That's Limburg: 179.6 kilometres from Riemst to Sittard-Geleen. Crowded. And wet.
Those narrow street in the country, those dark small woods dotting the wide light green of the fields. You wonder how can such a large peloton ride there, and safe...
Still they do. Still Belgians give their best jumping up and down the sidewalks and cutting the low roundabouts. They don't fear the road forniture nor the tricky corners in the town.
Johan Le Bon (FDJ) and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin) has a settled advantage around 5', slightly decreasing. The rain storm, violent and sudden,
invests them in the darkest of the forest. Head down on the handlebar, they keep pushing.
At the Golden Kilometer they are first, then Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet. On the rush of the sprint the peloton splits and the gap is down to 1'.
16.3 km to go Andre Greipel attacks, Wallays and Stuyven join. Tim Wellens and Wilco Kelderman bridge. It's a furious chase on splippery wet roads but the break stays away: Le Bon speeds up at the last km, drops van Baarle and takes the victory. Happy, soacked, solo.
But the gutsy move earnt Keldeman the leader jersey.
Johan Le Bon:
"I didn't want to go to a sprint. I know Dylan from our junior days and know he's a strong rider. It got really close when he started to come back but fortunately I made it.
I love rain, these conditions are good for a breakaway. I knew it would cause trouble in the peloton. Going into the final lap I really started to believe we could make it. Dylan was a great companion.
It's a great moment to take my first pro win. I had a difficult season. I caught a virus in April that bothered me for a long time. Now it's going better. About the overall... we will see, first I need to recover. There are two very tough days ahead.
“It was a successful day. I’m pleased that the leader’s jersey remained within the team. I’m in white now, which is a nice boost. As a team we will defend the jersey over the coming days as a team. The final stages suit me, but there are a lot of strong riders here. We’ll try our best. It’s going to be hard. Anything could happen. When we started the local laps, it began to rain and it got hectic. Ultimately, the chase never really got on, and when Wellens and Greipel went, two strong riders, I knew I had to jump. It proved to be a good move.”
1 Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ.fr 4:13:50
2 Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
3 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica GreenEdge 00:00:09
4 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
6 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 00:00:11
7 Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:00:15
8 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal 00:00:27
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
10 Lars Boom (Ned) Astana Pro Team
1 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 16:44:13
2 Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:01
3 Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:00:08
4 Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:13
5 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:19
6 Lars Boom (Ned) Astana Pro Team 0:00:20
7 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:26
8 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:29
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:29
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:34