Tour of Belgium: Tony Martin secures overall victory as Luis León Sánchez escapes
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tour of Belgium: Tony Martin secures overall victory as Luis León Sánchez escapes

by Ben Atkins at 10:40 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour of Belgium
 
Spanish rider takes solo victory but can’t do enough to steal the final red jersey

tony martinLuis León Sánchez (Blanco) put his recent troubles behind him as he soloed to victory in the final, Liège-Bastogne-Liège style fifth stage of the 2013 Tour of Belgium in Banneux. The Spanish rider, who had been left of his team’s race roster for the season to that point due to unresolved allegations of links to the 2006 Operación Puerto doping scandal, managed to escape a breakaway group with just over 40km to go, and hold off the chase group made up of World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Andreas Klöden (RadioShack-Leopard), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) and race leader Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

"I'm very happy", Sánchez said afterwards. "It was a tough stage, and not only because of the parcours. The wet and cold weather didn’t help either. I knew I had to attack to win. In a sprint, I wouldn’t be able to defeat men like Francesco Gavazzi and Philippe Gilbert. I trained hard for this race, because it’s my first of the year. I’m very motivated to do well throughout the rest of the season.”

Gavazzi won the sprint for second, 27 seconds behind Sánchez, ahead of Gilbert, Klöden and Martin, but Martin had done enough to secure his second straight overall victory in the race thanks to the lead he had built up in the stage three time trial. Sánchez escape was good enough to lift him up to second place overall, however, with Gilbert climbing to third.

"It was amazing how my teammates were riding for me," Martin said. "It was really nice to stay with them. As expected the race was really hard from the beginning. A lot of attacks from the start. All my teammates had to work hard. But we stayed confident and stuck to the plan. My teammates brought me safely to the final. At the end I knew it was up to me on La Redoute. I had an eye on Gilbert and finally I could follow him. Then I had a gap that was big enough that I could more or less stay easy.

“At the end everything was fine, but I think it was one of the hardest stages for me and for the team,” the World time trial champion added. “I just trusted my teammates until the very end. I always had teammates around me riding very strong, so it gave me a lot of morale. At the final I knew it was then up to me and I felt really good. I knew I had the legs and could follow the main competitors. So, I was really confident. I knew the team worked hard the whole week, and it was up to me to finish the success. So, I gave everything. The condition is good and I'm happy with the final. I have to give a special thanks to the whole team for this victory."

More winter weather sees the cyclocross riders to the fore

The 176km stage was played out in yet more wintry conditions, with cold temperatures and heavy rain throughout the day.

The early break came after 35km, as Thijs Al (Telenet-Fidea), William Clarke (Argos-Shimano), Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Johnny Hoogerland and Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM), , Marcel Meisen (BKCP-Powerplus), Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack-Leopard), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Blanco) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) escaped on the climb of the Côte de Chambrelles, and were quickly joined by Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and World cyclocross champion Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony).

At the halfway point the eleven-man group was two minutes clear as Omega Pharma-Quick Step controlled the peloton behind. It was to rise to almost two and a half minutes after 90km, before Martin’s team brought it back down to two minutes with 72km to go.

Van Avermaet was the danger man, just 1’50” behind Martin in the general classification, and so the BMC Racing rider was still virtual race leader. Since De Vreese was also threatening second place Tom Dumoulin’s young rider jersey, the Argos-Shimano team came forward to help and began to shut down the break more quickly.

Onto the Côte de Niaster with 67km to go, however, BMC Racing hit the front of the peloton, with Philippe Gilbert in third wheel, and began to accelerate. This strung out the peloton, with several groups dropped off the back, and slashed the gap to the eleven leaders to 50 seconds by the time they reached the top.

Martin was safely tucked in at the front of the peloton, but some of his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates found themselves dropped.

With the break’s days seemingly numbered Al attacked on the descent and got away and, with the pace in the peloton settling down as Omega Pharma-Quick Step regained control, the Telenet-Fidea rider began reopening the gap. As he hit the foot of the Côte de la Redoute for the second time, with 58km to go, Al was 30 seconds ahead of his ten former companions, with the peloton another 30 seconds behind them.

With BMC Racing setting the pace on the front of the bunch again though, the gap was closing quickly, with Clarke caught before he was halfway up.

Slagter attacked from the group and passed Al before he could reach the top, but the others were not far behind him. Nys led the group across the gap as Slagter crested the summit, but the breakaway was now down to just Slagter, Nys, Hoogerland, Kolobnev and Van Avermaet.

Sánchez gets the counterattacks going and then makes the winning move

Sánchez then attacked as the peloton topped the climb, and a counterattack formed, which also featured Dumoulin and Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Leopard). The new group was just 13 seconds behind the five leaders as they descended into Sprimont, and they came together with 52km to go.

The main peloton containing Martin was now a minute back, with the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team working hard to close the gap.

Sánchez attacked again, with Hoogerland with him this time, and the two of them rode clear of the front group. Dumoulin managed to chase across to the two leaders and, with Martin still a minute behind, was now virtual leader, and Kolobnev and Romain Zingle (Cofidis) joined shortly afterwards.

Onto the Côte de Banneaux with 41km to go the Monford group was 15 seconds behind the five leaders, with the peloton still at 58 seconds.

Sánchez attacked again over the top of the climb; with 40km to go, he was 23 seconds clear but, as he crossed the finish line to start the final 35.9km loop, had only managed to open his advantage to 26 seconds. The Monfort group was now a minute behind, while the Omega Pharma-Quick Step-led peloton was now 1’46” back.

With 31km to go the peloton absorbed the Monfort group, with Sánchez 45 now seconds ahead of the four chasers; BMC Racing had joined Omega Pharma-Quick Step on the head of the peloton, which had cut the gap slightly to 1’35”. Just short of the 25km to go banner the four chasers were also caught, with Sánchez now the only leader; 57 seconds ahead as he approached the Côte de la Redoute for the third and final time.

Sánchez’ lead was down to just 38 seconds as the peloton hit the climb behind him but, as Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Niki Terpstra led the bunch up the steep climb, he was careful not to put Martin into difficulty again. Despite several riders being dropped by the Netherlands champion’s pace, the gap to the lone leader remained static for most of the way up.

On the steepest part, however, Gilbert attacked, and was alone as he rode over the top. This cut Sánchez’ lead to just 19 seconds, but Martin was following the World champion just a few seconds behind him, with Gavazzi and Klöden on his wheel. The four riders soon came together, with Martin immediately pushing on in pursuit of Sánchez.

Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) then managed to attack his way across to the the four chasers but, with ten kilometres to go, Sánchez was 41 seconds clear and still building his lead. After peaking at 51 seconds, however, it began to come down again as he began to struggle at the foot of the Côte de Banneaux with five kilometres to go. Following his solo chase to join the chase group, Roelandts was immediately left behind by the group.
With two kilometres to go Sánchez was still 46 seconds clear, and seemingly safely on his way to stage victory. With that current gap Martin was still safe in the race lead, however, as the German allowed the others to do the chasing.

Seemingly knowing that he had no chance of overall victory, Sánchez sat up long before the line and rolled over with his hands out to his sides as he crossed the line. Gavazzi won the sprint for second place ahead of Gilbert and Klöden, 27 seconds back, but Martin knew he had won overall and his celebration was as big as the stage winner’s as opened up his rain jacket to show the red jersey as he crossed the line.

Result stage 5
1. Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Blanco Pro Cycling
2. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Team Astana @ 27s
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Leopard
5. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
6. Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto-Belisol @ 47s
7. Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) XXX 1’13”
8. Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus @ 1’16”
9. Arashiro (Jpn) Team Europcar @ 1’17”
10. Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM

Final overall standings
1. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Blanco Pro Cycling @ 36s
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team @ 51s
4. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Leopard @ 1’18”
5. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Argos-Shimano @ 1’30”
6. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Team Astana @ 1’36”
7. Kristoff Vandewalle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step @ 1’43”
8. Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto-Belisol @ 1’44”
9. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step @ 1’49”
10. Alexey Tsatevitch (Rus) Katusha Team @ 2’06”

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