Gilbert takes second on the Muur van Geraardsbergen
Quick-Step Floors finished with two riders in the BinckBank Tour top 10 overall and kept hold of the World Tour classification lead.
When you have the Muur-Kapelmuur, one of cycling's most iconic climbs, on the parcours, you just know are in for a spectacular and breathless race, during which the riders drop their guard and go all-in for it. This was the case also on Sunday afternoon, when the BinckBank Tour peloton had to overcome a leg-sapping final stage, that had seven hills jammed in the last 50 kilometers of the day.
Muur van Geraardsbergen, which featured three times on the route, was where a first important selection was made with more than 40 kilometers to go, when the peloton shrunk considerably, as many riders find it difficult to keep up. Later, on the Bosberg, some of the general classification contenders tried their luck, but to no avail, as every time a response came from behind and every attack saw a counter.
Quick-Step Floors was again in the thick of the action in this captivating finale, attacking with the likes of Dries Devenyns and Petr Vakoč, before taking the front in the bunch and setting a fierce pace with ten kilometers remaining. On the Denderoordberg, chaos ensued and this led to a disorganised pack inside the final kilometers, where Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) took advantage of the newly created situation and attacked, opening a hefty gap by the time he hit the first ramps of the Muur.
Philippe Gilbert was the first rider to accelerate from the main group on the cobbled climb, and his strong forcing came close to paying dividends, as the Ronde van Vlaanderen champion finished runner-up on the stage, just one second behind the victor. His fine effort on the final day of the BinckBank Tour helped Gilbert move up a place in the general classification, to ninth, just ahead of teammate Petr Vakoč, who notched his first top 10 finish of the year in a stage race.
"I am of course disappointed, because I had good legs and was confident there was a chance of taking the victory. In the end, I came really close, and that was frustrating. Overall, it wasn't an easy week, but the good part is that I felt better and improved with every day that passed, so now, at the end of the week, I can take a lot of positives and confidence from this race to my next appointments of the season", said Philippe, who is eighth in the World Tour individual rankings.
Quick-Step Floors – the only squad in the BinckBank Tour to place two riders in the top 10 – will go into next week as the leader of the World Tour team standings, which the outfit managed by Patrick Lefevere leads since March, when Yves Lampaert took a resplendent solo win at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele