After a difficult start, Thibau rediscovered his best shape in hilly Ardennes battle
How it happened
The Queen stage of this year’s Baloise Belgium Tour featured four laps of a hilly circuit in the Ardennes, starting and finishing in picturesque Durbuy. Asbjørn Hellemose jumped in the early breakaway which enjoyed the lead of the race until a lap and a half remained. From that moment, we saw attacks, splits and regroupings as various riders tried their luck. In the final lap, Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) launched an attack which resulted in the peloton splitting. Trek-Segafredo’s Toms Skujiņš took on the lion’s share of the chasing work along with Thibau Nys to reel in the Dutchman. They reduced the deficit from around 40” to just 15”, but as Skujins finished his last pull on the front the impetus went out of the chase and Van der Poel stayed away to the finish. As the chase faltered behind, individual riders attacked in the hope of dropping their rivals and gaining time for the general classification. Mathias Vacek timed his attack well and picked up six bonus seconds through the Golden Kilometer.
In the final 10 kilometers there was a counter-attack of three riders from the chasing group, containing Thibau Nys, who was clearly feeling better after he struggled through the opening stages of the race. The finish suited Nys’ punch perfectly and he was able to take the runner up spot behind Mathieu Van der Poel. With one stage remaining Trek-Segafredo have three riders in the top-10 GC: Jasper Stuyven (5th), Mathias Vacek (9th and best young rider) and Toms Skujiņš (10th).
Reaction from Thibau Nys:
“I think this is again the form I was riding in two weeks ago, I think I had the legs to win to be honest, if we had played out cards a bit differently, but at the moment Mathieu went I had already closed a gap just after the finish line, then I was a bit too far back and on the limit when he attacked. It was a really chaotic final and I tried to do what I could for the team, keep the bunch together and give Mathias some space, but then there were some attacks I had to follow and then they rode with me to the finish line and I could finish it off. I still felt really good, my legs were super. I started feeling better and better compared to the start of the race, I’m happy with the shape. [This style of race] is exactly why I love this sport and this is the kind of stage that suits me 100%, so maybe in the future I can try to win here one day.”
Photos of the day
Courtesy of Sprint Cycling