Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) took a confidence-boosting pre-World Championships victory at the Tour de l’Eurometropole, but did so in controversial circumstances as Oliver Naesen (IAM) protested vehemently against the result.
In the former stage race’s new incarnation as a one-day outing, there was a messy sprint after a leading group of three was caught playing cat and mouse inside the final kilometre. One of them was Naesen, second overall at the Eneco Tour recently, but he managed to move up through the gears again and found Groenewegen’s wheel before attempting to come around him.
The Dutch champion edged towards the left as he continued his sprint, with Naesen forced to bunny hop a concrete block on the finish line as he moved towards the barriers. The Belgian waved his arms in remonstration, and then approached his rival afterwards, only to be ignored. After a tense wait in the winner’s enclosure, the race jury decided that the result would stand.
"The sprint was chaotic as the leading group was caught in the final meters," Groenewegen said. "I first had to go pass the leading group and then pass Debusschere. I certainly went to the left, but I left enough room to pass."
Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) finished a more distant third from the group of 18, which had formed in the crowssinds earlier in the day.
The 195km course between Poperinge et Tournai was based on the final stage of recent editions of the race, with seven laps of a 14.7km finishing circuit in Tournai. With just one small climb on the loop, a bunch sprint may have been on the cards, but the wind blowing across the Franco-Belgian border caused the race to split.
A select group of 18 formed, and Etixx-QuickStep were well represented with Boonen, Julien Vermote, Nikolas Maes, Fernando Gaviria, and Yves Lampaert, while Lotto Soudal (Jelle Wallays, Jens Debuscherre and Jurgen Roelandts), LottoNL-Jumbo (Groenewegen, Maarten Wynants, and Mike Teunissen), and Cofidis (Kenneth Van Bilsen, Florian Senechal, and Dorian Godon) all had three. Also in there were Katusha’s Nils Politt, Amaury Capiot from Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Joeri Calleeuw from Verandas-Willems, and Naesen.
With two laps to go the group split in two, but the gap would never stretch out far beyond half a minute, and so with 11.5km remaining, a big effort from Wallays brought the second group back.
But just as they were about to get back on, the trio of Naesen, Lampaert, and Wynants clipped off into the lead.
Despite Wynants sitting on, the trio managed to hold their advantage, while Lotto Soudal blew things up in the group behind. Wallays softened them up before Debuscherre and Roelandts went clear together – a move that Boonen tried to bridge to before being forced to sit up. Disaster struck, though, when a lapse of concentration saw Roelandts clip his teammates wheel and come down on the wet roads.
The leading trio took the flamme rouge with a healthy lead but it was soon obliterated as they started to look at each other, no one wanting to take on the responsibility. As the ground to a near halt, Debuscherre pinged through with a long-range effort, before Groenewegen decided he needed to jump.
"This was a very difficult day because of the wind and rain, I'm glad I won this race. When I crossed the line I felt cramps everywhere and I was freezing.” Groenewegen said. “The whole day the peloton went fast, but we were there as a team every time. First with seven men in a group of 50 and when the peloton thinned further, we always had enough riders in it. In the final Maarten Wynants seemed to be racing for the victory, but when we came back I could sprint for the victory.”
After the finish, Oliver Naesen was not happy with Groenewegen's sprint.
His speed took him past the fading Lotto Soudal man, while Naesen managed to go back up through the gears and pose a real threat, only to be taken out of it as Groenewegen went left – though the jury saw nothing illegal in the Dutchman’s sprint.
It’s the 11th victory of the 23-year-old’s debut WorldTour season, and a statement of intent ahead of the World Championships road race next month.
"This was my last test before the Worlds. I had to go pretty deep and that was according to plan," Groenewegen said. "It was nice that it was windy, because that may be the case in Qatar, although I'm glad it's going to be less cold in Qatar."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||4:12:55|
|2||Oliver Naesen (Bel) IAM Cycling|
|3||Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|4||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise|
|5||Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|6||Nils Politt (Ger) Team Katusha|
|7||Joeri Calleeuw (Bel) Verandas Willems Cycling Team|
|8||Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|9||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|10||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|11||Kenneth Van Bilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|12||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|13||Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:04|
|14||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|15||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:01:38|
|16||Fernando Gaviria (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|17||Anton Vorobyev (Rus) Team Katusha|
|18||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||0:06:36|
|19||Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal||0:07:28|
|20||Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) Veranclassic - AGO||0:07:30|
|21||Twan Castelijns (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||0:07:44|
|22||Alexander Porsev (Rus) Team Katusha||0:07:59|
|23||Timothy Stevens (Bel) Crelan - Vastgoedservice|
|24||Emiel Vermeulen (Bel) Team3M|
|25||Aksel Nömmela (Est) Leopard Pro Cycling|
|26||Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert|
|27||Alexander Krieger (Ger) Leopard Pro Cycling|
|28||Franck Bonnamour (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept|
|29||Cycling Simon Pellaud (Swi) Iam|
|30||David Boucher (Bel) Crelan - Vastgoedservice|
|31||Borut Bozic (Slo) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:08:06|
|32||Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ||0:10:09|
|33||Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|34||Jonas Ahlstrand (Swe) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|35||Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM Cycling|