Wallonie. From Heerlen to Houffalize. I have been there. It seems I have been everywhere. Time to change, time to move on. And I already moved, I watch myself from where I am now and smile remembering where I have been. Life is such an incredible journey!
Rain A break-away - Polanc, Brändle, Turgot, Baugnies and Arndt - and Team Lotto.nl-Jumbo on chase duty. The deepest green of the forest.
First time on the line and up the steep climb in Houffalize. A few riders are ahead in the steep slippery descent: Benoot, Van Avermaet, Juul Jensen, Lutsenko, Grivko, Kuznetsov, Tanner, Bakelants are riding at 1’55” from the break.
Plenty of climbing left!
Second passage on the line and up the climb again. Did I tell you it's a steep one? and chasers catch the break, man by man. Three are still away: Arndt, Baugnies and Brändle. But the peloton is close, just 30'' down.
50 km to go Van Avermaet attacks, Tim_Wellens, Bakelants, Alaphilippe and Kelderman follow and the break is caught. In the descent more riders joins so the front group is Kelderman, Lutsenko, Grivko, Geschke, Brändle, Arndt, Bakelants, Wellens, Benoot, Rojas, Ulissi, Slagter, Rogers, Alaphilippe, Van Avermaet, Gilbert, Felline, Juul-Jensen and Baugnies.
Uphill again and Brändle goes solo. Côte d'Achouffe and down. Attacks fly and Brändle is caught. Geschke has got a gap in the pourring rain. Michael Rogers joins.
The chasing group split. Last passage on the line before the finish and the last climb. Fabio Felline is in front and very active, with him Wellens, Gilbert, Van Avermaet, Alaphilippe, Juul-Jensen and Bakelants. Race leader Kelderman is in a group at 24", losing terrain, struggling at the back. Sinking in the heavy rain.
Tim Wellens bridged to Rogers and Geschke, head down he keeps attacking. 22 km to go he's solo. The Golden km isn't far for him. It's there! and Wellens picks it, 2nd i van Avermaet, 3rd Felline.
Côte d'Achouffe again. 15.7 km to go Tim Wellens is leading solo, Greg VanAvermaet is chasing solo at 23" and the chase group with Kelderman is at 38".
6 km to go Geschke bridged to Van Avermaet and they are joins forces in the chase. Wellens is timetrialing toward the finish, a 50'' ahead. Bakelants and Slagter are also on the attack.
Last km for Tim Wellens, images are deformed by the rain. He gets cautiously in the barriers, tasting all the sweet of the glory in the clapping crowd.
No sprint for 2nd, Van Averamet just keep pulling while Geschke slows down.
Then the Kelderman's group comes.
“This victory gives a lot of satisfaction of course. Logically, after the Tour de France I started with doubts in the Eneco Tour, but the legs felt very good during the first days. Thursday’s time trial and yesterday’s stage, where I raced in front together with André, were a good confirmation of that. I knew the course very well because I had done a recon of this stage. This morning, it was our intention to give full gas with the team in the beginning of the two local laps, but yet at the first ascent of the Saint-Roch the speed was so high that only a few riders were left at the front of the race. Entering the finale, we were with nineteen riders and many attacks occurred. I focused on Van Avermaet and Gilbert and I had the impression that Kelderman was watching me.
After my attack, it was a matter of keeping the pace high. Our SRM wattage meter is perfectly fit to do so, but the most important thing was to persist the physical effort. I constantly tried to proportion my forces. The closing stage looks different than the final stage last year. Then it was a hilly stage without cobbles, now we have to ride a little Tour of Flanders. On the other hand, the gap with the second rider in the GC is now bigger compared with last year. And I can count on a very strong team that is made for such stages. Greipel counts for three, Sieberg and Benoot for two and also Debusschere and Broeckx are experienced on cobblestones."
Greg Van Avermaet:
"It was a bit strange because it was on the descent and because it was wet, I lost his wheel a bit. I was seventh or eighth wheel and then we went immediately into a climb. Wellens attacked directly, so I did not see him go. So first I had to find my pace on the climb and then try to chase him back. I am looking forward to Sunday's finale in Geraardsbergen. It suits me pretty well because it is a Flanders-type course with an uphill finish. t will be hard to catch Wellens back because he has more than one minute. But I will go for the stage victory and try to stay second on the GC."
“Today was a really hard day and all week long we had talked and looked to these last days as being really important for the GC. Also yesterday was a crazy day in the last 20 kilometers with all the rain and small roads, so today before the race started I told myself to only think about giving the maximum because I know my condition is good and then we will see what happens. The finale was not easy to manage because it was a big war between the top riders. I gave everything and 8th was my best and I am very happy with it. I didn’t want the situation I have had many times where I make a mistake and finish in second place – but today I gave my maximum and I could not do more. We will see tomorrow and if I can confirm my 5th place it will be really good for me because this is the first time that I try to go for the GC. I think that I managed well Dirk [Demol] gave me perfect info in the radio. And the team in the first part gave me the support to stay calm – bottles, jackets and taking me to the front.”
“I did what I could today, but it was really tough. The race exploded very early in the stage. There were attacks all over the place, and with every acceleration, everybody looked to me. At one point I just couldn’t follow anymore.”
1 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 05:28:46
2 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 00:00:49
3 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:00:51
4 Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale 00:01:03
5 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 00:01:07
6 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 00:01:13
7 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
8 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing
9 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
1 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 22:12:59
2 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:01:03
3 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:17
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:01:40
5 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing 0:01:48
6 Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:51
7 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:01:54
8 Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:05
9 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:02:13
10 Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale