Taco van der Hoorn (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) was the surprise winner of stage three of the BinckBank Tour, on a rare occasion in which the breakaway managed to hold off the peloton on a flat stage.
His breakaway companion Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) inherits the overall lead from Stefan Küng (BMC), who finished in the peloton over one minute behind.
They were part of a five-man group that escaped at the start of the day, which also included Van der Hoorn’s Rompot teammate Jesper Asselman, Sean De Bie (Veranda’s Willems Crelan) and Maxime Vantomme (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic).
When it became clear in the final ten kilometres that they would survive, Mohoric - easily the most accomplished rider in the group - put in several stinging attacks in an attempt to win the stage.
However, it was Van der Hoorn’s counter-attack under the one kilometre to go banner that proved to be the decisive move, that neither Mohoric nor the others were able to respond to.
The result will go down as easily the biggest on the 24-year old Dutchman’s palmares, which until now had only featured a few wins in minor Europe Tour races. He scarcely seemed to believe what was happening himself, neither celebrating nor once looking back on the finishing straight until he’d crossed the line.
The peloton, lead by Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), didn’t arrive until 1-11 later, meaning that, as well as Mohoric becoming the new overall leader, De Bie also moves to second overall one second behind, while Vantomme rises to fourth and Van der Horn to fifth.
How it happened
Van der Hoorn, Mohoric, De Bie, Vantomme and Asselman all broke clear at the start of the day.
The biggest name was undoubtedly Mohoric, who had a licence to attack having lost 58 seconds in yesterday’s time trial.
The quintet worked well together straight from the off, and built a lead that peaked at 4-40 ahead of the peloton.
Ag2r La Mondiale upped the pace as the peloton went through the feed zone with around 55km to go, presumably in anticipation of strong crosswinds. They strung the bunch out in single file, and some lost contact, while overall contender Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) suffered a puncture at this inopportune time.
However, the French team knocked the pace off after a few kilometres when the wind failed to blow substantially, allowing Wellens and others to catch back on.
In the aftermatch, the gap to the break was reduced to three minutes. It stayed at around that amount for several kilometres, and remained so by the time the break reached the finish line for the first of three circuits in Antwerp with 26km to go.
The pace in the peloton was slow enough for Stefan Küng (BMC) to make his way through the cars back up to the peloton without any assistance from his teammates after he suffered a mechanical.
The gap did start to come down when the likes of Quick-Step Floors, LottoNL-Jumbo and Mitchelton-Scott put riders at the front of the peloton, but not quickly enough.
With 20km to go it remained at over two minutes. 10km later, it was still at around 1-50, and, despite a committed chase, the peloton were unable to make any inroads.
In the golden kilometre Mohoric picked up nine bonus seconds, time that would ultimately prove decisive for the Slovenian national champion as it meant that he, rather than De Bie, took the overall lead at the end of the stage.
Once it became clear that they would not be caught, hostilities resumed between the breakaway riders. With 5km to Mohoric made his first attack, which was enough to distance Asselman but not the others.
De Bie was careful to cover Mohoric’s other attacks, but neither had any answer to Van der Hoorn’s move 1km from the finish.
The BinckBank Tour will continue tomorrow with another flat stage expected to be a bunch sprint - but as we found out today, nothing is guaranteed in cycling.
BinckBank Tour stage three, Aalter to Antwerpen (166km)
1 Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij in 3-57-56
2 Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic, at 35s
3 Sean De Bie (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
4 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
5 Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij, at same time
6 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1-11
7 Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
8 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
9 Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb
10 Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale, at same time
General classification after stage three
1 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida in 8-03-56
2 Sean De Bie (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan at 1s
3 Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team at 22s
4 Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic at 25s
5 Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij at 34s
6 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 36s
7 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb at 37s
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at same time
9 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors at 41s
10 Alex Dowsett (GBr) Katusha-Alpecin, at same time