Sunday, April 6, 2014

Doull takes last Triptyque stage and overall; thwarts Teunissen's last stand

With just 40 kilometers left in the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, it was looking like Owain Doull's overall lead was in trouble. A breakaway of over 20 riders, spearheaded by Mike Teunissen (Rabobank Development), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Belisol), Bert van Lerberghe  and three other EFC-OPQ riders as well as contingents from the USA National Team and Astana Continental, was carrying a 1'15" lead on the group containing the yellow jersey Doull as well as Alex Kirsch (Leopard). The breakaway's lead was not set in stone.

The day started off with a 9-man breakaway including KOM leader Maxime Anciaux (Wallonie Bruxelles) as well as Walt De Winter (Verandas Willems) and Laurent Evrard (Wallonie Bruxelles), who had started the day just 17 seconds down on leader Doull. Anciaux was only concerned about KOM points and was eager on the early climbs, winning 4 out of the 5 first climbs to ensure his victory in the classification.

While Anciaux was upfront battling for points, the peloton had exploded behind with 75 kilometers left. Mike Teunissen, who was sitting at 23 seconds behind leader Owain Doull, attacked along with 7 others including Rick Ottema (Veranclassics-Doltcini), Tim Van Speybroeck (3M) and Bejamin DeClercq (EFC-OPQS), all of whom were within a minute of Doull on GC. The group accelerated rapidly and within 10 kilometers, they joined the breakaway up the road and had opened up a gap of nearly 1'30" on the yellow jersey group.

With 50 kilometers to go, a dangerous counter-attack move leapt off the front of the peloton and contained the likes of Benoot, Dieter Bouvry, Floris De Tier, TJ Eisenhart, Frederik Ludvigsson and Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, among others, and they moved with urgency up to the front group to join Teunissen and company. With 42 kilometers to go, the junction was made. Danger, Danger Will Robinson.

Even after Doull had a small crash, the peloton began to get a head of steam on itself and began to real in the breakaway. With 30 kilometers to go, the gap was down to just 40 seconds. Benoot won the intermediate sprint for 3 seconds ahead of Teunissen, who won another intermediate sprint, and Eisenhart. Coming into the finishing circuit that would be done twice including the Croix Jubaru climb, the gap had fallen and the breakaway began to split at the seams, with stragglers being left for broke as other surged ahead. Van Lerberghe lead Benoot and Rick Ottema over the line for the 1st time to signal one lap to go for the race but following the sprint, a counter attack was launched including Van Speybroeck, Serge Dewortelaer (Veranclassics) and Loic Pestiaux (Wallonie Bruxelles). The trio was able to get a gap of 12 seconds on the remnants of the breakaway, which had a further 15 seconds on the yellow jersey group. The lead was still remotely in danger and Doull and his Great Britain team were on a mission.

On the Croix Jubaru for the final time, Dewortelaer went all out and attacked his breakaway mates and went solo down the descent to the finish. Inside the final 5 kilometers, Dewortelaer was holding out was holding out solo but the breakaway including Mike Teunissen, who had been away for the over half of the day, was finally taken back with 3 kilometers left by a select group of riders. With 2 kilometers left, Dewortelaer was brought back into the fold of a 40-rider peloton.

In the sprint, it was race leader Owain Doull who took the sprint victory in Tournai ahead of the resilient Mike Teunissen and Kazakh Vadim Galayev (Astana Continental). Doull capped off a strong day by the Great Britain squad to not get caught out under pressure and allow the track team pursuit rider to head to victory. It was a strong effort by Teunissen, who tried his best to take the race by the scruff of the neck but it was to no avail.

Doull took the overall by 17 seconds over Tiesj Benoot and Alex Kirsch, with Benoot taking the tie breaker due to better stage placing. Patrick Konrad came in 4th overall with Frederik Ludvigsson in 5th and Teunissen in 6th, on the same time as Ludvigsson. My original pick for the overall, Ruben Zepuntke, finished down in 22nd place, 52 seconds back. USA National dominated the youth classification rankings, which is for first year U23s in this race, by placing 3 in the top 4 with Geoffrey Curran taking the white jersey ahead of Justin Oien, who finished on the same time. Lotto-Belisol finished with 3 riders in the top 15 and was able to take out the teams classification.

This race was quite a indication of form leading into next week's Ronde van Vlaanderen U23. Owain Doull is looking like a very strong bet for the victory but Kristian Haugaard, Mike Teunissen and others have put in their name for a strong result here while Tanner Putt and Magnus Cort indicated their strong form at the Volta Limburg. Look for a breakdown of the race later this week.

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