This year’s Eneco Tour lived up to its reputation as a week-long spring Classic in August. Rain, muurs, cobbles and crashes were the challenges for the peloton over seven stages with Lotto-Belisol’s Tim Wellens claiming the top step of the final podium, with Lars Boom (Belkin) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) completing the finishing trio.
Hard racing by hard men
With a field that included Classics legends Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and a (shock, horror) fully bearded Tom Boonen (OPQS), this was always going to be a hard-fought race. But while these riders were key in lighting the touchpaper on a variety of stages, it was the next generation of Classics riders who won those stages and wore the leader’s jerseys throughout the week.
That would have been on the shoulders of five different riders by the final stage and early on, it looked to be a three-man tussle between Boom, Dumoulin and defending champion Zdenek Stybar (OPQS), who had the leader’s jersey on stage 2. But it slipped from the champ’s shoulders to Boom’s after stage 3’s time trial before Stybar crashed face first in the final metres of stage 4 to go out of the race. (Stybar had some broken teeth and cuts but thankfully it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked.)
Mid-week, Dumoulin and Boom traded seconds and stage wins – Dumoulin won the stage 3 time trial and Boom took the leader’s jersey to have Dumoulin nick it off him with hard-fought bonus seconds on stage 5 – before they both got a big surprise on the penultimate stage.
With over a minute in GC arrears, Tim Wellens made a bold move on a dreary, overcast day and stayed out in front of a fiesty attacking field to take a solo stage victory and put enough time into his rivals to take the leader’s jersey. And he kept it in stage 7 by staying safe while OPQS youngster Guillaume Van Keirsbulck took a gutsy maiden WorldTour win by striking out on his own 30km to the finish and staying clear of a peloton determined to catch him.
(Just an aside: am I the only one who thinks that having the one podium girl standing with the winner, soaking up all the applause, makes it look like they’re a couple?)
Update: Niki Terpstra (OPQS) who would have finished 7th in the GC, was instead disqualified after starting a short, sharp barging match with Belkin’s Maarten Wynants during the final stage. Terpstra later apologised for his behaviour.
Stage winners and leader’s jersey
Stage 1: Andrea Guardini (Astana), stage and lead
Stage 2: Zdenek Stybar (OPQS), stage and lead
Stage 3: Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano), stage; Lars Boom (Belkin), lead
Stage 4: Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), stage; Lars Boom, lead
Stage 5: Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), stage: Tom Dumoulin, lead
Stage 6: Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol), stage and lead
Stage 7: Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (OPQS), stage; Tim Wellens, lead
1. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) 25:30:07
2. Lars Boom (Belkin) +0.07
3. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) +0.13
4. Andriy Grivko (Astana) +0.33
5. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) +0.34
6. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0.38
7. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) +0.48
8. Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0.56
9. Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp) +1.04
10. Marco Marcato (Cannondale) +1.11