Circuit Franco Belge began today in La Louvière. The four day stage race, tailored towards the sprinters, opened with an animated, aggressive first day of racing. A crash split the field at the mid-point of the 165.8 kilometer stage, and the second half of the race saw constant splits and regroupings. Sports Director Lionel Marie describes the day.
There were many attacks at the start, and finally a break of six riders found a way up the road. Quickly one of the six dropped back, and a five rider escape group was established. Lotto-Belisol took charge of the chase and controlled the advantage to the breakaway.
Everything was going smoothly until a crash split the peloton into two parts. The break remained up the road, and a front group of around 30 riders chased the breakaway. Jens Keukeleire, Sam Bewley and Aidis Kruopis made the split. The rest of our riders were in the second main group – or the third group on the road.
Because Lotto had been chasing, they were all on the front when the split happened, and most of their team was in the first peloton. They rode a hard tempo to catch the break and keep the second peloton away. Although they worked hard to stay ahead, the first two groups came together before the two laps on the finishing circuit.
Aidis won the second of two intermediate sprints ahead of Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) and Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek). There were more attacks on the circuit, and more attacks meant more chasing. When it came down to the finish, the guys knew that had already spent a lot of energy early in the stage. They didn’t have energy left to help Aidis in the sprint.
Roelandts won the stage ahead of Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Maarten Wynants (Rabobank Cycling Team). The podium came from a group of eight riders that finished 39 seconds ahead of the first peloton of 60 riders. Aidis sprinted from that they first peloton group and managed 20th place.
We came here thinking maybe we had a chance for the overall. With the time lost today, the general classification is probably not in our reach anymore. There are still three stages where we can get a good result, and we’ll focus on that beginning tomorrow.