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Australian powers through turns inside the final 2km of stage 1 to move clear of fast-moving peloton and holds off the charging bunch to take the stage win and first leader's jersey

Photo: Sirotti

BENELUX TOUR

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MARK RENSHAW

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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12.08.2013 @ 16:48 Posted by Simon Knudstrup

Mark Renshaw (Belkin) became a surprise winner of the first stage of the Eneco Tour when the Australian made a wily move in the final turns inside the final 2km of the stage. Having opened a big gap, he held the fast-charging peloton at bay to take both the stage win and the first leader's jersey while Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) led the peloton across the line 2 seconds later to take 2nd.

 

All was set for the expected bunch sprint on the first stage of the Eneco Tour when Belkin led the peloton into the finishing town of Ardooie. The Dutch team was looking to set up a win for star sprinter Theo Bos while the other sprint trains battled for positions behind.

 

That was when the predicted script fell apart. Lead-out man Mark Renshaw found himself on the front a bit too early and the Australian used his outstanding technical abilities to open up a big gap in the final turns. With 1500m to go, he was far ahead of the fast-moving peloton and dug deep to keep the peloton at bay as he powered up the finishing straight.

 

Renshaw had plenty of time to celebrate his win while Andre Greipel took a convincing win ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Radioshack) in the battle for 2nd. Pre-race favourite Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) was nowhere to be seen, the German apparently not bothering about the sprint with the win already gone.

 

With a 2-second gap over the peloton and 10 bonus seconds, Renshaw now has a 6-second gap over Greipel on GC as he heads into tomorrow's 2nd stage which takes the riders through the heartland of the Flemish classics and leads them to a finish in the Bruxelles suburb of Vorst. An uphill finishing straight may challenge the sprinters and Renshaw will have a tough task defending his newly-won leader's jersey.

 

3 riders go clear

The Eneco Tour kicked off with a 175,3km stage from Koksijde to Ardooie and with only the Rodeberg located at the midpoint of the race, it was expected to be the first opportunity for the fast finishers in a race that usually gives the sprinters plenty of chances to shine.

 

Everybody expected a bunch sprint and so there was no battle to get into the early breakaway. Laurens De Vreese, Pieter Jacobs (both Topsport Vlaanderen) and Benjamin Verraes (Accent.jobs) were allowed to build up a gap which reached more than 8 minutes when the peloton finally decided to chase.

 

Argos and Lotto chase

Argos-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol were the first teams to take responsibility, hoping to set up a win for Kittel and Greipel respectively and they were later joined by FDJ.fr who had much confidence in their in-form sprinter Arnaud Demare. The early work was done by Gert Dockx (Lotto), Francois Parisien (Argos) and Murilo Fischer (FDJ) who gradually brought down the gap.

 

As the riders headed through the feed zone with 78km to go, the advantage was 5.20 and the peloton seemed to have everything under control, the riders enjoying the opportunity to catch up with each other. Up ahead, De Vreese showed his intentions of repeating last year's win in the sprints competition by winning both Primus sprints ahead of Verraes and his teammate Jacobs. The escapees had no interest in the bonus sprints which offered bonus seconds and points for the points competition.

 

Attack in the crosswinds

Behind, the harmony was suddenly broken with 40km to go when Omega Pharma-Quick Step tried to split things up in a crosswind section, Niki Terpstra and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck swapping turns on the front. However, the wind was not strong enough to make a difference and so Fischer, Parisien and Dockx once again assumed their position on the front of the peloton.

 

When the riders crossed the finish line to start the first of the two laps on the 15,4km finishing circuit, the gap had come down to 2.08 and Vacansoleil had now also started to chase, using Johnny Hoogerland to prepare a sprint win for young Danny Van Poppel. A little later, Orica-GreenEdge also joined up with the chasers with Luke Durbridge taking some turns on the front.

 

Orica-GreenEdge in control

The Australian team took things into their own hands with 24km to go when it put Pieter Weening, Jens Mouris, Svein Tuft and Durbridge on the front and those four riders did a good job to string out the peloton. As they led the main group across the line to start the final lap, the gap was just 6 seconds and moments later, it was all back together.

 

The pace was now fierce and a group containing Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) and Stijn Devolder (Radioshack) fell off the pace. Moments later, BMC upped the pace a further notch as they prepared the final intermediate sprint for Taylor Phinney. However, the American was edged out by defending champion Lars Boom (Belkin) who took the maximum three seconds on offer while Maciej Bodnar (Cannondale) took 1 second as the third rider across the line.

 

Belkin takes control

Orica-GreenEdge once again took control but a little later it was once again BMC who strung things out with Marcus Burghardt setting the pace. That was when Belkin hit the front, the Dutch team leading the peloton with Jos Van Emden and Maarten Tjallingii

 

Lotto-Belisol now moved forward with their entire train but they lost the battle against Belkin and it was the Dutch team that led the peloton as they passed the 2km to go mark. Having used up most of their domestiques, Renshaw made his wily move to open up a big gap while Ian Stannard (Sky) set off in pusruit.

 

The Brit was caught back by Orica-GreenEdge but the Australian team had too few riders left, forcing Aidis Kruopis to hit the front way too early. Greipel powered down the middle of the road and did what he could to catch Renshaw but was 2 seconds to late, the Australian taking his first ever WorldTour win and first Eneco Tour leader's jersey.

 

Result:

1. Mark Renshaw 4.01.14

2. Andre Grepel +0.02

3. Giacomo Nizzolo

4. Maximiliano Richeze

5. Elia Viviani

6. Taylor Phinney

7. Michael Van Staeyen

8. Davide Appollonio

9. Alessandro Petacchi

10. Ruslan Tleubayev

 

General classification:

1. Mark Renshaw 4.01.04

2. Andre Greipel +0.06

3. Pieter Jacobs +0.07

4. Giacomo Nizzolo +0.08

5. Benjamin Verraes

6. Lars Boom +0.09

7. Laurens De Vreese

8. Taylor Phinney +0.10

9. Maciej Bodnar +0.11

10. Maximilano Richeze +0.12

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