Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) avoided a late crash to take victory on stage 4 of the Eneco Tour. The Frenchman out-sprinted Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) by a bike's length with Giacomo Nizzolo taking third.
FDJ did a lot of the chasing in the final 20 kilometres, but it was Trek Factory Racing who had control when the race went under the flamme rouge. However, when the Frenchman lit the afterburners, he couldn't be caught. Bouhanni led the charge around the final bend and had a significant gap on the others, with Mezgec the only rider who could get close to the Frenchman.
"I just found a solution at the end when the line came," Bouhanni said after the finish. "I'm back here at the Eneco Tour I've been busy with the Route du Sud, but it's been a sparse season for me. It's the first sprint in the Eneco Tour that I've been able to contest and that is good for me."
Defending champion Zdenek Stybar came down in the crash that was caused by a touching of handlebars between Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Giant-Shimano) and Andrea Guardini (Astana). The resulting squeeze, as riders tried to avoid the ensuing carnage, forced Stybar into the barriers. Stybar hit the bottom of one of the barriers, flipped over and appeared to land on his face. After receiving extensive medical attention from the race doctors, he was later taken off in an ambulance.
Lars Boom (Belkin) came through the crash unscathed and remains in the overall leader's jersey.
How it happened
After putting in a fantastic performance in the previous day's time trial, Boom began the day in the leader's jersey. Stage 4 took the peloton away from the coast, meandering through Belgium to Ardooie. It would be the last chance for the pure sprinters, before tough final weekend.
There was a lot of jostling to get into the day's break. A group of five riders escaped early on, but that was soon reduced to two. Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Kenneth Vanbilsen (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) were the two remaining riders. The pair built up a lead of almost four minutes on the peloton.
However, with just over a quarter of the stage run, the gap began to come down and Veuchelen found himself without any more companions out front. The Belgian forged on alone for almost the entire race. He was allowed to extend his lead as the general classification contenders battled it out for bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints. Belkin's Lars Boom and Sep Vanmarcke traded blows with Zdenek Stybar, who relented the leader's jersey after the time trial.
As the peloton passed the finish line for the first time, Veuchelen was waiting for the inevitable catch. Sensing the composition of the race about to change, a number of riders tried their hand off the front of the peloton. Patrick Gretsch was one of those riders and the AG2R-La Mondiale rider quickly caught Veuchelen. The catch was made only a few kilometres later and it was all together with 23 kilometres to go.
Attacks continued to fly off the front, with AG2R-La Mondiale and Daniel Oss (BMC) the main protagonists in the closing laps. Oss went solo at the beginning of the final lap. He chose one of the narrowest sections of road to go, thus making it difficult for the peloton to mount a serious chase. Behind him, the peloton began looking at each other, as the sprinters teams got stuck behind the main contenders.
By the time Oss hit the wider roads, Oss has built up a lead of 23 seconds, and it was beginning to look like BMC rider had made the right move. The Italian put in a sterling effort, but his hopes of victory were ended with six kilometres remaining. It was then down to the sprinters' teams to marshal the front of the peloton. One man missing from the fight for victory was André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) after the German abandoned earlier in the day due to illness.
It was Trek Factory Racing and Fabian Cancellara, who lead the charge into the final two kilometres. Cancellara's turn on the front laid waste to some of the tired riders, with few able to hang onto his wheels.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr||4:13:59|
|2||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Giant-Shimano||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen -||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin Sharp||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Yohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Roy Jans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Davide Appollonio (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Enrique Sanz (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) Orica Greenedge||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Stig Broeckx (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Garmin Sharp||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen -||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Francisco Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Zico Waeytens (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen -||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||David Boucher (Bel) FDJ.fr||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Julian Kern (Ger) Ag2r La Mondiale||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||JosÈ Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar Team<|