Welcome to our live coverage of stage 4 of the BinckBank Tour, a 154.2km stage starting and finishing in Lanaken, Belgium, near the Dutch border.
Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the BinckBank Tour. Today it's stage 4, starting and finishing in Lanaken, on Belgian soil but near the Dutch border.
As we join the action, with 75km remaining, a three-man breakaway group - Andre Greipel, Nils Politt, and Pim Ligthart - has a lead of 2:30.
This stage does feature some rolling terrain but, on paper, it should come down to another bunch sprint. Certainly the gap to the escapees is perfectly manageable at this point.
It's interesting to see Andre Greipel in that breakaway. The German is a bunch sprinter and would ordinarily wait in the peloton to contest the bunch kick at the end. So what's he doing up the road?
This might help explain it. After another disappointing display yesterday, Greipel admitted to having "completely lost my instinct on the bike". Here's the full story.
Greipel was the instigator of the break, just after the intermediate sprint, which came after almost 40km. Until then, no break had managed to form, despite several attempts. Katusha's Politt was immediately on board, while Greipel's former teammate Pim Ligthart, now with Roompot, made his way across soon after.
Greipel, Politt, and Ligthart trade turns out front. It's cold and it's raining again, though not as heavily as the last two days.
55km remaining from 154km
The trio cross the finish line again. The stage is based in Lanaken and they've just completed the second of two big loops. Next up: two smaller loops.
The peloton rolls across the line just under two minutes down.
The peloton pick up the pace now, as Peter Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe teammates hit the front of the peloton.
Up front, Politt misjudges a corner as the leaders come through some twisting, narrow, suburban roads.
50km remaining from 154km
Into the final 50km now and Sky's Jon Dibben hits the front, with a full Bora train in his wake.
The gap is down to 1:25.
There's a golden kilometre coming up with 34km remaining. A maximum of nine bonus seconds on offer there, which might interest Sagan, but Bora don't seem interested in bringing this back together until later on. None of the three escapees are within 53 seconds of Stefan Kung's overall lead.
Kung took the lead of this race in the time trial, and yesterday he had the onus of defending the jersey on what Peter Sagan described as a 'crazy day'. Here's how Kung fared in the miserable conditions yesterday.
Sky take over from Bora now and hit the front in numbers. The British team has Elia Viviani and Danny van Poppel as candidates for a sprint finish.
38km remaining from 154km
Ian Stannard, mouth agape, is clearly working hard on the front of the peloton. As a result, the gap comes down to the one-minute mark.
34km remaining from 154km
The three leaders are into the golden kilometre. None are GC players so they may well just roll through here and share the seconds as they share the turns.
No contest for the seconds up front as Ligthart leads them through all three sprints. Nine seconds for him. As they come out of the golden km, however, there lead has been cut to 30 seconds.
31km remaining from 154km
AG2R La Mondiale, who propelled Rudy Barbier into third yesterday, set up their train now, and the pace has really picked up in the peloton. It won't be long now until the catch is made. There are still over 30km to go, though.
Greipel looks over his shoulder and sees the Quick-Step jerseys on the front of the peloton. He knows is brief, and somewhat bizarre, spell as a breakaway rider is almost over.
27km remaining from 154km
The riders come into town for the third and penultimate passage of the finish line. Greipel, Politt, and Ligthart have 10 seconds on the peloton.
The trio is caught with 26.3km remaining.
Ligthard manages one last acceleration, trying to drag out every second off the front of the bunch. He's leading through the technical streets, but has next to no gap.
The game is up for good, now, for Ligthart, and the twists and turns, combined with the damp roads, catch out a couple of riders. One of those is Michael Hepburn of Orica-Scott, though the Aussie is back up on his feet quickly.
Stannard is the powerhouse of the peloton at the moment. He's driving this on, keeping a high pace. An early catch always brings the danger of counter-attacks, but this effort is deterring any such moves, and is even causing riders to lose contact, including Sky's own Sebastian Henao and Arnaud Demare's leadout man, Jacopo Guarnieri.
Demare himself has been dropped. Sagan has been dominant but the big-name pure bunch sprinters - also Kittel and Greipel - have been poor so far in this race.
19km remaining from 154km
Sagan's teammate Marcus Burghardt chips in now on the front of the peloton, as we enter the final 20km.
Nairo Quintana has been in the spotlight again today, after a report in Italian newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, linked him with a move away from Movistar (he has a contract until 2019), and a possible €6m move to Astana. Cyclingnews understands those rumours are wide of the mark, and that Quintana will indeed remain at Movistar in 2018. Here's our story:
BMC come to the front now. They're protecting the overall lead of Stefan Kung, who sits third wheel, a picture of concentration as his teammates set a high tempo.
A bizarre number of punctures in the last couple of kilometres. One of them is LottoNL-Jumbo's Bram Tankink, who'll be needed to help out Dylan Groenewegen in the sprint.
15km remaining from 154km
The riders are negotiating narrow, twisty country lanes here, so it's important to be well positioned. BMC are managing this well.
13km remaining from 154km
Movistar's Alex Dowsett surges off the front. He's used to rolling the dice against the odds, and he's taken a Wanty rider with him here.
Dowsett was disappointed with his performances in the stage 2 time trial, and he's hoping to get something out of this race. It's unlikely, but all it takes is one mistake in the peloton, or a few moments' hesitation.
Dion Smith is the Wanty rider with Dowsett. They've opened a small gap of several seconds. Burghardt is back on the front for Bora.
11km remaining from 154km
The peloton spreads across the road now, and that means the pace isn't as high as it could be. The leading duo have 16 seconds, all of a sudden.
And now there's a reaction. Trek-Segafredo decide to pick it up, Edward Theuns having placed second in yesterday's sprint.
Dowsett and Smith, both with their wrists folded over their bars, continue to dig in, and their lead grows to 22 seconds with just over 9km to go.
The duo are still relying on hesitation from the sprint teams. Who will take on the responsibility? Sagan's Bora already have plenty out of this race, so they could call the bluff of the other teams. Sky have disappeared.
Laurens De Vreese (Astana) attacks to take some points at the intermediate sprint. And that injects some pace back into the bunch.
7km remaining from 154km
15 seconds is the gap, with 7km remaining.
And here are Sky. It's Viviani giving it everything, so that indicates Van Poppel is Sky's man for this sprint.
6km remaining from 154km
9 seconds now for Dowsett and Smith. It's not going to happen today, it seems.
5km remaining from 154km
The advancing peloton is breathing down the necks of the leading duo now. Dowsett looks round and shakes his head.
4km remaining from 154km
Greipel hits the front now to push the pace. What a strange day out for the German.
3km remaining from 154km
Yves Lampaerts is on the move now. The Belgian attacks out of a couple of technical corners. More to come.
This is a technical run-in and we could have a messy sprint here.
Lampaerts has a couple of seconds out front. The peloton is strung out behind.
2km remaining from 154km
Lampaerts extends his advantage. Who's going to take it up behind?
Lampaerts is 12 seconds down overall, so he's a clear threat to Kung and BMC.
1km remaining from 154km
Kittel is out the back as Quick-Step go all in with Lampaert. 1.5km to go and he has a decent gap.
1km remaining from 154km
Flamme rouge for Lampaert!
There's a distinct lack of organisation behind.
Here we go. 500 to go for Lampaert. This is going to be close!
Here come Lotto Soudal
It's going to be heartbreak for Lampaert
Edward Theuns wins it!
So, so close for Lampaert. He was passed some 50 metres from the line, and it was Theuns, second yesterday, who was quickest of the lot.
Marko Kump (UAE Team Emirates) was second there, with Tim Merlier (Verandas Willems-Crelan) third. Peter Sagan could only manage fourth.
That was a messy old sprint. Theuns kick was impressive but he couldn't have managed it without Jasper Stuyven, who led him into the final 150 metres.
1 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo 3:24:23
2 Marko Kump (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
3 Tim Merlier (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
6 Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky
7 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-Scott
8 Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ
9 Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb
10 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
General classification after stage 4
1 Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team 11:39:31
2 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:04
3 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:00:05
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb 0:00:08
6 Lars Boom (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:00:10
7 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:12
8 Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:14
9 Miles Scotson (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:15
10 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:17
Here's our report page
Tomorrow's stage sees the GC battle get serious, as the race heads back into Holland and into the hills near Maastricht. It's Amstel Gold territory and indeed the Kruisberg and Cauberg both feature, along with 16 other short climbs.
Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back tomorrow, same place, for live coverage of stage 5. Catch you then!
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