Taco van der Hoorn had the power left to out-sprint his fellow breakaway companions as they held off the fast-finishing peloton on stage three of the 2021 Benelux Tour.
Van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) took the fifth win of his career and his second of the season along with a stage at the Giro d'Italia.
The day's break was exceptionally strong throughout the day with the peloton struggling to control the gap which was made even more difficult thanks to notable riders suffering mechanicals.
Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange) was the most dangerous rider in the break at 39 seconds behind the race leader of Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) with the Australian taking bonus seconds in the Golden Kilometre. Bissegger however was able to keep the blue leader's jersey going into stage four.
How it happened
Stage three of the Benelux Tour started in the town of Essen with a largely flat 168.3km to the finish in Hoogerheide including four laps of a finishing circuit.
Five riders went up the road in a strong break of Van der Hoorn , Durbridge, Samuele Battistella (Astana-Premier Tech), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), and Thimo Willems (Sport-Vlaanderen) with a maximum gap of around five minutes. Arjen Livyns (Wallonie Bruxelles-Pauwels Sauces) was also in there but eventually sat up.
The peloton struggled to keep the break under control with Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck - Quick-Step working hard to try and drag them back. The gap wasn’t really coming down in the last 20 or so kilometres, holding steady at around a minute.
Various riders had mechanicals including second overall, Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) as well as Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) with the former getting back in quickly, the latter taking a bit longer.
Alpecin-Fenix tried to add their firepower to the chase but the pace just wasn’t breaking the minute mark to the leaders with 8km to go. Ewan got back on with 6km to go thanks to Philippe Gilbert and Jasper De Buyst.
Bahrain Victorious came to the front as the race neared the Golden Kilometre but the break still held 36 seconds with 5km to go, with Durbridge taking every single sprint and the maximum nine bonus seconds.
Back in the bunch, Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-NextHash) tried a solo move to bridge across to the break but he didn’t stay out for long.
Trek-Segafredo hit the front with 4km to go as Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) hit the deck and was forced to abandon. Meanwhile, up front Battistella attacked but all in the break could follow aside from Norsgaard who started to struggle but still managed to hold on with 3km remaining and 30 seconds back to the bunch.
The break looked around with just over a kilometre to go which meant the gap dipped inside 20 seconds for the first time, with Bahrain and Trek working hard for their sprinters.
But it wasn't enough for the peloton as it was the break that fought it out for the victory. Van der Hoorn was the rider who came out on top, beating Norsgaard to the line with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) leading in the peloton behind.
Benelux Tour 2021, stage three: Essen to Hoogerheide (168.3km)
1. Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, in 3-40-23
2. Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team
3. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange
4. Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
5. Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, all at same time
6. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 3s
7. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain Victorious
8. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
9. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
10. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Stefan Bissegger (Sui) EF Education-Nippo, in 7-24-51
2. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 19s
3. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 20s
4. Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Qhubeka-NextHash, at 22s
5. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange, at 26s
6. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka-NextHash, at same time
7. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, at 29s
8. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Team Bahrain Victorious, at 36s
9. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Team Bahrain Victorious, at 42s
10. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 46s
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