Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) finally won his first race of 2014, with a dominant sprint up the Muur van Geraardsbergen in the fourth stage of the Eneco Tour.
Geraint Thomas (Sky) attempted to go with the Belgian’s move, but found his legs failing him and he finished seventh, six seconds down. He remains fifth overall.
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Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) finished two seconds behind in second, and swaps places with Lars Boom (Belkin) at the top of the overall classification.
Van Avermaet has endured a season of near misses, having narrowly missed out to Ian Stannard (Sky) at Het Nieuwsblad and to Fabian Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders (Trek), but was today a comprehensive winner with a dominant ride up the last ascent of the Muur.
A chaotic final few kilometres saw constant attacks but none managing to stick, until a drop in pace allowed Laurens de Vreese (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and, soon after, Pavel Brutt (Katusha) to make a gap. Brutt attacked again on the Muur and looked as though he may hang on, until an onrushing Van Avermaet passed him half way up.
Brutt nevertheless managed to hang on to third, with Dumoulin the only other rider to pass him. The Dutch rider’s late surge was unexpected, given that he’d been distanced on the previous ascent of the Muur, but suggests that he will be difficult to dislodge as race leader.
Boom managed to finish close enough behind in fifth to not concede any time to him, but the six second time bonus was enough to see him lose he jersey.
Prior to Van Avermaet’s race winning attack, BMC had ridden an aggressive race all day, with Silvan Diller a frequent attacker and Philippe Gilbert forcing a small selection on the penultimate ascent of the Muur. Gilbert’s attack forced Boom to respond, and on the subsequent descent the pair formed a group of four with Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) and Gilbert’s team mate Manuel Quinziato.
A long flat section saw the race all come back together, however, and the race remained subdued until Van Avermaet made his first attack on the Denderoordberg a few kilometres before the finishing climb.
A break featuring Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol) and Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff-Saxo), spent much of the day at the front of the race, and began fracturing as the climbs got harder. Trentin and Lastras proved the strongest and emerged as the leading duo after the second Muur, but were caught comfortably in the final 10k.
Eneco Tour 2014, stage five: Geraardsbergen to Geraardsbergen, 160.3km
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing in 3-45-36
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Shimano at 2 secs
3. Pavel Brutt (Rus) Katusha
4. Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin at same time
6. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 6 secs
7. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
8. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
9. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing at same time
Overall classification after stage five
1. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Shimano
2. Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin at 2 secs
3. Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing at 11 secs
4. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 14 secs
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 21 secs
6. Pavel Brutt (Rus) Katusha at 23 secs
7. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin at 24 secs
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 25 secs
9. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 25 secs
10. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge at 28 secs
Zdenek Stybar undergoes surgery and teeth replacement after crashing in the finale of stage four of the Eneco Tour
Zdenek Stybar taken to hospital after crashing out of Eneco Tour; Lars Boom retains lead