Belkin's Mark Renshaw rode to a surprising solo victory in the opening stage of the Eneco Tour 2013.
The Australian, best known for his lead-out and sprinting attributes, broke away from the main pack with under two kilometres to go as his Belkin teammates took control on the front of the peloton.
Monday's win on the 175.3km stage between Koksijde and Ardooiein Belgium represents Renshaw's first victory in almost half a year, and probably his most major win since joining Belkin (formerly Rabobank) back at the start of the 2012 season. Renshaw is set to leave the Dutch based team at the end of the season however, as he rejoins former teammate Mark Cavendish at Omega Pharma - Quick-Step.
The stage itself looked set to be ideal for the pure sprinters like Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), with a flat terrain throughout, save for one climb mid-way through and a breakaway group almost inevitably formed from the off.
The three-man group of Laurens de Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) and Benjamin Verraes (Accent.jobs - Wanty) built up a maximum lead of 8'30", before the pace grew in the peloton thanks to work on the front from Argos-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol and Orica-GreenEDGE, eventually reeling the trio of riders back in with 15km to go.
Despite such hard work from the sprinter's teams, it was a gutsy break from Renshaw in the twisty approach to the finish that proved decisive. The move placed Renshaw two seconds ahead of second place Greipel, who easily outsprinted the rest of the field, leaving Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Leopard) to finish third.
Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) had a less than successful day, finishing 3'50" behind the winner, but the Sky leader didn't look overly concerned as he eyes the time trial on stage five in preparation for his bid at the World Time Trial Championship.
Renshaw's win also afforded him a four second time bonus, leaving him in the leader's jersey at the top of the general classification, six seconds ahead of German champion Andre Greipel.
Stage one result
1 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Belkin, 4:01:14
2 Andre Greipel (Bel) Lotto-Belisol, +2secs
3 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Leopard, same time
4 Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida, st
5 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale, st
6 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, st
7 Michael van Staeyen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise, st
8 Davide Appollonio (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
9 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
10 Ruslan Tluebayev (Kaz) Astana, st
1 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Belkin, 4:01:04
2 Andre Greipel (Bel) Lotto-Belisol, +6secs
3 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise, +7
4 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Leopard, +8
5 Benjamin Verraes (Bel) Accent.jobs - Wanty, same time
6 Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin, +9
7 Laurens de Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise, st
8 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, +10
9 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale, +11
10 Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida, +12
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