Gerolsteiner's Carlo Westphal took his first professional victory in the fifth stage of the Eneco Tour. The 22-year-old outsprinted Belarus champion Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux) and Slovenian champion Borut Bozic on the windy 167 kilometre stage. Team Columbia's André Greipel padded his lead in the overall classification with a three second bonus at the last intermediate sprint.
Westphal fooled the sprinters by taking the win, but he himself was probably the most surprised of all. "I haven't really realized it yet," he said after the race. "I am very surprised that I won the sprint. I certainly did not expect it and didn't realize it when it happened. I didn't even celebrate at the finish line, I was so surprised."
"This is my first win as a professional. It's very important because my Gerolsteiner team is stopping at the end of the season and I haven't got a place with another team yet."
Greipel's young Norwegian team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen, who had been in second overall, drew even with him through two one-second bonuses in the intermediate sprints but then failed to make the front group when strong cross-winds split the peloton. Only 40 riders stayed at the front of the race, and the remainder of the peloton simply gave up and finished nearly 15 minutes later. The peloton had already shrunk by a dozen riders at the start, with Tom Boonen, Daniele Bennati and several others quitting to head to Spain for the Vuelta. Glenn d'Hollander (Silence-Lotto) crashed on stage four and did not start due to his injuries.
The stage began with a tailwind, and despite the high speeds, Lars Bak (CSC-Saxo Bank) and Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) were able to escape at kilometre 19. As the course turned northward, the Quick Step team went to the front and split the race in two in the cross-winds. Notably absent at the front was Boasson Hagen, sprint leader Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano) and best climber Floris Goesinnen (Skil-Shimano).
The split should have resulted in a stage win for Gert Steegmans, but the Quick Step train went off the rails, allowing Westphal to sneak in for his first win. Belgian champion Jurgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto) took over the sprint classification and moved into third overall, while last year's winner José Iván Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) now sits in second, 11 seconds behind Greipel.
How it unfolded
The shortest non-time trial stage of the Tour headed toward the North Sea, with the the riders getting off five minutes late. The sun was shining, but the wind was making itself noticed, and was expected to increase as the race neared the coastline.
The field was much smaller than the one which started the day before. Nine riders abandoned yesterday, and 12 riders didn't take to the start today: Glenn D'Hollander (Silence-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Maarten Tjallingii (Silence-Lotto), Thomas Fothen and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner), Daniele Bennati (Liquigas), Mickaël Delage and Jelle Vanendert (Française des Jeux), Matti Breschel and Jurgen Van Goolen (CSC-Saxo Bank), and Aurélien Clerc and Oliver Bonnaire (Bouygues Telecom).
Only 19 km into the race, a duo escaped. Lars Ytting Bak of CSC-Saxo Bank and Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) built up a lead of up to 7'40 before the peloton reacted and Team Columbia led the chase.
The two escapees naturally took the points at the first two intermediate sprints, but the third place and one bonus second for each went to Columbia's Edvald Boasson Hagen. That was enough to pull the Norwegian even with his team-mate Andre Greipel, who held the overall lead.
The wind increased as the stage neared the coast, as expected, and the peloton was frequently pulled apart or broken into smaller groups. The high chasing pace did its part, too, to break up the field.
With about 57 km to go, there was a definite break, with about 40 riders pulling away. They moved quickly and soon cut the escapees' lead to two and a half minutes, while putting in some time on their following group. Columbia was well-represented in the first chase group, with Greipel, Michael Rogers, Roger Hammond and Servais Knaven – but no Boasson Hagen, who missed the cut and thereby lost all chances of taking the overall win.
The two leaders sat up with 40 km to go and let the chase group, led by Quick Step, catch them. The next group was about a minute back.
At the last intermediate sprint, Greipel sprinted out to take the points and bonus seconds, to keep them in the team. Jurgen Roelandts of Silence Lotto was second, with Jose Ivan Gutierrez third.
The chasing group had given up hope of catching the lead group, and crossed the finish line to start on the closing circuit about five minutes back.
Benoit Joachim of Astana took off in the bike lane at the side of the road with 12 km to go, but he was not able to get away.
A Quick Step rider tested the waters at four kilometres to go, but was quickly chased down. An Astana rider tried too, but Quick Step rode him down.
With only a few hundred meters to go, Carlo Westphal of Gerolsteiner shot ahead, surprising the others who were unable to respond in time. The youngster took the sprint by several bike lengths for his first pro win.