Early break attempts made for a fast start to the second stage of Circuit Franco Belge, and an early catch of a five rider escape group made for an aggressive second half of racing. Despite repeated break attempts and splits in the field, a full force peloton charged towards the finish in Poperinge for a bunch kick. Third across the line, Aidis Kruopis secured the final step on the podium behind stage winner Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ – BigMat).
“It was a hard day of racing from the beginning,” said Sports Director Lionel Maire. “The speeds were high and the break was caught in the middle of the stage. The team did a good job of saving energy where they could for the final.”
Like stage one, the second stage concluded on a finish circuit. ORICA-GreenEDGE came to fore on the penultimate lap of the race.
“The team did a really strong pull in the last two laps,” said Marie. “They came to the front and they worked hard for their sprinter. Sam Bewley did especially good work. We were able to keep three guys fresh to help put Aidis in the right position for the sprint.”
As the kilometers ticked down, Kruopis relied on his teammates to keep him safe ahead of the sprint.
“Jens Keukeleire was the last wheel for Aidis,” explained Marie. “After Keukeleire pulled off, Aidis followed Kittel. It was hard for Aidis to get around him, and Kittel stayed out front for the win with Bouhanni taking second.”
“We finished on the podium, so that’s good,” added Marie. “The guys will look to go better in the sprints over the weekend.”
Stage one winner Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) remains in the race lead at the mid-point of the four day stage race.