Laurens De Plus (Jumbo-Visma) won the BinckBank Tour 2019 after overhauling a 12-second deficit to Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), attacking late on stage seven to sweep up bonus seconds and finish ahead of the pack to seal victory.
Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) took the stage win, beating Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) in the sprint finish on the cobbles after the pair had ridden away from the bunch alongside De Plus in the final 20km.
De Plus picked up bonus seconds in the golden kilometre section, as well as four bonus seconds on the line after finishing third, 21 seconds ahead of the next rider Simon Clarke (EF Education First), doing more than enough to take the overall victory.
Naesen’s win lifted him to second on the podium, 35 seconds behind De Plus, with Wellens holding onto third, one second back. Van Avermaet narrowly missed out on the podium in fourth, only one second behind Wellens.
How it happened
It was a quiet start to the race, with no breakaways in the first 80km of racing. After 50km the peloton did briefly split into three on the cobbles of the Schavolliestraat but then came back together.
Eight riders attacked off the front with 100km to go, with a chase group of seven forming behind containing Bob Jungels (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and catching them within 15km.
With 65km to go, the large breakaway had a 40 second gap on the peloton as Juan Molano (UAE Team Emirates) crashed round a corner, narrowly avoiding spectators lining the street and subsequently abandoning the race.
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) decided enough was enough as the race ticked under 50km to go, attacking the break at the Muur van Geraardbergen, splitting the group up, leaving only six in the front with a gap of 25 seconds.
As the peloton hit the climb the attacks began, with Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) bridging across to the front group.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step drilled the pace in the peloton, with remnants of the breakaway being reeled in with 30km to go at the Denderoordberg and 6km later the race was all back together as the break were caught.
With 22km to go, a group of 15 were at the front of the race, including Greg Van Avermaet, Oliver Naesen, race leader Tim Wellens, second place Mar Hirschi, Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First) and Zdeněk Štybar.
Naesen, De Plus and Van Avermaet attacked on the Bosberg with 19km to the finish. De Plus was first to the golden kilometre point and took seven seconds, moving him to within five seconds of Wellens in the overall classification.
The Belgian trio took out a 24 second lead with 16km left, with Wellens isolated and pulling the reduced peloton himself with 11km remaining as the gap started to go out.
Their advantage was holding with 5km to go and De Plus looking good for the overall victory with Van Avermaet and Naesen left to fight it out on the uphill finish. De Plus was dropped as the two strongmen pushed on, engaging in a long sprint on the cobbled finishing straight. Van Avermaet edged ahead but Naesen pulled level and pipped him on the line, pumping the air, ecstatic at having taken the victory.
De Plus had sealed the overall victory, finishing third and 21 seconds clear of the next rider to cross the line, Simon Clarke. Naesen’s victory moved him up to second on GC with Wellens doing enough to limit his losses and finish in third. Van Avermaet missed out on the podium by only one second, having to take fourth in his second near-miss of the day.
BinckBank Tour 2019, stage seven: Sint-Pieters-Leeuw to Geraardsbergen (178.1km)
1. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale, in 3-52-40
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC, at same time
3. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale, at four seconds
4. Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First, at 25s
5. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 26s
6. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
7. Michael Valgren (Den) Dimension Data, at 35s
8. Iván García Cortina (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at same time
9. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaandren-Baloise, at 38s
10. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos, at same time
Final general classification
1. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 21-29-55
2. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 35 seconds
3. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 36s
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC, at 37s
5. Marc Hirschi (Sui) Sunweb, at 44s
6. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-06
7. Iván García Cortina (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-13
8. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-16
9. Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First, at 1-19
10. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb, at 1-21