De Plus comes close to first pro win
The Belgian launched a daring attack from afar, which saw him move up to third in the general classification.
This week's Ster ZLM Toer is Laurens De Plus' first outing since being part of the strong Quick-Step Floors team which left an indelible mark on the 100th Giro d'Italia, winning five stages, two jerseys and the Super Team classification. The 21-year-old was an important piece of our set-up there and even showed flashed of brilliance in the mountains, on his way to a meritorious 24th place, which underlined his GC potential.
Saturday, he capitalized on the good form with which he came out of the Corsa Rosa, riding to second on the queen-stage of the Ster ZLM Toer, between Hotel Verviers and La Gileppe, over a course that included the iconic La Redoute hill. It was a tough day in the saddle, ridden at an alert pace, which led to a splintered peloton after only ten kilometers.
Laurens De Plus was the one who sparked life into the race, riding on aggressive mode Saturday afternoon and attacking relentlessly on the parcours very similar to the one of an Ardennes Classic. His countless accelerations thinned out the bunch, and the last one, which came with 35 kilometers to go, drew a response only from Jose Goncalves (Katusha), with the duo establishing a 1:10-lead over the chasers by the time they hit the 10km-to-go mark.
It came as no surprise that the gap began to come down on the last two climbs and their advantage pegged back to just 20 seconds, but despite the concerted chase of the pack, the two couldn't be caught and Laurens took second place behind Goncalves, a result which catapulted him to the overall podium, in third position, ahead of the final day.
"I was confident in my chances, felt good and was hoping to win today, that's why I attacked several times. Despite being strong, I couldn't get the victory, because Goncalves has a better sprint and that made the difference in the end. On one hand, I am happy, but on the other I'm very disappointed, because here at Quick-Step Floors you always want to win and that's what I tried to do today. But I remain upbeat and confident my time will come", said Laurens De Plus after stage 3.
Maximilian Schachmann was another Quick-Step Floors rider to turn heads Saturday afternoon, after he came home with the elite group, cementing his top-5 place in the overall standings. Besides having two riders in the upper echelon of the rankings, Quick-Step Floors also holds the top place in the team classification, which the squad leads since day one.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele