Edvald Boasson Hagen won an epic final stage of the Eneco Tour yesterday after beating his two final breakaway companions to the line in Geraardsbergen. The Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider was able to hold off the challenge of Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quickstep) and Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling) on the challenging finish with Terpstra securing the overall title after Rohan Dennis (BMC) crashed and lost a significant amount of time.
The final stage was always poised to be the toughest of this year’s Eneco Tour as the 197km stage included 16 of the typical short steep Belgian Hellingen climbs, resembling a shorter edition of the Tour of Flanders.
The start was fast as numerous riders tried to get ahead in an early breakaway and it took over 70 kilometres before a group of 9 riders got clear.
The leaders were able to get a maximum gap of 2’45” before the multiple ascents of the Bosberg and Muur van Geraardsbergen began. The peloton began picking up the pace when the tough finishing circuit was reached, at the same time the rain started to fall which made the cobbled climbs quite tricky and the roundabouts very slippery.
With 52 kilometres to go, the peloton came through the finish-line and the African Team had been doing well to position Boasson Hagen at the front of the pack at all the key moments.
When the race hit the Bosberg at 46km to go, the race exploded and Boasson Hagen was perfectly placed to play his part at the front of the race.
A big attack of 6 riders went over the top as the early break had faltered. Boasson Hagen wasn’t part of that initial split but almost immediately he jumped across with two others to form a lead group of nine.
The overall favourites, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Dennis had missed the split and so Terpstra had the most to gain and with him and his Etixx teammate, Bob Jungels driving the pace at the front.
For a long time, the gap hovered around the 15″ mark but then the treacherous conditions eliminated a number of riders as they hit the deck. Among the fallers were Andre Greipel, Boy van Poppel and Rohan Dennis.
Between the falls and the tough ascents of the Bosberg and Muur van Geraardsbergen, the race became one of sheer attrition and not many were left in contention.
From the original 9 man select group up front, only 3 survived to take on the last 10 kilometres. Boasson Hagen, Terpstra and Naesen pushed on to the finish in Geraardsbergen with the Sagan chase group some 48″ behind. On the final 1-kilometre climb to the line, Boasson Hagen showed he had enough left in the tank to take a fine victory ahead of Terpstra and Naesen.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – “I am really happy with how the stage went today. I was always in the right place at the key moments thanks to my team. The race was hard but that suited me well. I was feeling strong but the wet made the race difficult so you had to stay focused.”
“We got away with a very strong group and it was important to not waste energy. I came to Eneco with the goal of possibly winning a stage and the overall but the overall didn’t go to plan. So I was really motivated to win today’s stage.”
“I knew Terpstra would be going for the overall so I tried to ride clever, using that to my advantage but Naesen was there and he was very strong. In the final I tried save all I could for the last 200m. I am happy it was enough to win the stage.”