Mitchelton-Scott won stage two of Hammer Limburg - the Hammer Sprint - thanks to strong performances from sprinter Caleb Ewan, and his lead-out man Luka Mezgec. Ewan took several sprint 'wins' while Mezgec frequently featured among the top finishers as the Australian squad held off a challenge from Quick-Step Floors and their young Colombian Álvaro Hodeg.
Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport) held off the peloton on the final lap to claim the final double points of the race. His 300 points on the final two laps saw the Irish team leap up to seventh on the day on 315 points. Mitchelton-Scott were top with 1121, followed by Quick-Step Floors on 715, LottoNL-Jumbo on 581 and Bora-Hansgrohe on 517.
After the race Mezgec told of the changeable situation and how it affected the team's tactics.
"We had to see about the situation. Sometimes we went for third or fourth," he said. "Sometimes we just did the lead-out if we were too far back. So we just had to adapt to the situation and today we did it."
"I think we did the sprint two laps in a row and the second one was for the double points so we had to go full gas," added Ewan. "I was struggling at the end, towards the back of the circuit Luka kind of got us going and we had to dig pretty deep to get back on and then we had a lap to recover for the last sprint."
Only the top eight teams get to compete for the win in Sunday's deciding Hammer Chase, which consists of four laps of the same 12.4km circuit. Quick-Step Floors, Bahrain-Merida, LottoNL-Jumbo, Mitchelton-Scott, Bora-Hansgrohe, Lotto Soudal, Team Sky and BMC Racing Team will start based on their ranking. The first team across the line wins Hammer Limburg 2018.
How it happened
The Hammer Sprint, day two of three at Hammer Limburg, was held on a 99km course featuring eight laps of a 12.4km circuit. Unlike last week's Hammer Stavanger there were no climbs on the route, meaning the sprinters could race without obstacles this time.
A number of groups attempted to slip away during the opening laps, but with several teams working for their sprinters, nothing stuck. Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors), Roger Kluge (Mitchelton-Scott), and Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe) got their teams up the leaderboard with some heavy scoring ahead of lap three and the first double points opportunity of the race.
It was clear that teams were saving their main sprinters for the double points laps, with lap three seeing Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-Hansgrohe) leading home Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Hodeg in a photo finish, with Ewan taking fourth.
Lap four saw a 10-man group briefly break away, with Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) taking the points ahead of Jurgen Roelandts (BMC). At the midway point of the race Quick-Step Floors led the way on 453 points, with Michelton-Scott, Bora-Hansgrohe and LottoNL-Jumbo next on 395, 361 and 333 points, while nobody else had more than 200.
Ewan confirmed himself as the best sprinter of the day with top finishes on laps five and six. Teammate Mezgec's strong leadouts got him second- and fourth-placed finishes, boosting Mitchelton-Scott's lead over Quick-Step Floors, who were relying on Hodeg alone.
Danish duo Hansen and Matti Breschel (EF-Drapac) broke away on the penultimate lap to nab some points. Hansen went on to hold off the sprinters, taking double points at the finish ahead of a fast-charging Ewan.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|5||Israel Cycling Academy||341|
|7||Aqua Blue Sport||315|
|8||EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||279|
|10||BMC Racing Team||247|
|14||UAE Team Emirates||28|
|15||Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini||23|
|16||Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|8||BMC Racing Team|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|10||Israel Cycling Academy|
|11||EF Education First-Drapac|
|12||Aqua Blue Sport|
|13||Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|15||Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|16||UAE Team Emirates|
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