Eneco Tour: Nervous bunch sprint in Ardooie
For the second time this week, the fight for victory was a messy one, as the bunch caught the escapees with just 400 meters to go.
A breakaway of five riders, who had a maximum gap of seven minutes on the pack, wasn't willing to wave the flag on stage 3 (Blankenberge – Ardooie, 182.3 km) of the Eneco Tour, making the peloton work hard in order to reel them in, despite holding a one-minute advantage inside the final 10 kilometers, on the flat roads of Belgium. Sensing the threat, the teams got themselves organized and began to slowly reduce the deficit, but it easy by any means.
Kilometer after kilometer, the advantage came down, but it was only with 500 meters remaining that the peloton caught the five men in dramatic fashion. Because they left it too late, the scenario of the finale was changed, as the frantic chase disintegrated the lead-out trains, leaving every man for himself in Ardooie, which was hosting a stage arrival for the ninth consecutive year. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) emerged victorious after defeating Danny van Poppel (Team Sky) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), while Rohan Dennis (BMC) kept the leader's jersey.
Once again, Marcel Kittel couldn't put his fast legs to work, despite being in excellent condition, as he was boxed in, just as on Monday, and finished the stage in 8th place, ahead of fellow countryman Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). Marcel, who won 12 races this year, continues to be Etixx – Quick-Step's best placed rider in the general classification, resting in 10th after three stages, 17 seconds behind the leader.
"Going into the last corner, it was a mess in the peloton. I had to move up and this cost me some energy. Then I jumped from wheel to wheel, slotted into a good position and went with around 300 meters left. I gambled on the fact that the breakaway will take the shortest way to the line, but they didn't, so I had to go on the inside, and to start my sprint again with 200 meters before the finish was difficult", said Kittel after this third consecutive top 10 at this year's Eneco Tour.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele