Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) went on a long-range solo attack to take the stage five and overall victory at the BinckBank Tour in a thrilling final day of racing, overturning his 17-second deficit in GC.
The Dutch champion attacked with Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) at the 75km to go mark on the second of four ascents of the Muur van Geraardsbergen to bridge across to the day's earlier breakaway of seven riders.
After catching and riding with that group until the next passage up the Muur, Van der Poel accelerated again with 47km to go, this time leaving everyone behind with Sénéchal the nearest chaser.
Van der Poel persisted alone with groups attacking and reforming from the peloton behind. With 15km to go on the final ascent of the Bosberg climb, Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-McLaren), third overall Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), and second overall Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) formed a chase group, leaving race leader Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) behind.
Their efforts saw Van der Poel holding on just barely to a lead, but with 12 seconds' advantage into the final kilometre it looked like he would take the stage but potentially miss out on overall victory.
In the end he was able to hold on by just a mere three seconds on the final ascent to the line part-way up the Muur, leaving Naesen into second. Kragh needed to finish in at least third to take the final four bonus seconds and have a chance of taking the overall win, but his fourth-place finish and Van der Poel's 10 seconds on the line were enough to hand stage winner the overall victory as well.
How it happened
The fifth and final stage of the 2020 BinckBank Tour would be decisive in the general classification fight. The final stage took in brutal laps of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, Bosberg, and Denderoordberg cobbled climbs on a 183.6km route from Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve to Geraardsbergen.
The riders would have to take on the climbs four times before finishing on the foot of Muur at the end of the stage.
Mads Pedersen led the race by just seven seconds of Søren Kragh Andersen into the stage, but there were plenty of riders just a handful of seconds behind who might eye a potential move for overall victory, including Matheiu van der Poel at 17 seconds.
There were no successful early attacks that got away as the peloton rolled out from the start, with the first breakaway finally escaping with 119km to go, not far ahead of the first ascent of the Muur.
In the group of seven riders up the road were Julien Duval (Ag2r La Mondiale), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Jumbo-Visma), Christian Knees (Ineos Grenadiers), Brian van Goethem (Lotto-Soudal), Fran Ventoso (CCC Team), Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), and Rasmus Tiller (NTT). They established a gap of just over two minutes over the first ascent of the Muur with some riders attacking from behind to try and make it up to the breakaway.
The first of those moves to be successful came from Mathieu van der Poel with 75km to go; the Dutch champion accelerating furiously over the second passage of the Muur, taking Florian Sénéchal and Cyril Lemoine with him.
They were able to work together to keep the peloton at bay, and eventually made it to the lead group with 65km gone, with De Bondt dropping back to help Van der Poel in the pursuit.
They were happy to stay as a group until the next ascent of the Muur with 50km to go, when Van der Poel attacked again, leaving everyone behind.
Sénéchal was the only rider to get close in pursuit, but Van der Poel powered away and quickly established a 10-second gap.
The Dutchman continued to stretch that gap to Sénéchal, who was being closed in on by the peloton behind. Eventually, now over 1-20 back to Van der Poel, Sénéchal relented and dropped back to the bunch with 33.5km to go.
Heading into the final lap of the circuit, things weren't looking as quite as assured for Van der Poel, who now had a gap of 1-07 with 25km to go.
His advantage dropped below a minute between the Muur and Bosberg as riders counter-attacked behind him, including Søren Kragh Andersen, Stefan Küng, and race leader Pedersen.
Van der Poel was able to take maximum bonus seconds through the golden kilometre (nine) with Pedersen taking the early seconds before being dropped by the pace of Kragh on the Bosberg, with the Dane taking five bonus seconds.
Those accelerations saw the lone leader's gap down to 37 seconds with 15km to go as a chase group of Oliver Naesen, Sonny Colbrelli, Küng, and Kragh came together after the Bosberg. Pedersen, dropped, was seeing his overall lead slip away as he fell to 20 seconds behind.
The chasing quartet worked together well in pursuit of Van der Poel, who hit the final climb of the Denderoordberg with just 28 seconds and was now in sight of the four chasers.
Over the climb the advantage dropped and Van der Poel’s efforts looked to be in vain as he held just 13 seconds with 4.5km to go.
But he grimaced and fought to keep an advantage as the quartet began to think about the finish, with Kragh doing all the pulling to try and save his chances of winning the overall.
Van der Poel rode through the flamme rouge with 12 seconds, and as he climbed the final straight to the line on Muur, Naesen began to close in on him. Van der Poel just held on by a few seconds ahead of Naesen, with Colbrelli taking third. Kragh suffered for his efforts in pursuit of the escapee and missed out on a podium spot, where the bonus seconds may have given him a hope of sneaking to the GC victory.
The day's glory went to Mathieu van der Poel though, who stole the show with a gritty long-range attack to take the stage win and the overall victory.
BinckBank Tour 2020, stage five: Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve to Geraardsbergen (183.6km)
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, in 4-07-38
2. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 3 seconds
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-McLaren, at 5 secs
4. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb, at same time
5. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 9 secs
6. Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Cofidis, at 47 secs
7. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 50 secs
8. Iván García Cortina (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-08
9. Jempy Drucker (Lux) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-12
10. Florian Sénéchal (Fra) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 1-13
Final general classification
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, in 10-43-08
2. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb, at 8 seconds
3. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 23 seconds
4. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 1-16
5. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-21
6. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-42
7. Florian Sénéchal (Fra) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 1-45
8. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-49
9. Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 1-59
10. John Degenkolb (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, at 2-02
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