Former British national champion Ian Stannard (Team Sky) produced a brave ride to finish second on the seventh and final stage of the Eneco Tour, won by Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) to take the overall crown.
Stannard formed part of the day’s eight-man breakaway and rode away from his rivals on a route which included some of Belgium’s toughest cobbled climbs.
Stybar started the day eight seconds off race leader Tom Dumoulin (Argos-Shimano) and bridged across to Stannard in the closing stages of the 208km stage before distancing the Brit, nicknamed Yogi, on the run-in to the finish.
Team Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven said: “Yogi did an incredible ride.
“It is a pity he didn’t take the win, but on the other hand, he did a great race and he can be happy and proud about his performance.
“He was four minutes down on GC and so he had a good chance to go in the break and build up an advantage. He was really strong today and it was just a shame he couldn’t go with Stybar at the end.
“He dropped all the riders in the breakaway and then the riders who were chasing behind were not able to get across to him. That showed how strong he was.”
The final stage of the race included three ascent of the infamous Muur van Geraardsbergen, made famous by the Tour of Flanders before being controversially axed from the course.
Stannrd, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Giacomo Nizzolo (Radioshack-Leopard), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Manuele Boaro ( Saxo-Tinkoff), Julian Kern (Ag2R La Mondiale), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) formed the day’s breakaway and opened up an advantage of nearly seven minutes on a peloton controlled by Argos-Shimano.
Stannard upped the pace with 50km remaining and only Greipel and Ligthart could follow his wheel, before the Brit surged clear, first dropping Ligthart 30km from the line, before shedding Greipel on the Bosberg climb with 20km remaining.
Stannard continued to forge a lone path, while Greipel was joined by Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin Pro Cycling) and Daniel Oss (BMC Racing) to form a four-man chasing group.
The quartet was caught with six kilometres, remaining, however, prompting Stybar to attack on the penultimate climbs, the Denderoordberg, and no-one could follow the Czech cyclo-cross specialist from the peloton.
Stybar went off in pursuit of Stannard and caught him ahead of the final ascent of the Muur, where the duo held a 16-second advantage over the peloton, and while Stannard launched a last-ditch attack inside the final 250m, it was Stybar who claimed the stage win and with it overall victory.
Eneco Tour 2013 – stage seven – result
1) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – Omega PharmaQuickStep – 5:00:03 hours
2) Ian Stannard (GBR) – Team Sky +4″
3) Lars Boom (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +12″
4) Manuel Quinziato (ITA) – BMC Racing +14″
5) Pieter Weening (NED) – Orica-GreenEDGE +17″
6) Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE +25″
7) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling – same time
8) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Argos-Shimano
9) Filippo Pozzato (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
10) Laurens De Vreese (BEL) – Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
1) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 25:14:05 hours
2) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Argos-Shimano +26″
3) Andriy Grivko (UKR) – Astana +50″
4) Jan Bakelants (BEL) – Radioshack-Leopard +55″
5) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-GreenEDGE – same time
6) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +1’20”
7) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +1’32”
8) Pieter Weening (NED) – Orica-GreenEDGE +1’34”
9) Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ) – Astana +2’07”
10) Maxime Monfort (BEL) – Radioshack-Leopard +2’14”