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Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) beat back Belkin’s attempts to deny him victory in the Eneco Tour on Sunday.
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), the sole survivor of an earlier 20-man breakaway, was off the front in the final kilometers of the seventh and final stage, a 183.4km run from Riemst to Sittard-Geleen.
With 16km remaining he had more than a minute’s advantage over his former breakaway companions and twice that over the contenders’ group led by Belkin, which was hoping to put Lars Boom on the top step of the podium at day’s end.
The GC bunch began sweeping up remnants of the break on the penultimate climb, with 10km remaining. But Van Keirsbulck stayed out front, relentlessly ticking off the kilometers.
BMC teammates Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet, the latter sitting fifth overall a half-minute down, took turns attacking the group on the run in, putting further pressure on the race leader. Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) also had a late dig, but didn’t gain much ground.
As the GC drama played itself out behind, Van Keirsbulck took the stage win, followed 46 seconds later by teammate Matteo Trentin in second and Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) in third.
And Wellens survived the onslaught from Belkin and BMC to take the overall title, with Boom second at seven seconds down and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) third at 13 seconds.
“I was sick at the start of the race,” said Wellens. “I didn’t expect to get such a treat.”
“This is the biggest win of my career. It was a real time trial against the wind,” said Van Keirsbulck, who earlier this year won the Driedaagse van De Panne. “I knew what I was getting into, and that it was far from the finish,” Van Keirsbulck said. “But the wind suits me, so that’s why I decided to go and time trial to the line. This is by far the most beautiful win of my career. I never expected I could get a WorldTour win this year, which makes this special.
“After Paris-Roubaix I had a hard time finding my rhythm again. This win is everything for me as a Belgian guy in a race like this. It’s really important for my morale. I’m also so happy, after Styby’s crash, to end this Eneco Tour with a positive vibe. I hope he knows we wanted a win for him here and we got it. Even better, we had three guys in the top five. I’d like to thank Julien [Alaphilippe] and Matteo [Trentin] for working to protect my advantage in the chase group behind. It was an amazing day for the whole team and I’ve never been prouder to wear the colors of OPQS.”
However, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s day was not flawless. Niki Terpstra was disqualified from the race, as a consequence of improper behavior during the race.
“I’m sorry for what I did,” Terpstra said. “I don’t know who I was in that moment. I want to apologize first to [Maarten] Wynants and Team Belkin, because I put other riders in jeopardy with my actions and it is something you simply don’t do in the peloton. But I want to also apologize to my team and the guys who were specifically here racing at the Eneco Tour. They worked hard for me all week and then I ruined their effort with this foolish action. I take full responsibility for my behavior. Everybody knows I’m a guy with a lot of charisma, but it does not turn into abrasive behavior on the bike that can harm others. Today was out of character. I’ll take this as an important lesson on how to handle situations the right way for the sake of myself, my team, other teams in the peloton, and cycling in general including the fans.”