckily no one went down.

 

The chasers failed to cooperate and as Cannondale started to chase, most of them sat up. Janssens tried to keep the group alive but with 28km to go, they were all back in the fold. Meanwhile, Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) and Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty) had to work hard to rejoin the group following a puncture.

 

As they approached the Golden Kilometre, Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale) and van Poppel took off in pursuit of the two leaders and this allowed Vandenbergh to pick up three bonus seconds by taking third in all three sprints. The leaders didn’t contest the sprints and they were all won by Delfosse.

 

Reynes, Elmiger and Naesen were still working hard in the peloton and brought the chasers back with 23km to go. Three kilometres later, they had reduced the gap to just 10 seconds but the leaders managed to push it out to 20 seconds for the penultimate passage of the line.

 

However, Keisse and Delfosse realized that they were getting nowhere and after Martin and Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) had tried to join them, they decided to sit up. With 15km to go, IAM had brought it all back together.

 

Tijs van Amerongen (Telenet) briefly got a small advantage but he was brought back as there was now a hard fight for position in the relatively small peloton, Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek), Direct Energie and Veranda’s Willems were riding on the front as riders continued to get dropped.

 

Veranda’s Willems took complete control and brought Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) back when the Frenchman attacked 11km from home. They kept riding on the front while a drama happened further back. Vandenbergh had moved into third overall by scoring bonus seconds but when he suffered a puncture and got a wheel from Yves Lampaert, he faced a difficult chase to get back. Van Keirsbulck waited for him but just as they made the junction, the peloton split to pieces. Hence, they had to pass several groups but they made it back in time for the sprint.

 

Further up the road, Wout van Aert (Crelan) attacked with 9km to go and he was quickly joined by Slagter. Davide Vigano (Androni) and Chavanel also made it across and the quartet managed to open an 8-second advantage with 6km to go.

 

Trek hit the front with Gregory Rast and Van Poppel and after Van Aert had made a solo move, they brought things back together with 5km to go. Frederik Backaert (Wanty) launched an immediate counterattack and he managed to get a small advantage.

 

With Vandenbergh back in the field, Etixx-QuickStep put Martin on the front and when he swung off, the gap was so small that a 3M rider and Baugnies could bridge across. However, the trio failed to make it and with 2.4km to go, it was back together.

 

Just in that moment, Van Aert, Lampaert, Edward Theuns (Trek) and Borut Bozic (Cofidis) slid out in a turn under a tunnel and there was no coming back as the peloton was going fast with Van Keirsbulck on the front. That’s when Giant-Alpecin launched their lead-out for Waeytens as Sam Oomen took a massive turn on the front but they were passed by Topsport Vlaanderen and later Veranda’s Willems.

 

In the end, it was Bora-Argon 18 that took control, with Gregor Mühlberger leading Shane Archbold out ofr the sprint. Timothy Dupont was in third position and Waeytens in fourth and from there he started his sprint when Archbold had launched his effort. He flew past the fading Kiwi and Dupont and even though Daniel McLay came fast from behind, it was enough to hold off the Brit and Dupont to take his first pro win.

 

Devenyns and Reto Hollenstein finished safely in the bunch to make it a fantastic 1-2 for IAM in the overall standings. Like Hollenstein, Vandenbergh was three seconds behind Devenyns but had to settle for third.

 

Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) won the blue points jersey and Amaury Capiot (Topsport Vlaanderen) won the sprints jersey. IAM were of course the best team.

 

With the Belgium Tour done and dusted, there’s a long break on the Belgian racing calendar. The next big event is Halle-Ingooigem in late June, the traditional warm-up race for the national championships.

 

One for the sprinters

After yesterday’s drama, it was back into flatter terrain for the final stage which brought the riders over 174.2km from Tremelo to Tongeren. The riders tackled two pave sectors in the first half before they got to the finishing city. Here they ended the race by doing three laps of an 18.8km finishing circuit that had a few smaller climbs but no big challenges. The finale was flat and included three turns inside the final 200m, with the final obstacle doming 450m from the line.

 

After a meeting between the organizers and the riders, the peloton rode out for their neutral ride without the entire Lotto Soudal team that had opted to stay at home as Stig Broeckx is still in a coma, Kristoffer Skjerping (Cannondale), Fredik Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin), Loic Chetout, Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis), Pieter Jacobs (Crelan), Olivier Chevalier and Antoine Warnier (Wallonie) who were all involved in yesterday’s crash. To make things even worse, it was even raining when they started their ride.

 

Sprints jersey for Capiot

The peloton got off to an easy start as no one wanted to attack in the first small lap around the Tremelo where an early Primus sprint had been cancelled. The race finally got started when three riders took off and it was a dangerous move as Simon Spilak (Katusha) was part of the action. However, they failed to get clear.

 

The trio set the scene for a very fast start with lots of attacks and lots of splits were happening in the peloton. However, no one managed to get clear and so Capiot could secure the sprints jersey by beating his teammates Pieter Vanspeybrouck, Gijs Van Hoecke, Bert Van Lerberghe and Brian Van Goethem (Roompot) in the first Primus Sprint.

 

Lots of attacks

Things came back together and a small lull allowed Julien Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep) and Dimitri Clays (Wanty) to scape. Bozic, Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale) and Tleubayev joined them but the quintet was brought back after a few kilometres of freedom.

 

Raymond Kreder (Roompot), Kenny Dehaes (Wanty), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis), Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) and Gianni Marchand (Cibel) left the race in the treacherous conditions before they hit the two pave sectors. Here the attacking continued but no one had gone clear when they reached the finishing circuit.

 

Van Aert rides aggressively

Van Aert was very active and was part of a strong 25-rider group that also included the likes of Declercq, Vandenbergh, Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Van Lerberghe race leader Devenyns and Sergey Chernetskii (Katusha). From there, 9 riders got clear and then the cyclo-cross rider and Devenyns attacked but they were brought back.

 

Van Lerberghe and De Vreese tried the next attack before six riders moved clear. Trek were trying to control things with Gregory Rast but it was almost impossible. Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) were all part of different moves but with 61km to go, it was back together..

 

Declercq and Keisse were both active in the next attacks but it was Van Keirsbulck who surged clear as they approached the line. After Björn Thurau (Wanty) had made a failed attempt to join him, it was another chase group that made the junction and so the exciting finale started.

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