Vandenbergh on the attack in Belgium Tour
Despite the 32-year-old's third place finish, it wasn't an easy day for Etixx – Quick-Step, as two riders had a mechanical at a crucial point in the race.
Stage 3 (Knokke-Heist – Knokke-Heist, 200.9 kilometers) of the Belgium Tour was dubbed as being the first to lead to a serious shake-up of the general classification, and it did, but not before the breakaway which contained Amaury Capiot (Topsport Vlaanderen), Clement Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Ludwig De Winter (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling), Christophe Premont (Verandas Willems), Mirko Selvaggi (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Steven Tronet (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) got its 15 minutes of fame.
Having two riders on the general classification podium, Etixx – Quick-Step was keen to make the race hard and get a grip on the overall before the week-end, but unfortunately it was hit by bad luck, as Iljo Keisse crashed, while both Niki Terpstra and Tony Martin had a mechanical because of which they were forced to leave their ambitions aside. If the Dutch champion was delayed by this incident which occurred just before Leberg, Tony – who was third in the GC and was already part of a move that tried to put pressure on the bunch – needed a bike change after his chain got stucked between the gears before Paddestraat.
In the final 20 kilometers, a strong group of 10 riders took the peloton by surprise and quickly built a gap of 30 seconds. Among those men was also Stijn Vandenbergh, who got in the mix at the intermediate sprints, before surging clear on the flat together with Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling). Their move sparked a furious response of the chasing group and the duo was caught with around eight kilometers to go. With the peloton 50 seconds behind, it became clear that the stage winner was at the front, and Stijn launched another attack which only the same Devenyns could follow.
The Belgian powerhouse of Etixx – Quick-Step left everything on the road, and at the end the effort netted him a third place on the stage, behind his breakaway companion and Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie-Bruxelles). In the rankings, Stijn – winner of a Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana stage earlier this year – is on the last step of the podium, just seven seconds behind Devenyns, the new leader of the Belgium Tour.
"I had a good feeling today, so I said to myself that I have to try something. When Tiesj Benoot accelerated, I followed him and made sure of saving some energy for the last part. Then, when I launched my first attack, only Dries followed me, but unfortunately he didn't work with me so we were caught soon. Afterwards, I waited for a good moment and went one more time with one kilometer to go, but got caught again, so that was that. I'm happy with my result, but also a little bit disappointed, as I really wanted to win today to go", said Stijn Vandenbergh after one of his strongest days of the year on the bike.
With his GC hopes gone up in smoke, Tony Martin vowed to ride in support of his teammate in the two stages left until the end of the 86th edition: "I couldn't shift anymore right before the Paddestraat and had to change the bike. I was very unlucky, and after that moment and my time in the break, I started to suffer and things became really difficult. For me, the overall is now history, but we still have Stijn in the top 3 and we are ready to fight hard."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele