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Eneco Tour stage 1 & 2: Greipel doubles up but Phinney retains overall lead

Omega Pharma-Lotto’s André Greipel‘s final burst proved too much for his sprint rivals as he claimed stages one and two at the Eneco Tour of Benelux with a pair of textbook late surges to beat out first Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) in Sint Willebrord and then Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) in Ardooie as the race passed from Holland into Belgium. With his nearest challenger Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) managing just a single third-place finish, BMC’s Taylor Phinney retained the overall lead by just three seconds ahead of tomorrow’s queen stage, which features the vicious Mur de Huy midway and two climbs in the final 6km.

Stage 1: Oosterhout to Sint Willebrord, 192.1km

On a typical Dutch stage featuring narrow roads littered with street furniture, it was no small achievement just to survive to contest the inevitable bunch sprint on a crash-strewn day. Indeed, a crash just over 1km from the line reduced the front group to around 20 riders, with André Greipel outmuscling Denis Galimzyanov to win a tight finish.

An early six-man break formed consisting of Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), Julien Fouchard (Cofidis), Matteo Trentin (Quick Step), Jens Debusschere (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Stijn Neirynck (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) and Feng Han (Skil-Shimano). They build a lead of ten minutes before the BMC team of overall leader Taylor Phinney started to bring it down, aided by Sky and Garmin-Cervélo. Neirynck and Han subsequently fell back from the lead group, leaving the other four on their own at the front.

With around 55km to go, a crash towards the back of the peloton unseated several riders, including Movistar’s Francisco Perez, who was forced to abandon and taken to hospital. A second crash at the 40km mark involving Daniel Sesma (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Sébastien Minard (AG2R La Mondiale) saw the latter retire, and a dozen kilometres later Astana sprinter Allan Davis also had a close encounter with the tarmac. Nonetheless, despite the disruption caused by the crashes, the peloton remained fully committed to the chase, with the lead quartet’s advantage down to three minutes with 33km remaining, two at 26km and just one at 19km.

Greipel timed his effort to perfection to claim the first of two wins

At this point Phinney punctured but was able to chase back to the pack with the help of several BMC teammates. And despite Fouchard’s solo attack off the front of the breakaway, a Rabobank-led peloton swept up all four leaders with about 10km to go. The Dutch team set a rapid tempo, but a counter-attack by HTC-Highroad’s Lars Bak with about 4km to go saw them swamped by other teams. However, with stiff winds buffeting the peloton, no one seemed willing to take on the pace-making. The bunch slowed and compressed, forcing some riders on to the pavement in the search for empty road space as any semblance of organisation disappeared. Eventually Sky and then Quick Step moved forwards, but with the peloton still tightly packed rather than strung out approaching the final kilometre, the chances of an accident were high. Sure enough a Liquigas rider came down after a touch of wheels, and this sliced the bunch in two, with around 20 riders – including most of the top sprinters – in front and everyone else cut adrift.

Phinney himself opened up the sprint as the leaders rounded the final corner. Tyler Farrar shot past him, but Galimzyanov emerged from his wheel to overhaul him. However Greipel, who had initially looked too far back to challenge, accelerated out from behind the Russian to take victory by just under a wheel’s length.

Phinney finished seventh, immediately behind Edvald Boasson Hagen, to maintain his seven-second lead. He was grateful to have steered clear of all the crashes:

I was feeling good at the end. Rabobank made a big push to try and split the field and I was right up there with great help from Greg Van Avermaet and Karsten Kroon in the final. I was fighting for Boasson Hagen’s wheel because I knew that if he won the stage he’d take the jersey. Happy to be up there, but also happy to miss the crashes and I’m really thankful to the guys for all the work they did today.

Greipel explained that his run to the line only opened up in the closing seconds:

It was pretty narrow in the final straight. The team did a really good job to keep me up at the front; but I couldn’t get a gap at first. With a hundred metres to go I think I was 12th, 13th maybe, but finally I could find a bit of space, and I could do my sprint.

Stage 1 result:

1. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 4:21:20

2. Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) same time

3. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) s/t

4. Theo Bos (Rabobank) s/t

5. Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano) s/t

Stage 2: Aalter to Ardooie, 173.7km

A different country today – Belgium rather than the Netherlands – produced the same result, as Greipel again proved the fastest man over the final 200 metres to take a second successive stage win ahead of Tyler Farrar.

Four riders – Rob Goris (Veranda’s Willems-Accent), Sam Bewley (RadioShack), Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) and Skil-Shimano’s Feng Han (for the second day in a row) – formed the breakaway of the day, gaining over five minutes on the peloton at one stage. However, this was reduced to just one minute with 56km left, and after a counter-move off the front of the peloton Wallays was the only survivor of the lead group, joined by Aleksejs Saramotins (Cofidis). The pair rebuilt their lead to over a minute ahead with 39km remaining, but despite crosswinds which caused the peloton to split they were caught with 23km still to go.

After a brief solo break by Saramotins’ teammate Julien Fouchard (who had featured in the previous day’s escape) was reeled in, Astana ramped up the pace on the front of the main bunch, with Lampre, RadioShack, HTC-Highroad, Sky and Skil-Shimano all showing intent as the jostling intensified on the narrow, twisty approach to the finish. Into the last kilometre, first Sky and then Skil-Shimano tried to take control, but it was Garmin’s Farrar who made the first decisive move in the sprint, only for Greipel to again time his late run to perfection, this time taking victory by close to a full bike length.

Unlike his stage one victory, where he had to come late after his path to the front was slow to open up, this was a far more routine finish for the German:

I know this finish well, it was the same as last year. There was a block headwind, so I told the guys with five kilometres to go that we had to move up. They did it, it was just a question of [being in] the position in the corner with 1.5 kilometres to go. Sieberg and Roelandts brought me in a really good position there, then Roelandts was pulling the sprint a long time. I let three guys in between us and then I started the sprint. I am really happy.

Farrar finished second, with Boasson Hagen picking up four bonus seconds in third. His maiden Tour de France win notwithstanding, Farrar continues to be the nearly man of sprinters when it comes to the big races – always there or thereabouts, but too often a fraction short of victory. You have to wonder whether his continued inability to turn good positions into stage wins lends credibility to the latest whispers linking Garmin to the best finisher in the business, Mark Cavendish. I’d say it’s likely to be little more than scurrilous rumour – Sky remains the Manxman’s most likely destination – but stranger things have happened.

Taylor Phinney held on to the race lead, although his lead over Boasson Hagen is now down to three seconds. However, he acknowledged that it will be tough to resist the challenge of both the Norwegian and Philippe Gilbert on tomorrow’s hillier stage:

I’m looking forward to the hills tomorrow. It will make for stressful racing, but a little bit more of a natural selection. We will try to hold onto the jersey. Obviously Boasson Hagen took some time back on me today and is a very good climber. Gilbert is the king of these kind of mountains. But we’ll see – we’ll take it as it comes and I’m looking forward to it.

Stage 2 result:

1. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 4:07:21

2. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) same time

3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t

4. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Veranda’s Willems-Accent) s/t

5. Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s/t

General classification:

1. Taylor Phinney (BMC) 8:35:38

2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:03

3. David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:08

4. Alex Rasmussen (HTC-Highroad) +0:09

5. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +0:10

Points classification:

1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) 62 pts

2. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +60

3. Taylor Phinney (BMC) 58

4. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) 47

5. Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano) 30

Link: Official website

Eneco Tour recaps

Prologue: Phinney delivers on his promise with prologue win

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

One Response to Eneco Tour stage 1 & 2: Greipel doubles up but Phinney retains overall lead

  1. Pingback: Eneco Tour stage 5 & 6: Boasson Hagen wins from the front « The armchair sports fan

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