Michael Matthews (Sunweb) won the final stage of the 2018 BinckBank Tour to Geraardsbergen, but couldn’t unseat Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) at the top of the GC as he held on to take overall victory.
Australian Matthews won in a bunch finish to the finish line 700m up the Muur van Geraardsbergen, beating Greg Van Avermaet to the line (BMC Racing) after distancing him with 200m to go.
Mohoric, who had led on to the final climb, was dropped out of the back of the lead group but was able to cross the line at 14 seconds behind the winner Matthews, who had started the day at 30 seconds down.
Time bonuses picked up on the line and through the stage by Matthews meant that overall gap sat at just five seconds in the end, with Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) able to leap frog his way from eighth to third place overall.
How it happened
Seven men formed the day’s main break, with 18 climbs and three full ascents of the Muur van Geraardsbergen to come, with Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Markel Irizar (Trek-Segafredo), Jonas Rickaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Balois), Elmar Reinders (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Ludwig De Winter (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic) the riders to get away.
They established a maximum gap of around five minutes, still holding over four minutes with 100km to go.
But as the riders continued to tick away and the race his the Muur for the first time with less than 80km to go, the gap had slipped to under two minutes with riders preparing to attack Mohoric’s overall lead.
Van Keirsbulck then caused the group to split on a cobbled climb, taking De Vreese and Irizar with him. With counter attacks behind, the second ascent of the Muur saw Van Keirsbulck get away by himself and hold over a minute on the peloton which split to pieces as attacks began to fly up the climb.
Michael Valgren (Astana) got away from the peloton along with Paul Martens (LottoNL-Jumbo) and early breaker Rickaert with around 40km remaining, and eventually the latter two were able to work their way up to Van Keirsbulck. Valgren was forced to drop back to the next chasing group on a neutral service bike after suffering a mechanical.
With numerous moves from riders out of the peloton, by the next ride up the Muur things were close to being all together, with the break finally coming to an and as Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Wellens attacked up the climb to put Mohoric in trouble.
He was able to claw his way back to the riders up the road, but Naesen fought hard to stay out solo with Wellens unable to follow as he accelerated up the next climb of the Bosberg.
Former Belgian champion Naesen was able to put a gap of around 20 seconds into the riders behind, and held on valiantly until the penultimate cobbled climb with 5.6km to go. There, Zdenek Stybar attacked to bridge to him, with the likes of Wellens, Greg Van Avermaet, Michael Matthews and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) all following.
Mohoric was distanced, but again put in a huge effort to make it in to the front group. Stuyven was the next to attack, but as other riders tried to get across, Mohoric continued to chase on and close the gap.
Eventually it was all together on the final kick part way up the Muur to the finish line, with Mohoric leading on to the climb.
He was quickly dropped as Van Avermaet accelerated, but it was Matthews who timed his effort perfectly, sprinting away from the BMC rider with 200m to go and holding him off to take victory on the cobbles.
Mohoric eventually crossed the line 14 seconds down, had done just enough to hold off the threat of Matthews who had started the day at just 30 seconds down on GC.
The Slovenian champion was able to claim the overall win by just five seconds after bonuses picked up by Matthews during the final stage.
BinckBank Tour 2018, stage seven: Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure to Geraardsbergen (215.6k)
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, in 4-38-36
2 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team, at 1s
3 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors, at 3s
4 Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale
5 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors
6 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
7 Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
8 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
9 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky, all same time
10 Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 7s
Final overall classification
1 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida, in 25-13-01
2 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 5s
3 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Souda, at 20s
4 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, at 25s
5 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky, at 34s
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team, at 37s
7 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb, at 39s
8 Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 43s
9 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
10 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 50s