Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) won stage five of the BinckBank Tour with a late attack, as the sprinters were denied for a second stage running.
The Belgian lead the peloton through a tight chicane with 1km to go, and managed to get a gap after the teammate riding on his wheel cleverly dropped his pace to slow the rest of the peloton.
In a close chase that went down to the wire Stuyven just about managed to fend off the peloton, from which Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) won the sprint to finish second ahead of Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) in third.
Trek-Segafredo did terrific work to set up the win, taking to the front of the peloton for the few kilometres leading up to the decisive chicane, and delivering their man to victory.
That Stuyven was able to finish the move off was even more impressive given that he had to pace back up to the peloton earlier having suffered a mechanical.
Meanwhile Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) managed to extend his lead in the overall classification to three seconds ahead of Sean De Bie (Verandas Willems-Crelan) after gaining some time in the golden kilometre.
How it happened
A breakaway group of three riders was formed at the start of the stage, featuring Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Elmar Reinders (Roompot Nederlandse-Loterij) and Lukas Spengler (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic).
However, despite getting as much as 3-30 up the road, an increase in speed in the peloton saw them brought back with over 80km still left to ride.
As the speed picked up, here were some big name retirees from the race with stage one winner Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) and cobbled specialist Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac) both withdrawing, the former due to illness and the latter for reasons yet to be confirmed.
With the race back together, there was a flurry of attacks as riders attempted to establish a new breakaway, and the speed even caused a split in the peloton.
Eventually, the peloton knocked off the pace when a new four man group broke clear with around 60km to go, consisting of Edward Planckaert (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Alex Kirsch (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic), Dries De Bondt (Verandas Willems-Crelan) and Nick van der Lijke (Roompot Nederlandse-Loterij), allowing the peloton to reform.
Despite the new sense of calm, a crash at the back of the peloton saw dozen or so riders fall, including Yousef Mohamed (UAE-Team Emirates) who was forced to abandon.
The breakaway group survived long enough to contest the intermediate sprint, won by De Bondt, who consequently takes the lead in the Primus Combativity classification. However, they were caught with around 30km to go (with Kirsch surviving a little longer having attacked the others) as the peloton upped the pace ahead of the golden kilometre.
With Sean De Bie just one second behind Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), Verandas Willems-Crelan saw the bonus seconds on offer at the golden kilometre as a chance to gain the leader’s jersey, and were among the teams to bring back the breakaway despite having placed a rider in it.
On the approach to the first of the three golden kilometre sprints, Team Sunweb took to the front to lead out Michael Matthews, while De Bie gained one second by finishing third.
However, Mohoric put in a big effort in the second sprint to gain the maximum three seconds, which was enough to extend his lead to three seconds as De Bie did not have the strength to contest that time.
Matthews took another two seconds in the third and final sprint behind Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors), which means the Australian moves up from eighth to fifth on GC.
In the aftermath of all that action, Katusha-Alpecin took control of the peloton in anticipation of a bunch sprint.
Julius van den Berg (EF Education First-Drapac) attempted to upset the sprinters with an attack at the start of the final lap with 15km to go, but was caught after just a few minutes as LottoNL-Jumbo upped the pace at the front of the peloton.
Next to try a move was the dangerous GC contender Michael Valgren (Astana), with Chris Juul Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott) covering his wheel with his teammate Caleb Ewan in mind. Despite getting a gap, Jensen chose not to take a turn, condemning the duo to being caught with 7km to go.
After that, Trek-Segafredo take control of the race, and set a blistering pace before allowing Stuyven to break clear and claim victory.
The 2018 BinckBank Tour continues tomorrow with a lumpy stage that could see the sprinters denied once again.
BimckBank Tour stage four, Blankenberge to Ardooie (166.5km)
General Classification after stage 4
1 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida in 11-48-28
2 Sean De Bie (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan at 3s
3 Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team at 22s
4 Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic at 28s
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb at 31s
6 Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij at 32s
7 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 36s
8 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb at 37s
9 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors at 41s
10 Alex Dowsett (GBr) Katusha-Alpecin at same time
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