Tom Boonen (Etixx – Quick-Step) showed he’s still got bhis sprinting prowess, after finishing off a difficult run-in to the finish on the third stage of the 2015 Eneco Tour.
The Classics specialist took victory ahead of out-and-out sprinters like Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), after his Etixx teammates lead him perfectly at the front of the pack through the tight corners to the finishing straight.
Greipel appeared to lose contact with his usually exceptional lead-out train, with the bunch stretching down the road as they sped their way to the finish.
Frenchman Demare was the first to launch his sprint, with Boonen already alone after having been dropped off by his final teammate at the front of the peloton. But Demare’s far-out attack allowed the Belgian to jump onto his wheel, and he was able to come round the FDJ man to pip him to the line on the finish in Ardooie.
The main break of the day contained three men, David Boucher (FDJ), Edward Theuns (Topsport-Vlaanderen) and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), but having built up a lead of around four minutes, they were caught by the peloton towards the end of the first lap of the final finishing circuit.
Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) was the only rider to have another dig off the front, but he was quickly reeled in with 17.4km to and it was all together for the final lap.
Lotto-Soudal then took control in order to set-up a second consectutive stage win for German Greipel, but it was Etixx who made a late move to set Boonen up to sprint to take his seventh career stage win at the Eneco Tour.
The win also sees Boonen jump to second in the overall classification, with Jesper Asselman (Roompot Oranje Peloton) hoding on to the white jersey by one second with Viviani third on the same time.
Thursday signals the end of the sprinters’ chances at this edition of the race, with a 14km individual time trial in Hoogerheide in the Netherlands kicking off the fight for overall victory in earnest with four stage left.
Eneco Tour 2015, stage three: Beveren – Ardooie, 172km:
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step, in 3-54-25
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
4. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana
5. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Roompot Oranje Peloton
6. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
7. Rudiger Selig (Ger) Katusha
8. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
10. Roy Jans (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, all same time
Overall classification after stage three
1. Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot Oranje Peloton, in 12-13-20
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step, at 1 sec
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky, st
4.André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal at 5 secs
5. Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen, at 6 secs
6. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing, at 9 secs
7. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
8. Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Katusha
9. Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport-Vlaanderen
10. Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, all same time