Saturday, March 30, 2013

Verhelst brings in Etixx-iHNed's maiden UCI victory

Louis Verhelst
Louis Verhelst (Etixx-iHNed) sprinted to victory in the small town of Hesdin in the first stage of Boucle de l'Artois, giving his team their first ever UCI-rated victory on the road. The Czech squad benefitted by having 4 riders in a 26-man leading group that was able to separate themselves from the peloton late in the stage. The 22-year old is coming off a strong Volta ao Alentejo where he featured in multiple breakaways.

The race was animated from the very beginning where an early breakaway was out front for nearly 100 kilometers before Etixx-iHNed ramped the pace up with around 90 kilometers to go, shattering the peloton and leaving a group of 43 riders up front. With only 6 rider teams, kudos must be given to Etixx for being able to break the race up that way they did. For the rest of the race, attacks would be launched from this group but nothing was able to stick until later in the stage as the main peloton began to bear down on the lead group. With 20km to go, Florian Sénéchal attacked the lead group and was followed by nine riders (out of the 46 rider lead group). 17 more riders bridged up with 11km to go in the stage, which gave Etixx four riders (out of 6) in the front group. No attacks were allowed to get out on the final lap of the finishing circuit and with the help of his teammates, Verhelst was able to sprint to the victory. Interestingly, Gerry Druyts of EFC-OPQS, another development team connected to the OPQS WT squad, finished 2nd in the sprint.

Verhelst (l) beats his close friend Gerry Druyts (r)

Top 10

1. Louis Verhelst (Etixx Ihned)
2. Gerry Druyts (EFC Omega Pharma)
3. Alberto Checchin (Nippo De Rosa)
4. Rolf Nyborg Broge (Designa Kokken)
5. Berden De Vries (Jo Piels)
6. Sascha Weber (Differdange Losch)
7. César Bihel (Differdange Losch)
8. Giorgio Brambilla (Atlas Personal - Jakroo)
9. Alexander Kamp Egested (Cult Energy)
10. Michael Olsson (People4You UNAAS)

Other riders that made the leading selection include Etixx's Dieter Bouvry and Lukasz Wisniowski, Alex Frame (Thüringer Energie) and Oscar Landa (Oster Hus-Ridley) among others. With his win, Verhelst is now in the race's pink leaders jersey but according to a post race interview with, he said that he doesn't think he will be able to hold the jersey after tomorrow morning's time trial and the team will most likely put their overall hopes on Pole Lukasz Wisniowski.  Full results will be posted when they are available...

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