Belgium Tour: Cavagna takes the lead after day in the break
Niki Terpstra escapes with minor injuries from mid-stage crash.
Rémi Cavagna shined on the penultimate day (Ans – Ans, 167.8 kilometers) of the Belgium Tour, which took the bunch on the roads of Liège–Bastogne–Liège, packed with eight classified climbs, including Côte de la Vecquee, Côte de Maquisard and Côte de la Roche aux Faucons. An important breakaway took off early, and Rémi was part of it, together with 11 other men, but over the top of the first hill, the script was ripped to pieces, as echelons formed and the peloton got spread all over the road.
The escapees continued to power ahead and at one point enjoyed a seven-minute advantage, but the gap began to drop once the GC favourites took the reins and pushed the pedal to the metal. Unfortunately, the stage wasn't an incident-free for Quick-Step Floors, the leader of the team standings, as Niki Terpstra hit the ground in the second half of the race.
Third at this Spring's Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Dutchman was taken to the hospital where he underwent tests which thankfully didn't reveal any fractures, but a small concussion following the crash and a right hip and shoulder contusion. As a result, Niki will have to stay off the bike for a few days before resuming training.
With 25 kilometers remaining, Philippe Gilbert went on the attack on Roche aux Faucons, a move which had only a handful a riders respond. The advantage of the breakaway riders was already beginning to come down, but the group at the front somehow managed to hold on to that slender gap, despite fragmenting on the tough gradients of Saint-Nicolas.
Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo) and Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin) put some daylight between them and the other escapees and went on to contest the win, which was bagged by the latter in a sprint. Cavagna rolled home five seconds later and pulled on the leader's jersey, a remarkable performance for the 21-year-old Frenchman, who stepped up to the pro ranks five months ago from the Klein Constantia team.
Cavagna, who had a strong race this week, being promiment in the time trial as well as in the road stages, will take a one-second advantage over Jens Keukeleire (Belgian National Team) in the final day of the Belgium Tour, which is expected to finish in a mass sprint.
"I was a bit afraid at the start due to the heat, but in the end I felt good and coped with the race conditions. I wasn't expecting to be in this position now, I only went in the break to counter an attack of Katusha, but once the group formed we opened a significant gap and we continued to push on", said Rémi after his most important day since turning pro. "I'm very happy to take over the race lead, but my advantage is a slim one, so there's still a lot of work to do tomorrow. It will be difficult, but we are ready to fight for it."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele