Eneco Tour: Kittel sprints to stage four as Boonen sneaks into the lead
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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Eneco Tour: Kittel sprints to stage four as Boonen sneaks into the lead

by Ben Atkins at 10:53 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Eneco Tour
 
Bonus seconds see Belgian champion take over after long flat stage

marcel kittel Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) sprinted to his second victory of the 2012 Eneco Tour, as he took stage four between Heers, Belgium and Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands. The 24-year-old German was the fastest once more, as he had been on stage one, at the end of the long, flat, 213.3km stage, after a late puncture had forced him to miss out on stage three.

Second place on the stage went to a late charge from Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), who managed to come around the long sprint from Olympic bronze medallist Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). The Norwegian held on to take third place, ahead of Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), but the Belgian champion was content in the knowledge that a time bonus at the final intermediate sprint had put him into the race lead.

Boonen took two seconds on the first crossing of the finish line, as the peloton began the stage’s 15.4km finishing circuit, and leapfrogged overnight leader Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) to take the white and red jersey.

“It was very hard,” said a still out of breath Kittel said immediately after the finish. “At eight hundred metres from the line I was still in fifteenth position. Then Tom Veelers and John Degenkolb brought me forward. At five hundred metres I even had a short moment to rest. I don’t know how they exactly did that, but it was fantastic.

“It's just incredible what they do for me,” the German said of his teammates. “They support me one hundred percent. They bring bottles, they close down breakaways. I cannot thank them enough.”

The Eneco Tour was Kittel’s first race since abandoning the previous month’s Tour de France through illness.

“I did not expect things to go so well,” he said. “Although I have to say: winning the sprint may seemed easy, but during the stage I suffered a lot.”

The break of the day came from Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM), Adrian Saez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Arnoud Van Groen (Accent.jobs-Willems Verandas), Martin Kohler (BMC Racing), Gert Dockx (Lotto-Belisol) and Boris Shpilevsky (AG2R La Mondiale). The six riders escaped early in the stage and built a maximum lead of 8’25” in the first half, before being gradually pulled back by the Orica-GreenEdge team.

With the sextet’s lead less than 30 seconds as the race entered the final 20km of the stage, Veuchelen attacked and managed to enter the finishing lap first. He was finally caught with 12km to go, which led to a battle for control between the sprinters’ teams.

Kristoff was the first to open up his sprint, but the Norwegian had gone too early and was passed by Kittel and Roelandts before he could reach the line.

From the Netherlands to Belgium, then back again

Having moved from the Netherlands to Belgium the previous day, stage four was to take the race back again as it took an entirely flat course from eastern Belgium to the North Brabant city of Bergen op Zoom. Veuchelen, Saez, Van Groen, Kohler, Dockx and Shpilevsky escaped after just 10km, and - as the peloton allowed them to get away - built a lead of 8’25” after just 40km.

Keukeleire’s Orica-GreenEdge team decided that this was enough, and began the gradual task of reeling in the six riders. With three intermediate sprints in the course however, it was happy to leave them out there at the head of the race, to prevent any of the Belgian’s rivals taking time in the overall classification.

With 50km to go the gap was barely two minutes, and Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator came forward to case. The Belgian team’s presence caused Orica-GreenEdge to sit up, since it was not keen to catch the break too soon, and so it had very little effect on the break’s advantage. Rabobank and Argos-Shimano continued to lend a rider each, but there was no urgency to pull back the break at this stage.

Inside the final 40km however, the pace lifted considerably, quickly shutting the gap down to little more than a minute. Having cruised along for some time however, the six-man group responded, and checked the peloton’s progress for a number of kilometres. With 30km to go however, more riders began to join the chase - with Omega Pharma-Quick Step sending a number of riders forward - and it fell to just 37 seconds with 25km to go.

With 20km to go the sextet’s lead was still 28 seconds however, and shortly afterwards Veuchelen attacked. With 17km to go the remaining five were swept up, but the lone Belgian was still 20 seconds clear as he crossed the line to start the 15.4km finishing circuit; Boonen took the sprint for second place - ahead of Rabobank’s Lars Boom - taking two bonus seconds on the line, and put himself into the provisional race lead.

Veuchelen was finally caught with 12km to go however, as Skil-Shimano and Rabobank continued their pacesetting, but Katusha took over in force as the race entered the final ten kilometres. Rabobank was not to be denied, and fought for control with the Russian team with five kilometres to go; BMC Racing was also in the mix, but Katusha was refusing to yield.

Argos-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol were also throwing men forward, but Katusha’s Pavel Brutt was still leading into the final kilometres. Rabobank and Omega Pharma-Quick Step were lined up behind the Russian and took over as the peloton pulled around the final right angle bend with under a kilometre to go.

Rabobank’s Graeme Brown found himself off the front of the peloton as he exited the final bend, but he was quickly chased down by the riders from Argos-Shimano. Kristoff was the first of the sprinters to make his move, but Kittel opened up his sprint with 200 metres to go and sailed by to take what looked like an easy victory.

Result stage 4
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Argos-Shimano
2. Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Radio
4. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team
6. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Sharp
7. Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Team Astana
8. Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) Orica-GreenEdge
9. Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank
10. Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator

Standings after stage 4
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge @ 1s
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step @ 2s
4. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team @ 3s
6. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank @ 4s
7. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge @ 6s
8. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
9. Jens Mouris (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge
10. Svein Tuft (Can) Orica-GreenEdge

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