Jan Bakelants from the Belgian National team has won the 2008 Tour de l'Avenir as the third Belgian in history. Before him, Eddy Schepers put the prestigious Espoir race on his palmarès in 1977 and Johan Bruyneel in 1990.
Bakelants took the lead in an impressive solo ride on last Wednesday's stage from Saint-Flour to Carmaux. He crashed on Friday, but managed to hold on to his lead in the difficult Pyrenean stage on Saturday over the Port de Lers, the Col d'Agnes, the Col de Latrape and Guzet. American youngster Tejay Vangaderen won the last stage on Sunday but did not put Bakelants' lead in jeopardy, himself finishing a respectable eighth overall.
"I am as much relieved as I am happy," said Bakelants, a future professional at Topsport Vlaanderen. "This is a brilliant victory in the greatest Espoir race. All the top guys of our category were here. I didn't start as one of the favourites, but I succeeded in breaking up the hierarchy. I had to give everything to hold my position."
Bakelants will represent his country in the World Championship in Varese, Italy, next week.