Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) wrapped up overall victory at the Eneco Tour, finishing safely in the peloton on stage seven as Guillaume van Keirsbulck soloed to the stage win.
Wellens, who took over the leader’s jersey after winning stage six, finished safely alongside his chief GC rivals Lars Boom (Belkin Pro Cycling) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) to seal the biggest victory of his career to date.
Van Keirsbulck, meanwhile, underlined his huge potential as he attacked from the day’s break to follow his Three Days of De Panne victory with a maiden WorldTour stage win.
The 23-year-old was one of 20 riders to go clear early on, with team-mates Julien Vermote and Matteo Trentin ensuring Omega Pharma-Quickstep were well-represented in the move.
Several WorldTour teams also boasted two men in the group – BMC Racing, Cannondale, Movistar and Trek Factory Racing all bringing men to the fore.
Daniel Oss and Silvan Dillier represented the former, while Moreno Moser and Kristijan Koren have been no stranger to the breakaway for Cannondale and got themselves in the front group.
Enrique Sanz and Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Danilo Hondo and Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Tom Leezer (Belkin) also added to the strength on show in the break.
Dylan van Baarle (Garmin-Sharp), Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEDGE), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida), Laurens De Vreese (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) rounded off the move.
Once they were clear, it quickly became apparent they would not be coming back, with Wellens’ team-mates happy to allow them to contest the stage as they kept a watching brief on the front of the bunch.
Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s strength in numbers at the front, and their skills when it comes to negotiating the winds and rains of northern Europe, soon showed through.
Having impressed during the Classics campaign, van Keirsbulck was the man to launch a stinging solo attack with 34 kilometres remaining on the stage.
With the Lotto-Belisol-led peloton occupied with countering Belkin’s attempts at splitting the bunch, the remains of the day’s break were marshalled by Trentin and Vermote as their team-mate powered on alone at the front.
A disorganised chase promptly ensued, with Trentin and Vermote disrupting the attempted counter attacks – all of which played into van Keirsbulck’s hands.
Using the strong winds to his advantage, van Keirsbulck was quickly into time trialling mode – stretching out his solo advantage by the pedal stroke.
Back in the bunch, Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) was also engaged in a battle for supremacy, but the Dutchman fell foul of race organisers as he was seen barging Maarten Wynants (Belkin Pro Cycling).
With the Paris-Roubaix champion having been keen to stretch improve his overall position on what was shaping to be a great day for the Belgian super team, his aggression – for which he later apologised – saw him disqualified.
Belkin continued to be active in the bunch, but Wellens – on the wheel of Marcel Sieberg and Jurgen Roelandts – could not be shaken.
Moves by Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) and Lars Boom (Belkin) on the final climb also failed to drop the Belgian.
Further up the road, van Keirsbulck was left to celebrate a solo victory while Trentin led home the remains of the day’s break to secure an OPQS one-two – 46 seconds separating the two team-mates.
Meanwhile, Wellens finished safely alongside Boom and Dumoulin to seal the first overall win of his career – and Lotto-Belisol’s first at WorldTour level since Belisol came aboard as co-sponsors.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) also completed an impressive week by finishing safely in the peloton – a result which was enough to seal sixth overall for the Welshman.
The day’s big honours, however, belonged to Wellens as he celebrated his milestone achievement on the final podium.
Eneco Tour 2014: stage seven – result
1) Guillaume van Keirsbulck (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 4.25.47hrs
2) Matteo Trentin (ITA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +46”
3) Yves Lampaert (BEL) – Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise – ST
4) Julien Vermote (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
5) Kristijan Koren (SVN) – Cannondale
6) Laurens de Vreese (BEL) – Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7) Pablo Lastras (ESP) – Movistar
8) Danilo Hondo (GER) – Trek Factory Racing
9) Silvan Dillier (SUI) – BMC Racing
10) Dylan van Baarle (NED) – Garmin-Sharp
1) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol – 25.30.15hrs
2) Lars Boom (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +7”
3) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Shimano +13”
4) Andriy Grivko (UKR) – Astana +33”
5) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing +34”
6) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +38”
7) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing +48”
8) Jens Keukeleire (BEL) – Orica-GreenEDGE +56”
9) Sebastian Langeveld (NED) – Garmin-Sharp +1.04
10) Marco Marcato (ITA) – Cannondale +1.11