At the end of a hard week of racing, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, showed that the BinckBank Tour was far from over, going on the attack twice on a difficult final day that featured some incredibly tough cobblestone climbs. Finishing the day in fourth spot, Peter confirms his victory in the points contest, and celebrated taking two stages over the course of the race.
Having incrementally ramped up the difficulty of the terrain over the past three days, there was no intention of easing off on the final stage of the BinckBank Tour. Two of the most fearsome climbs of the Spring Classics – the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg – awaited riders on this challenging parcours, and coming at points in the 191.3km stage where a well-placed attack could make all the difference, the 2017 edition of this race was far from over.
Riders woke this morning to pleasant weather and the forecast for the day suggested sunshine. This would bring some positivity to the peloton after a race that had seen torrential downpours dampen the spirits on many of the stages. It was no surprise then to see a break going out early, a group of nine attacking and gaining more than two minutes on the bunch. While most of the peloton seemed happy to let this band of escapees go ahead, BORA-hansgrohe took over on the front of the chasing pack and quickly brought the lead down to a more manageable 1:40, with just over 60km still to race, the German National Champion, Marcus Burghardt dragging the bunch with him. The German team’s pace didn’t suit everyone in the bunch, and the peloton began to splinter as the gap reduced, while the break was shedding riders, leaving only two up ahead. The terrain on the narrow, cobblestone climbs was enough trouble on its own, but with BORA-hansgrohe pushing hard, the hills were all the more difficult.
At the 25km to go mark, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, who had been riding near the front of the chasing group, went on the attack. Peter’s teammate, Lukas Pöstlberger, was riding hard ahead of him to take seconds in the Golden Kilometre, which would otherwise have gone to the GC riders close behind. While the peloton came back together shortly after, one climb remained and it was here – on the Denderoorberg – that Peter attacked again. The bunch was well aware of Peter’s strength and so worked to pull him back in, but as another lone rider went on the attack, Peter’s group wasn’t willing to work with the Slovak rider to reel them back. With the lack of cooperation, Peter’s group crossed the line a second after Trek-Segafredo’s Stuyven, the UCI World Champion taking fourth. The points on the line confirmed his win in the points contest, finishing with almost twice as many points as the second-placed rider.
From the finish, after a race where he took two stage victories and where the rainbow stripes of the UCI World Champion’s jersey were a rare sight – wearing the race leader’s jersey for a day and the blue points jersey much of the rest of the race – Peter was looking ahead to the races still to come, after a hard week’s racing. “Unlike yesterday, we had better weather today, so that was nice. The finale of the stage was again hard and the rest of the riders weren’t collaborating, just looking at me. There is nothing I can do about it – this is the way it is. However, I finished the BinckBank Tour without any crashes and looking back to this week, I’m satisfied with I achieved. Two intense weeks of racing came to an end, first in Poland and then here, and I look forward to Québec and Montreal.”
For BORA-hansgrohe’s Head Sports Director, Enrico Poitschke, there was disappointment at the lack of co-operation, but the race showed how strong a rider Peter is, as well as the sheer strength within the BORA-hansgrohe team. “We tried everything – the team worked perfectly together, they way they have been doing throughout the week, and Peter was really strong. But, as it often happens, when Peter is in the group, nobody wants to work with him or close the gap. All in all, we aren’t very satisfied with this week here at the BinckBank Tour. Of course, we won two stages, but we could have achieved more. Peter is in a really good shape and we were very close to the victory.”
In a little under a week’s time, BORA-hansgrohe will line up to begin the Vuelta a España. After riding well in the GC at last week’s Tour de Pologne, Rafał Majka will lead a strong team at the season’s final Grand Tour, in what will be BORA-hansgrohe’s first time riding the race as a UCI WorldTour team.