Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) has won the fourth stage of the 2013 Eneco Tour.
The German sprint king easily saw off the challenge of second-placed Giacomo Nizzolo (Radioshack-Leopard), and defending champion, Lars Boom (Belkin), who was third.
Boom’s result, his second podium finish in two days, was enough to propel him in to the overall lead of the race, with three stages remaining.
Another flat finish was decided in another sprint, but, as had been the case in the previous stages, the kick was played out among a selection rather than the full bunch.
Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) provided the perfect escort to Greipel and to Boom, but when the German lit the afterburners, there was only likely to be one winner.
‘The Gorilla’ had his arms in the air long before he crossed the line, and pressing the red jersey of points leader to his lips, relayed his thanks for the lead out to the team car over the radio beneath.
Boom easily fell prey to the rampaging Nizzolo in the contest for second, but his thoughts would doubtless have been occupied by the greater prize.
The final flat stage of the ninth Eneco Tour saw a three-man break whittled down in the closing 20km.
Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) did most of the work for an escape group that included Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Ionnis Tamouridis (Euskaltel).
Ligthart was the first to be dropped, and with 15km remaining, Jacobs and Tamouridis were left to battle alone in the wind.
And then there was one. Some 4km later, Tamouridis fought Canute-like to stave off the irrepressible tide of riders behind him, but at the 10km to go kite, bowed to the inevitable and sat up to wait for the catch.
Team Sky’s Matt Hayman was first over the line at the final intermediate sprint two kilometres later, and once crossed, Saxo-Tinkoff took up the running in the shape of Matti Breschel, who had been narrowly beaten to the points by Hayman.
A rapid change in fortune soon followed, with Hayman on the deck while Breschel powered off the front, launching an early bid for solo victory.
Belkin responded to neutralise Breschel’s attack, and with 5km to go, the men in lime green were again at the head of affairs, with defending champion, Boom, who began the day just one second back on GC, sat comfortably at third wheel.
Four kilometres from home, the sprinters and strong men began to swarm at the head of the bunch, with world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff) among their number.
A sharp right hand bend disrupted the progress of Gilbert, who was forced wide by road furniture, losing ground on the Lotto-Beilisol train now driving the bunch.
With Roelandts, Lotto-Belisol’s leader in the cobbled Classics, playing a role as competent as any of the peloton’s specialist lead-out men into the final bend, Greipel entered the home straight perfectly positioned.
The German’s victory, claimed at the end of a 169.6km run from Essen to Vlijmen, is likely to be the last claimed by a sprinter this Tour.
Tomorrow, the riders will don speed suits and climb aboard low profile steeds for the stage five time trial, a technical, 32km test from Sittard to Geleen.
Eneco Tour 2013: stage four – report
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto Belisol – 3.47.35
2) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – Radioshack-Leopard – ST
3) Lars Boom (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
4) Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
5) Alexander Porsev (RUS) – Katusha
6) Tyler Farrar (USA) – Garmin-Sharp
7) Jens Keukeleire (GER) – Orica-GreenEDGE
8) Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
9) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling
10) Chris Sutton (AUS) – Team Sky
1) Lars Boom (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling – 16.06.14
2) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto Belisol +1″
3) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ +3