The leader’s jersey changed hands on SkodaTour de Luxembourg stage 1 after Jempy Drucker’s powerful sprint for the line saw him take the victory and move into the overall race lead.
After a fast opening 20km, three riders were eventually able to go clear off the front of the peloton and began to build up an advantage.
The gap between the breakaway and the rest of field continued to rise over the opening kilometers of the race before settling at around five minutes after 60km, of the 172km course, and both of the day’s categorized climbs.
Heading into the second half of the stage, the advantage of the three leaders began to fall steadily with the race leader at the start of the day, Damien Gaudin’s Armee de Terre team setting the pace at the front of the bunch.
As the peloton crossed the line for the first of three finishing circuits around Bascharage with 35km to go, the breakaway’s advantage had been reduced to just over two minutes.
BMC Racing Team then moved up to the front of the peloton to help with the chase and, as the bell rang to signal the beginning of the final lap, the two remaining breakaway riders were brought within sight.
With the race eventually back together inside the final 10km of the day, and a bunch sprint looking inevitable, BMC Racing Team remained present at the front of the peloton with Nathan Van Hooydonk and Loïc Vliegen leading the way with 2km to go.
Positioning was key in closing meters of the race with Van Avermaet leading Drucker through the final right-hand turn before the Luxembourger launched his sprint on the 300m kick up to the line.
Drucker’s explosive burst of acceleration was unmatched as he led the charge with 100m to go before punching the air with delight as he crossed the line to take the stage win and move into the leader’s yellow jersey.
Rather than sitting up after his lead-out effort, Van Avermaet continued to sprint and eventually crossed the line fourth.
The Winner’s Interview with Jempy Drucker
Congratulations, Jempy. How are you feeling after today’s win?
“It feels really good. I’m working for the team a lot of the time and I don’t have many chances like this so, if I get the opportunity I always try to win. But, it’s not always easy. I’m a sprinter, and there are a lot of strong guys, and I’m not always as fast as the likes of [Marcel] Kittell.”
Talk us through the final sprint.
“Most of the time, I don’t have a specific sprint train, but today the guys were perfect. I had Greg as my main lead-out man and Loïc setting the pace in the last kilometer. But, everyone did a great job in the final. We came in with a plan to win this stage today so, it is perfect that it worked out.”
And looking ahead to tomorrow?
“I crashed on tomorrow’s stage last year, so I’m definitely hoping I don’t do that again. We know it will be a hard day, but now I have won a stage, it is already a good race for me. Plus, I will be wearing yellow tomorrow which is also a nice feeling. I think we are in a good position overall as we have Greg Van Avermaet up there and he is also in great shape.”