Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) took victory on an Ardennes day at the BinckBank Tour, as Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) took over the overall lead of the race from compatriot Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo).
Wellens held onto victory on the drag up to the line of stage six in Houffalize, with Dumoulin right behind him after the pair had got away out front with around 22km to go.
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In fact, Wellens had made his move out front after following Peter Sagan‘s (Bora-Hansgrohe) attack with 26km to go, but the world champion was left frustrated after suffering a puncture and with no neutral service or team car near by.
While Sagan was forced to drop back, Wellens pushed on, picking up the first time bonus of Golden Kilometre. Tom Dumouling then pushed on to try and catch the Belgian out front, breaking away from a group of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Michael Valgren (Astana), Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal).
The Giro d’Italia winner made it across to Wellens with 21.9km to go, and the pair quickly established a 17 second gap.
Sagan, forced to wait for a bike change, found himself in a group along with race leader Boom, Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) and Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) among others, with no-one seemingly willing to work with him to close the gap.
The gap between the Van Avermaet group and Wellens dipped as low as seven with a catch looking likely, but the front pair were working well together an gradually increased the gap as they pushed on over the lumpy terrain.
They rolled into town with around 20 seconds and Wellens led onto the final drag up the finish line. Dumoulin tried to put in a bit of a dig but was unable to get around Wellens and settled for second and taking over the overall lead.
Earlier in the day, a breakaway of Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky), Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Rory Sutherland (Movistar), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Pieter Weening (Roompot) got over five minutes on the main peloton.
On a rainy 204km day through the Ardennes over a plethora of categorised climbs, the break did well to hold a gap of three minutes for much of the closing 100km.
But the gap had drifted down to around 50 seconds heading towards the difficult Côte de Saint Roch on the final finishing circuit with around 33km to go.
That ascent put paid quickly to the break’s chances and they were all caught by the top of the climb, with the peloton behind splitting into pieces and the main players coming to the fore.
Naesen made first to make an attack with 26km to go, before Sagan attacked on climb with 24km to go and set up the winning move for Tim Wellens.
Tom Dumoulin will aim to hold onto his overall lead with Wellens just four seconds back in second and Van Avermaet 46 seconds back in third.
BinckBank Tour 2017, stage six: Riemst – Houffalize (203.7km)
1 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, in 5-04-36
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, st
3 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 17s
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
5 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal, all same time
6 Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team, at 20s
7 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale, st
8 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-42
9 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
10 Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty – Groupe Gobert, all same time
General classification after stage six
1 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, in 20-27-49
2 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 4s
3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team, at 46s
4 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 52s
5 Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team, 1-02
6 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale, at 1-09
7 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac, at 2-22
8 Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale, at 2-28
9 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb, at 2-40
10 Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty – Groupe Gobert, at 3-15