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Tour de Wallonie

A fantastic team effort not fully rewarded

Stage 3 of the Tour de Wallonie, described as the most difficult of this 42nd edition, was to start from Plombières, in the province of Liège. But the organizers decided to move the start 45 km ahead, on the Signal de Botrange, the roof of Belgium. To compensate for this change, an additional final lap has been added, bringing the total distance to be covered to 170 kilometers. If only 5 difficulties were listed on the parcours, the crossing of the Ardennes towards Erezée (Luxembourg) was riddled with climbs.

Shortly after the start, the Belgian Loïc Vliegen distinguished himself at the front of the race, winning the first KOM of the Côte de Libert, located at kilometer 11. However, we had to wait 30 kilometers before the good breakaway formed : 3 riders benefited from the leniency of the peloton, which offered them a maximum lead of 6 minutes at the halfway point.

The Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team, led by Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon, took charge of the pursuit with two other teams, closing the gap at the entrance to the Erezée final circuit. The hard work of Kévin van Melsen, Aimé De Gendt and Baptiste Planckaert made it possible to force the regrouping 30 kilometers from the finish.

In a field reduced to around thirty men, Quinten Hermans, Loïc Vliegen, Andrea Pasqualon and Odd Christian Eiking took turns taking part in the attacks, as the race had completely gone out of control on the last lap. Attentive, Hermans won Cielle’s intermediate sprint, scoring another 3 bonus seconds. As they tackled the final ascent of the Côte de Beffe, located in the last 10 kilometers, the Norwegian Eiking launched his move, isolating himself for a moment at the front of the race with 3 other riders.

The weak cooperation did not allow the leading group to last, however, and several pursuers were able to make the connection in the descent towards Erezée. One of them, Simmons (Trek), counterattacked with Dewulf (Ag2r) and won the stage in a two-man sprint. Arrived 25 seconds later, Eiking finished 11th and Hermans 15th. In the general classification, Hermans is now 6th, and became the leader of the intermediate sprint classification.

The team was absolutely fantastic today. We took the initiative to chase the breakaway, because no team decided to engage to close the gap. I was with Odd Christian in the final, who attacked impressively in the Côte de Beffe. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible to get out due to the headwind, and it came down to a sneaky move on the descent to Erezée. In the end, the reward is small considering the efforts made, which is why I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't have done better, and fully reward the team. But nothing is settled, we will exploit other opportunities to improve this ranking.


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