Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Olympia's Tour: Vermeulen takes 1st stage honors on a decisive day

Jeff Vermeulen took the flowers and smooches (Photo: @AllardEngels)
On the opening road stage of the 2013 Royal Smilde Olympia's Tour, there were no holds barred as the  peloton laid down the gauntlet early and when the dust settled, it was Jeff Vermeulen (Metec) taking the win over track man and former Milram rider Wim Stroetinga (Koga) and Wouter Wippert (3M) in a group of only 37 riders, meaning 80 riders finished over 2 minutes down on the leading group.

The day started under some cloudy conditions with the riders leaving Noordwijkerhout in a large peloton but it wouldn't be for too much longer. After a fairly neutral rollout, the race exploded with a group of 20 going off the front including names such as race leader Coen Vermeltfoort and Rabobank Devo rider Dylan van Baarle. Vermeltfoort won the day's first two bonus sprints to extend his lead but eventually, this group was brought back into a reduced peloton.

With 100 kilometers to go, van Baarle got off the front again, this time with a group of 18 but Vermeltfoort and his De Rijke-Shanks squad were caught off guard and entirely missed the move. Van Baarle was able to win a bonus sprint ahead of Campbell Flakemore and Rabobank teammate Mike Teunissen to move himself up the G.C. into a tie for 5th place.

Behind the leading group, it was De Rijke-Shanks and Koga, who was working for Wim Stroetinga, who laid their chips on the table to bring back the front group. They finally were able to bridge with just 5 kilometers to go and the chips were laid down. In the final kilometer, Peter Koning (Metec) put in a strong attack to try and foil the sprinters but was brought back at around 500 meters. Even with a man of Vermeulen's strength, he had just spent the last 50 or so kilometers riding hard in the breakaway so they had no idea how his legs would even go in the sprint. That question was quickly answered...

Vermeulen took to the front and Wim Stroetinga tried but couldn't come around him in the final 100 meters. Wouter Wippert charged to the line and was going very quickly at the end but ran out of road. In the front group, many of the overall favorites stayed in the front group including Vermeltfoort, van Baarle, Adam Phelan, Remco Te Brake, etc.

Remember the Australian domination of the prologue? Only 2 out of the 7, Flakemore and Phelan, made the front group with Alex Morgan getting time cut and the rest finishing in the big peloton at 5'34".

Top 10 Stage 1 Noordwijkerhout - Hoofdorp 

  1. Jeff Vermeulen (Metec) 3:52'30"
  2. Wim Stroetinga (Koga) all s.t.
  3. Wouter Wippert (3M)
  4. Dylan Groenewegen (De Rijke-Shanks)
  5. Johim Ariesen (Jo Piels) **KOM**
  6. Remco Te Brake (Metec)
  7. Adam Phelan (Australia U23)
  8. Rick Zabel (Rabobank Development)
  9. Clinton Avery (New Zealand National)
  10. Coen Vermeltfoort (De Rijke-Shanks)

G.C. Top 10 after Stage 1

  1. Vermeltfoort 3:56'20"
  2. Vermeulen +6"
  3. Campbell Flakemore (Australia U23) +9"
  4. Jesper Asselman (Metec) +10"
  5. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development) s.t.
  6. Cameron Karwowski (New Zealand National) +11" 
  7. Phelan s.t.
  8. Stroetinga +12"
  9. Arno Van Der Zwet (Koga) +14"
  10. Groenewegen +16"
To be honest, it was a bit disappointing to see many of the Australia and New Zealand guys get dropped today but a crosswind is one of cycling's most honest places, where one can be one great form but if they are in bad position, forget about it. Vermeltfoort nearly paid the price for this today but was able to claw his way back. It wasn't so lucky for Damien Howson, Mitchell Mulhern or even natives such as Tom Vermeer, who all fell on the wrong side of the sharp edge of the blade.

The 2nd stage of the race heads west of Amsterdam, where the race starts in Rhenen (outside of Veenendaal) and makes its way northwest, heads over the 27km Houtribdijk dam over the Markermeer and then finishes in the Noord-Holland city of Alkmaar, the home of Blanco Pro Cycling's Theo Bos. There are two KOM sprints early on but after that, it will be the wind that takes over and if you have ever been to Noord-Holland, you will know that it is a cruel mistress.

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