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Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) repeated as champion of the Eneco Tour on Sunday as Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing Team) took the final stage in Belgium.
It was a near thing for Quinziato, who had attacked breakaway companions Yves Lampaert (Etixx-Quick-Step) and Björn Leukemans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) just over 5km from the finish, and they nearly overhauled him short of the line.
But the BMC man hung on for the victory by three seconds over Leukemans, and he couldn’t have been happier.
“The race went great,” he said. “I’m 35, I haven’t won so many races, so I say no mistake, no regret, and I did exactly as I was thinking to do.”
Wellens likewise was pleased to have defended his title.
“I started in this race with some doubts, because I didn’t know how I would feel after the Tour [de France],” he said. “After the time trial I really had a good feeling and I knew for sure that the condition was good.”
Top 10, Stage 7
- 1. Manuel QUINZIATO, BMC RACING TEAM, in 4:18:18
- 2. Björn LEUKEMANS, WANTY-GROUPE GOBERT, at :03
- 3. Yves LAMPAERT, ETIXX-QUICK STEP, at :08
- 4. Greg VAN AVERMAET, BMC RACING TEAM, at :38
- 5. Julian ALAPHILIPPE, ETIXX-QUICK STEP, at :38
- 6. Tiesj BENOOT, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :40
- 7. Filippo POZZATO, LAMPRE-MERIDA, at :40
- 8. Jan BAKELANTS, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :42
- 9. Philippe GILBERT, BMC RACING TEAM, at :42
- 10. Magnus Cort NIELSEN, ORICA-AIS, at :42
Top 10, GC
- 1. Tim WELLENS, LOTTO SOUDAL, in 26:31:59
- 2. Greg VAN AVERMAET, BMC RACING TEAM, at :59
- 3. Wilco KELDERMAN, TEAM LOTTO NL-JUMBO, at 1:17
- 4. Philippe GILBERT, BMC RACING TEAM, at 1:40
- 5. Fabio FELLINE, TREK FACTORY RACING, at 1:48
- 6. Andriy GRIVKO, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 1:54
- 7. Michael ROGERS, TINKOFF-SAXO, at 2:02
- 8. Tiesj BENOOT, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 2:11
- 9. Christopher JUUL JENSEN, TINKOFF-SAXO, at 2:11
- 10. Julian ALAPHILIPPE, ETIXX-QUICK STEP, at 2:11
The seventh and final stage was a hilly 188.6km leg from St. Pieters-Leeuw to Geraardsberger.
A 14-man break came to grief on the Muur van Geraardsbergen with 50km to go, leaving Quinziato, Lampaert and Leukemans off the front.
The trio had two minutes over their old mates with the peloton containing race leader Wellens at three minutes with 23km to go.
With half that distance remaining Quinziato, Lampaert and Leukemans were still off the front with two minutes on the GC group.
They hit the final climb with a minute’s advantage. And then Quinziato made his move with 5.6km to go. Leukemans marked him, but Lampaert was distanced. Then Quinziato jumped again and that was that. He was on his own.
The BMC man quickly put a half-minute on his ex-companions with 3km remaining. But they closed on him on the final climb, and a quick look over one shoulder showed him that the victory wasn’t quite a done deal.
“With 400 meters to go I saw they were coming,” said Quinziato, who thought he was done. But the 35-year-old told himself: “I win or I die. And I won.”
Leukemans finished second on the day with Lampaert third.
“It was a close race today,” Lampaert said. “It was a hard race for the breakaway. The first time on the Muur van Geraardsbergen we went full gas and only Quinziato, Leukemans, and I could stay in front. We worked well together.
“Then Quinziato attacked. I had a difficult moment. I had to let Quinziato ride and try to return to Leukemans, but we couldn’t work together to close the gap to Quinziato. We came about 20 meters too short at the finish. It’s very sad. Maybe if we worked together we could have caught him, but these things happen in cycling.”
Teammate Greg Van Avermaet proved best of the rest for fourth.
On the overall, Wellens came away with the white jersey by 59 seconds over Van Avermaet with Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) third at 1:17.
“This year’s victory is even more beautiful than the previous one, I think,” said Wellens.
“After this Eneco Tour I know that I don’t have to aim on a good classification in the grand tours. The one-week stage races without the high mountains like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico fit me more.”