Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) tamed the cobbles to win stage five of the Eneco Tour, while Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) took the overall lead.
Van Avermaet, who finished second behind Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) at the Tour of Flanders in March, was first to the top of the Muur van Geraardsbergen to claim victory ahead of Dumoulin and Pavel Brutt (Katusha).
Second place on the day was enough for stage three winner Dumoulin to displace overnight leader Lars Boom (Belkin Pro Cycling) at the top of the general classification.
After three flat stages and a time trial, hostilities stepped up a notch at the 2014 Eneco Tour with a day made for the hard men of the spring Classics, with a 162.5km route which includes 13 climbs, including the Kruisberg, Bosberg and two ascents of the Muur van Geraardsbergen.
Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol), Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Pablo Lastras (Movistar) and Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff-Saxo) formed the day’s break to setup an aggressive day of racing which then saw Sylvain Dillier of BMC Racing attack from the peloton, before Boom made a move of his own with 20km to go.
Lastras and Trentin were the last of the escapees to be caught with 3.5km remaining and that prompted Laurens de Vreese (Topsport-Vlaanderen) to attack, reaching the final ascent of the Geraardsbergen first before the Belgian was swept up by what remained of the rampaging peloton.
Brutt made the next move and shot clear on the climb before Van Avermaet took control with 500m to go, crossing the line two seconds ahead of Dumoulin, whose second-place finish on the day earnt him valuable bonus seconds to swap places with Boom at the top of the overall standings.
“Before the stage it was not my goal to become leader today but I wanted to go for the victory as I felt really good,” said Dumoulin. “I was the fastest over the final 500m in the bunch but I was slightly out of position at the bottom of the climb and Greg was too far ahead already.
“I feel in superb condition – the Tour did me good and I hope to hold onto the overall lead now after today. Even though I did not plan on taking the lead it is not bad to be leading heading into the last two stages. There are people we have to watch tomorrow and it will be a tough race but we will make a good plan and our team is strong.
“We showed today that we were the only team that could control in the final and we have a great team for tomorrow too.”
Eneco Tour 2014: stage five – result
1) Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing – 3:45:36 hours
2) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Shimano +2″
3) Pavel Brutt (RUS) – Katusha
4) Matti Breschel (DEN) – Tinkoff-Saxo
5) Lars Boom (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
6) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +6″
7) Geraint Thomas (GBR)- Team Sky
8) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
9) Filippo Pozzato (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
10) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing
1) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Shimano – 16:34:29 hours
2) Lars Boom (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +2″
3) Manuel Quinziato (ITA) – BMC Racing +11″
4) Andriy Grivko (UKR) – Astana +14″
5) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +21″
6) Pavel Brutt (RUS) – Katusha +23″
7) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – Belkin Pro Cycling +24″
8) Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing +25″
9) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
10) Jens Keukeleire (BEL) – Orica-GreenEDGE +28″