Welcome to our live coverage of stage 4 of the 2016 Eneco Tour, a tough, undulating 202km leg from Aalter to St-Pieters-Leeuw.
Hi there, and a warm welcome back to our live coverage of the Eneco Tour. It may be September, but this Dutch/Belgian race lets us pretend it's spring, and today's stage four sees the terrain start to get pretty lumpy, with some cobbles thrown in for good measure.
As we pick up the action, there are just over 100km remaining, so we're pretty much half-way through. There's a four-man breakaway with a lead of around four minutes - we'll bring you the names in a second - but the terrain becomes increasingly difficult as the stage goes on.
Here's the stage profile
Boonen taken to hospital after crash
Before we get stuck into the action, the stage has already witnessed a big event as Tom Boonen crashed and was forced to abandon the race. The Belgian has been taken to hospital for further examination. There's no indication just yet as to the severity of his injuries, but this is obviously a concern given he is set to lead Belgium at the Worlds in Qatar next month. You can read the full story by clicking here.
So, the race goes on without Boonen, and we have four riders in the breakaway
They are: Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Brian Van Goethem and Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Roompot Oranje Peloton), and Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
McNally and Van Goethem were the ones to make the move early on, and were later joined by the other two. They have a lead of just over 3 minutes.
The gap to the breakaway is falling quite quickly now, and they currently have less than two minutes over the bunch, where the pace is high with the cobbles having begun.
80km to go and it seems our breakaway quartet won't be out there for too much longer. The gap is now under a minute and falling all the time.
The four leaders look over their shoulders and can see the rapidly-advancing peloton. The pace is really high back there with a number of riders keen to push on.
The race comes back together just ahead of the first crossing of the finish line. BMC and Sky lead the bunch onto the Brabantsebaan sector of cobbles. It's 2.2km long.
60km remaining from 202km
The riders will take on two laps of this 32km finishing circuit, which includes two classified sectors of pavé along with two nasty climbs in the form of the Alsemberg and Bruine Put.
Tom Dumoulin is on the attack.
The Giant-Alpecin rider heads off the front of the bunch, some riders try to follow, and the race is starting to split up.
Dumoulin is joined by a handful of riders but he kicks on again.
Michael Matthews is one of the riders who has joined Dumoulin, who also has a teammate there. They carved out a gap on a small incline and now they're giving it everything on a gentle downhill run.
Tinkoff furiously lead the chase
Just as I was about to tell you that the riders with Dumoulin were Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin), Lars-Peter Nordhaug (Team Sky), Chris Juul Jensen (Orica-BikeExchange), Daniel Oss (BMC), and Marco Haller (Katusha), they are reeled in.
Several injections of pace have followed that catch, with Niki Terpstra among those to accelerate and just test the water.
This is racing of the uncontrolled variety we're used to seeing at the Classics. Riders one after another just pinging off the front.
Nelson Oliveira is the latest to attack and he opens up a sizeable gap. He's joined by Nico Denz, who comes through for a turn only after considerable persuasion.
Oliveira and Denz are working well together now and they have 10 seconds over the bunch here, which is still splitting up under the pressure. Riders off the front, riders off the back.
46km remaining from 202km
We're approaching the Alsemberg, which should see some more solid groups form. It's 1.2km long with an average gradient of 4%.
The duo's escape comes to nought as they're caught by a group of eight or so that has clipped off the front of the bunch.
Nathan Haas is drilling it on the front for Edvald Boasson Hagen. This is a big, strong group, and there are three riders in between them and the bunch. The gaps, however, are tiny.
40km remaining from 202km
40 kilometres to go. Dennis is in this lead group.
More changes in the race situation as the Astana duo of Dmitriy Gruzdev and Andrey Grivko set off on a two-up bid for freedom.
The Astana duo took advantage of a lull in the pace after that strong leading group was caught.
The sky-blue men have carved out a lead of 30 seconds. Pavel Brutt hits the front to try and keep things under control. He's working as part of the plan to put Peter Sagan into the race lead.
The Astana men mop up the big points at the Primus intermediate sprint, but it's contested behind as McNally, who was in the break earlier, tries his hand, before a Topsport rider pips him, defending the black jersey of his teammate Bert Van Lerberghe.
32km remaining from 202km
The riders approach the finish line and cross it for the second time. The gap is still 30 seconds.
It's straight onto the cobbles as they hit the Brabantsebaan once again. There are pretty wide sections of smooth concrete on either side of the pavé, which is where most of the riders find themselves.
Crash. An Astana rider comes down as the bunch is forced to take on a nasty U-turn on gravel as the road switches from pavé to tarmac. It's Laurens de Vreese, and he gets back up and is on his way.
Sky hit the front now as there are more cobbled suburban streets now. The riders are on the pavements here. 25 seconds is the gap.
26km remaining from 202km
Tony Martin attacks!
Martin is 20 seconds down on GC, so certainly a danger.
Tom Dumoulin is making his way over to Martin. That's quite a duo.
The Astana duo are still looking strong. They are 20 seconds ahead of Martin/Dumoulin and 30 seconds ahead of the bunch.
Daniel Oss (BMC) leads the chase in the bunch.
Martin and Dumoulin are in no-man's land here. They're equidistant between the two groups and the Dutchman doesn't know what to do for the best. He waves his hand at Martin - they're not closing in on the two leaders here. To commit or not?
19km remaining from 202km
19km to go. Golden kilometre coming up in around 5km.
You'd ordinarily back a duo of Martin and Dumoulin against anyone but it doesn't look like they'll be able to pull anything off here.
The two leaders hit the Bruine Put climb. This could shape the race behind with the eight per cent gradients.
Martin and Dumoulin are caught.
Jasper Stuyven attacks from the bunch
The gap is closing to the two leaders now but they take a handful of seconds onto the downhill.
12km remaining from 202km
Stuyven links up with the Astana men but the chase is on behind.
There's a group of seven leading the chase as the peloton splits under the pressure. Boasson Hagen and Martin in there.
11km remaining from 202km
11km to go, and this is going to be a really tall order for the leading trio.
Lotto Soudal hit the front of the bunch in numbers and could well tee up Greipel for victory.
Eight seconds is the gap as Dimension Data weigh in.
Kristoff has two men in front of him, but Peter Sagan right behind him.
The leading trio extend their lead now, back up slightly to 12 seconds, but the odds are still stacked against them.
Jay Thompson hits the front for Boasson Hagen, while Lampre-Merida also show an interest for Sacha Modolo.
Haven't seen Kittel yet...This could be a chance for Greipel to send out a message to the German Worlds selectors
5km remaining from 202km
An awkward roundabout disrupts the bunch's rhythm and disrupts some of the leadout trains.
Replays shows the cause of that disruption at the roundabout - a motorcycle up ahead crashed as it came round and riders had to avoid it.
3km remaining from 202km
The Astana duo call it a day but Stuyven is keen to plough on
2km remaining from 202km
We've seen Stuyven do this before at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. But surely this is too much.
2km remaining from 202km
Katusha make their presence felt while FDJ come up on the right.
Crash! Around 10 riders taken out. Was that Matthews?
It is Matthews. He's out of the sprint
Here we go then
Demare up there. Sagan biding his time.
Kristoff opens it up but Sagan is coming through, and now Greipel on the left!
Greipel takes it! Photo finish
Or is it Sagan? So close!
We see the photo finish as it is indeed Sagan, by a tyre's width. The world champion receives the belated news and punches the air.
Sagan bumped shoulders with Demare before taking Kristoff's slipstream and powering past. Greipel was coming through really strongly on the left but just ran out of road, and Sagan secured the win with a superior bike throw.
Sagan picks up 10 bonus seconds for that victory and consequently is the new leader of the race, taking over the white jersey from Rohan Dennis.
The photo finish
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 04:42:12
2 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
4 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
5 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
6 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin
7 Reinardt Jans Van Rensburg
8 Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise
9 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
10 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-BikeExchange
General classificaiton after stage 4
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 13:17:29
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 00:00:07
3 Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 00:00:12
4 Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team 00:00:21
5 Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling
6 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 00:00:23
7 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
8 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:25
9 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:28
10 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
Here's our initial report from the race:
“There are some riders who are not happy [with the final sprint]. I didn’t know I won because it was a very close sprint with Andre and I had to wait for the final results. I’m very happy because it was another sprint with very good timing; a headwind finish.
“I had a little problem with Demare, but that is sprinting. If I did something bad, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I did. I was in my line and he was very aggressive to me.”
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