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BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet won the Grand Prix de Wallonie, riding out of a select breakaway group and winning the final sprint with the peloton breathing down his neck.
“It’s a beautiful place; it’s one of the most beautiful places in Wallonia,” said Van Avermaet. It’s a very hard race, especially toward the end where it comes to the Citadelle. I just wanted to deliver [for my team].”
Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol), Van Avermaet, and defending champion Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) were out front with three kilometers left.
The lead group of four hit the base of the final climb, the Citadelle de Namur, and Bakelants attacked.
Vanendert gave chase and welded the group back together, bringing along Van Avermaet. Schleck was tacked onto the back of the group.
The chasing peloton was close behind in the final sinuous kilometers of the climb to the castle, with Tinkoff-Saxo driving the pace.
With 1.7km left, Bakelants went again, and Van Avermaet again closed the gap.
Vanendert countered with 1.4km left, as the peloton appeared to make the catch, but the Lotto-Belisol rider’s effort stretched the gap again.
With one kilometer left, Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) leapt from the field to make an attack of his own.
However, Van Avermaet was ready, countering the move, and leading out sprint. None of the other contenders could overtake the Belgian in the final sinuous meters of racing, and he rolled across the line victorious.
“I was pretty strong and I was confident to keep it all together for my sprint because I felt I was fastest of the group,” Van Avermaet said. “But with the attacks, it always slowed down again and the peloton was coming back. So it was a little bit tricky.”
Gallopin finished second, and Bakelants was third.
“I recovered perfectly toward the end,” said the winner. “We had a good atmosphere with the [breakaway] quartet. It worked out very well for me.”
Looking ahead to world championships in Spain, Van Avermaet said, ” [It is] good timing of course, I was ready in North America, that was good for my confidence and so is this ahead of the world championships.”