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The Eneco Tour takes on the hills southern Limburg today, for the “Little Amstel Gold”. It could be an exciting 204 kilometres today! There are 18 climbs along the way to keep things interesting.
Welcome back to the Eneco Tour. Today's fifth stage takes us 204 kilometres from Roermond to Sittard. Much of the course today should look very familiar – does the name “Cauberg” ring a bell? Today is a day for the Classics specialists.
With 99 km still to go, we have an 11 man escape group: Kenny Dehaes (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Maxim Gourov (Astana), Mauro Da Dalto (Lampre-Farnese Vini), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Eusakadi), Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Transitions), Kevin Hulsmans (QuickStep), Dominique Nerz (Milram), Yauheni Hutarovich (FdJ), Thomas De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen), Michael Van Staeyen (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Gorik Gardeyn (Vacansoleil).
And let us not forget that this group has 3:35 on the field.
The weather is cooperating today, as the high is only expected to be 24°C/ 81°F. We expect some rain this afternoon, with the possibility of thunderstorms overnight, but hopefully it will stay dry until the stage is done.
We have lost a number of riders today, one way or another. Maybe they should have read their maps better? No no, not that kind of lost.....
Markus Eichler (Milram), Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) and Robert Hunter (Garmin-Transitions) all decided early to take the day off and did not
Since then, Jurgen Van De Walle (QuickStep) and Juan Soler (Caisse d'Epargne) have abandoned the race.
MIlram now has only four riders left in the race: LInus Gerdemann, Wim De Vocht, Dominik Nerz and Peter Wrolich.
With 86 km to go, the gap is 3:18, and dropping. The field is flying along in single file, led by Team Sky. They are still trying to get the victory for Edvald Boasson Hagen.
In case anyone has forgotten, Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) leads the race, with Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank) second at 10 seconds and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) in third at 1:24.
Sky is riding so hard it has split the pleoton. They are now leading a group of 40-50 riders, including lots of HTC-Columbia and Rabobank.
The gap continues to drop, now down to 2:12.
Did Sky set too high a pace? They have all fallen back now, except for Boasson Hagen. The peloton has split again, in fact.
The gap is now under two minutes. The first chae groupb is about to be caught by the second chase group, which will give us nice-sized peloton again.
Oh dear, the rain has apparently decided not to wait until this evening. We see our first raindrops.
There are some changes in the make-up of the lead group now, let's see if we can get them.
We understand that Hutarovich has dropped out of the group. Gourov has had some problems but is still hanging on.
HTC-Columbia has moved into the lead of the chasing peloton, with sprinter Andre Greipel and former time trial World Champion Bert Grabsch pulling for Tony Martin.
The leading group has started up the Cauberg for the second time. Their lead has gone back up to 2:32.
Nerz and De Gendt have pulled away from the leading group.
HTC-Columbia and Rabobank have taken over the lead work of the peloton. Sky is barely visible.
Richie Porte of Saxo Bank attacks out of the field.
Lars Boom (Rabobank) joins him. They have only a few seconds lead.
Boom and Porte have built up a bit more of a lead now.
Well, they had a nice lead, but now have been caught again.....
That must have only been an isolated brief rain shower, as it appears to be dry again.
Nerz and De Gendt have been caught again by the lead group. The gap is yo-yoing around and is now at 2:16.
The peloton lead is firmly in HTC-Columbia's hands. Sky is nowhere to be seen, but we assume that at least Boasson Hagen is still in the group.
Now we see Sky near the middle of the group.
Hulsmans has dropped out of the lead group and is about to be caught by the field.
A Rabo ridr leads the field past Hulsmans.
Looking at the other classifications going into today's stage, we have Robbie McEwen (Katusha) leaings the sprint classification with 72 points,
ahead of Boasson Hagen (66 points) and Allan Davis of Astana at 65 points.
Martin is best young rider, leading Boasson Hagen and Rabobank's Lars Boom. Rabobank leads the teams classification.
Eight men in the lead group now, not sure who else has dropped out.
De Haes of Omega Pharma-Lotto is no longer in the lead group.
The gap has jumped to nearly three minutes again, at 2:54.
Nerz just tried to take a can of Coke from a soigneur, but the transfer didn't work out.
We are in a flat section at the moment, and a handful of riders take advantage of that fact to catch back up with the peloton.
Geraint Thomas of Sky falls back to the team car to stock up on drinks for his teammates.
A RadioShack rider has now moved to the head of the peloton.
The lead group tackles another climb, led by the two Topsport Vlaanderen riders.
The gap is now down to 2:07. Will this group come through? Or not?
And the gap drops to under two minutes.
The lead group starts up the St. Pergamijn climb with a gap of 1:48.
The race had a very similar, if not identical, stage last year. It was won by Lars Bak of Saxo Bank, who sprinted out of a lead group to win by two seconds over Boasson Hagen, then riding for Columbia-HTC with Lampre's Francesco Gavazzi finishing third.
The stage win was enough to give Boasson Hagen the overall lead, which he held on to until the end of the race.
Da Dalto is the next to fall back out of the lead group. He is only about 30 seconds ahead of the peloton. The peloton crosses the finish line to take off again on the 19km circuit course only 1:44 behind the leaders.
The chances look bad for the lead group to stay away. With 17 km to go, it is down to 1:36.
1:18 for the leaders. It is still possible for them to get through to the end.
Van Stayen attacks out of the lead group. Moreno and Bobridge go with him, and the others aren't far behind. In fact they are all together again.
We are having some technical problems here, sorry about that.
Moreno looks deteremined to get awy, but the others don't find that such a good idea.
The gap is at 1:08 now.
the lead group is now on the Schatsberg, the penultimate climb of the day.
The field is tearing along, looking to catch the escape group. Their chance to do so looks good, as the gap is now only 40 seconds.
Omega Pharma-Lotto has taken over the lead work of the chase, with some help from Skil-Shimano.
The lead group has split with an attack from one of the Topsport riders. All but Gourov are able to counter.
Three riders have split from the chase group, but we don't have their names.
The gaps are all very small now.
Bobridge has a slight lead over his break mates, and is pulling away.
He has maybe 10 seconds on the break, with the peloton another 20 seconds or so back. Moreno takes off in chase.
It is enough for Bobridge! He takes the stage win some five seconds ahead of Moreno.
A RadioShack rider leads the first chase group over the finish line about 15 seconds later.
Congratulations to 21-year-old Jack Bobridge on his first pro win!
Martin still leads the race.
Meanwhile another group of riders crosses the finish line nearly 10 minutes down.
Thanks for joining us today. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!