Sonny Colbrelli pulled off a magnificent display on stage six of the Benelux Tour, going off the front with 50km to go, accelerating to take bonus seconds in the golden kilometre, before extending his advantage until the finish line, assuming the overall lead with one stage to go.
The Italian thumped his chest as he crossed the line before collapsing to the floor, having followed team-mate Matej Mohorič's attack up the road, UAE Team Emirates' Marc Hirschi along for the ride too.
Mohorič did his best to disrupt the chase efforts as Colbrelli stole a march up the road, before the Slovenian sprinted to second place on the stage, 24 seconds later, and take six bonus seconds ahead of Trek-Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven.
Colbrelli now leads Mohorič by 51 seconds heading into the final stage.
How it happened
Split into two, the first half of stage six was a flatter affair before the latter stages saw climbs provide obstacles on which the battle for the overall would be fought.
Two riders escaped up the road early on, Alpecin-Fenix’s Jonas Rickaert accompanied by Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas - his appearance up the road being a real collector’s item.
The pair ploughed on up the road, at one point extending their advantage to more than seven minutes, before they started going backwards, Rickaert caught first before accelerations from Matej Mohorič, Marc Hirschi and Sonny Colbrelli then brought Thomas’ day off the front to an end.
Astana’s Samuele Battistella then launched off the front in an unsuccessful bid to get across, as the trio up ahead took out a gap of 45 seconds.
25km to go and Colbrelli surged ahead, with the golden kilometre coming up, Tom Dumoulin and Victor Campenaerts closing in behind ahead of a larger chase group after the 10.4 per cent gradient of the Côte Saint-Roch split the bunch up.
Colbrelli sailed through all three checkpoints to mop up the maximum bonus seconds at the golden kilometre, Matej Mohoric playing Tim Wellens like a fiddle to take two bonus seconds at each behind his team-mate, the Slovenian and Hirschi now caught by a larger chasing group.
With 10km to go, Cobrelli was still 45 seconds ahead of the seven-man chase group containing Dumoulin, Mohorič, Benoot, Wellens, Campenaerts, Hirschi and Stuyven, the Italian battling his bike to keep the speed up and his pursuers at bay.
With the chase not overly organised behind, and the super-strong Mohorič present to disrupt their progress, Colbrelli crossed the line with 24 seconds to spare, improving on his second-place yesterday to take the stage win and assume the overall lead, Mohorič sprinting to second from the group behind and assuring Bahrain-Victorious of a one-two on both the stage and in the general classification.
Benelux Tour 2021, stage six: Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve to Houffalize (207.6km)
1. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, in 4-55-27
2. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-Victorious, at 24 seconds
3. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
4. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) DSM
5. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Qhubeka-Assos
6. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
7. Marc Hirschi (Sui) UAE Team Emirates
8. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, all at same time
9. Nikiard Arndt (Ger) DSM, at 1-02
10. Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix, at same time
General classification after stage six
1. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, in 20-23-30
2. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-Victorious, at 51 seconds
3. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Qhubeka-Assos, at 53s
4. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-07
5. Luke Durbridge (Aus) BikeExchange, at 1-09
6. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
7. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) DSM, at 1-13
8. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-16
9. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-40
10. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 1-42
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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