Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) stormed to victory on the final stage of the BinckBank Tour on Saturday, ripping the GC victory from Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) with an unstoppable solo move 50km from the finish.
The Dutch supremo had started the stage 17 seconds down on race-leader Pedersen, and in true Van der Poel style, took the race into his own hands with a move over the iconic cobbled climb of the Muur van Geraardsbergen. The 25-year-old bridged across from the peloton to the escape group before attacking out of the escapees, riding Florian Senechal (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) off his wheel on the steep slopes of the Muur and riding solo to the line.
“Suddenly I was alone,” he said of his unplanned move. “For a moment I hesitated because it was still far to the finish, but in the end, I played all or nothing.”
Van der Poel’s winning move had started around 70km from the finish of the classics-style stage into Geraardsbergen, which featured a closing circuit that took in both the Muur and Bosberg climbs that feature in the Tour of Flanders. The Alpecin-Fenix rider first used the Muur to launch clear of the peloton with nearly two hours of racing remaining. 20km later, having gone across to a lead group of eight with two other riders on his wheel, he attacked on the cobbled climb a second time to blow away his fellow escapees and romp to victory.
Behind him, a number of GC rivals including Pedersen, Stefan Küng (AG2R La Mondiale) and Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) launched attacks in the final 30km as van der Poel’s 60-second gap was looking likely to snatch the race from them.
Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain McLaren) went clear in the final 15km of the race in a late bid to catch van der Poel, but the Dutchman was able to hold them off, winning the stage by just three seconds over Naesen.
Küng and Kragh Andersen finished fourth and fifth on the stage to take second and third in the overall, bumping Pedersen off the podium altogether.
“It is incredible that I won the BinckBank Tour”, Van der Poel said. “I had started for the win, but after yesterday’s time trial I didn’t expect that anymore.”
Van der Poel had used the five-stage race as a final tune-up ahead of his classics campaign. With the cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix only a few weeks away, his rivals have been suitably warned.