BinckBank Tour to take on the cobbles on Sunday
Ahead of the final stage, Philippe Gilbert is tenth in the general classification.
Another rain-battered day awaited the riders at the BinckBank Tour on Saturday morning, when they embarked on the longest stage of this edition, between Riemst and Houffalize (196.9 kilometers). Muizenberg, Côte Hallembay, Côte de Richelle, Barrage de La Gileppe, Côte de la Baraque Michel, Côte La Ferme Libert, Côte Aisomont, Provedroux and Le Vieux Chemin were the hurdles that laid ahead the riders and which did some serious damage in the bunch once the race was on, with 40 kilometers left until the finish.
Of course, some heavy attacks soon followed once that happened, and one of these managed to stick all the way to the finish, where Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) prevailed in a two-up sprint against Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), who took over the leader's green jersey for a slim margin over the Belgian.
Philippe Gilbert fought hard through the rain and the wind despite being dropped on a 15% section and after bridging to a group that also included Petr Vakoč, he and his teammate changed turns at the front and gave it their all on the lumpy terrain to help the chasers reduce the deficit. That group eventually finished 1:42 down on the winner, and Philippe kept his top-10 place in the general classification.
Final stage of the BinckBank Tour is expected to have a huge impact on the overall rankings. Peloton will roll out from Essen and take on a long and flat section leading to the legendary Muur van Geraardsbergen (1300 meters, 6.5%). The race should come to life there, as it's very likely the favourites will use this opportunity to attack and split the bunch to pieces. After several other climbs, including Denderoordbeg and Bosberg, the race will end on the steep cobbles of the Muur, for decades the symbol of Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele