Etixx – Quick-Step goes into the last days of the race with three riders in the top 20.
One hour into the fourth stage of the Eneco Tour (Aalter – St-Pieters-Leeuw, 201.4 km), our team lost Tom Boonen because of a crash, which fortunately didn't had any consequences. At that moment, four men were up the road enjoying a 6-minute gap, but their advantage wasn't substantial enough to stay clear until the finish, especially as the peloton chased them hard under the impetus of several teams, reabsorbing the escapees with more than 60 kilometers to go.
The race exploded, with around 20 riders going to the attack and splitting the bunch over the cobbled section and hills which made up for Thursday's testing course. Inside the final 30 kilometers, Astana duo Andriy Grivko and Dmitry Gruzdev rode away and they were soon followed by Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). The duo put their time trial skills to work and took 20 seconds on the peloton, but as many teams had an interest in a bunch sprint at the end of the day, they were brought back on the final climb of the stage.
Grivko and Gruzdev were later joined by Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), but even though they carried a 12-second advantage at one point, the trio didn't stand a chance against the raging pack, who ended up fighting for victory in a bunch gallop, won by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), who also claimed the overall lead after the stage.
Thanks to the bonus seconds that he grabbed in the Golden Kilometer, German ITT Champion Tony Martin climbed in the general classification to 13th, just two places behind teammate Marcel Kittel, with another Etixx – Quick-Step rider Niki Terpstra lying in 17th place. Our squad will now look towards stage 5 of the race, a 20.9-km long team time trial in Sittard-Geelen, which is expected to reshuffle the standings and set the platform for an exciting week-end.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele