Stijn Vandenbergh concludes Belgium Tour on the podium
Sunday's third place was the best result of the Etixx – Quick-Step rider in his home race.
On a day which was expected to finish in a bunch gallop despite several cobbled sections, our team tried to make the race as soon as the hostilities began on the roads taking to Tongeren. Iljo Keisse, Tony Martin and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck rode away in a group which consisted of 11 riders with the intention of putting pressure on overall leader Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling). Despite the strong winds and nagging rain, the group hanged on to a small gap to the peloton until the final 40 kilometers, when the pack came back and neutralized that move.
Of the riders who were part of the escape, Iljo Keisse and Sebastien Delfosse (Wallonie-Bruxelles) accelerated before the junction was made and opened a 20-second advantage which helped them keep the chasers at bay until inside the last 15 kilometers, when it was all together again. As in the previous stages, the finale was a nervous one, and this led to a crash in the pack, Yves Lampaert being among those involved, fortunately without any consequences.
In the sprint, Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin) emerged victorious, ahead of Daniel McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Timothy Dupont (Verandas Willems), while Niki Terpstra was Etixx – Quick-Step's best placed rider in 7th, an impressive result considering he chased to get back in the bunch after puncturing at a crucial moment of the race, when the peloton was pushing a really strong pace. In the general classification, Stijn Vandenbergh came third – only four seconds adrift – notching his top result of the season in a stage race and his maiden podium in the Belgium Tour.
"It was a hard stage. Just before a cobbled stretch I punctured, but luckily Niki was there and gave me his wheel and the other guys brought me back to the front. Then, I went for bonus seconds and I was strong enough to pick a few, which helped me defend my place on the podium. Would have been nice to win the race, but I'm still happy with this third place in front of my supporters, especially as it came following a fantastic work of the team throughout the week", said Stijn Vandenbergh after completing the 86th edition of the Belgium Tour.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele