BMC's Greg Van Avermaet took his first classic-style win since 2011 and Giant-Shimano's Tom Dumoulin moved into the overall lead at the ENECO Tour following today's bumpy stage around the Flemish Ardennes. While the Muur van Geraardsbergen didn't produce the fireworks for which it's known, the race was a punchy, late-developing affair with an exciting finish, where several riders tried to get away and only Van Avermaet had the timing to make it stick. His teammate Sylvan Dillier set up the move well with an obviously doomed attack inside 5km, as the Swiss rider dangled just off the front while the pack closed down Matteo Trentin and Pablo Lastras from their dual attack. All the classics stars were there, with overnight leader Lars Boom of Belkin patrolling the front, his teammate Sep Vanmarcke initiating things a bit, and with Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert, Matti Breschel, Sebastian Langeveld and Filippo Pozzato looking for openings. Only Van Avermaet, with his very late attack, got any real space, and took the win by two seconds over Dumoulin, who utilized a bonus to overtake Boom for the lead, again by two seconds.
Tomorrow the race heads to the other Ardennes, the Wallonian ones, and will finish atop the also-very-famous Cote de la Redoute.
Not unlike today's stage, the route cherry-picks a section of a beloved classic, does it a couple times, and concludes halfway up the most iconic ascent. Despite switching gears, the list of challengers isn't terribly different -- last year Dumoulin was firmly ensconced with climbers and cobbles guys in the race result, suggesting that the climbs won't take it out of the hands of the big guys. But the 2014 version is up to 16 rated climbs (from 11 last year), so at last the organizers may have successfully tipped the race away from the cobbled warhorses.
Dumoulin is a good fit for the stage, but so is Philippe Gilbert, at 28", and Van Avermaet, at 0.25. Manuel Quinziato, another BMCer, sits third at 0.11, giving the American squad several cards to play in a war against Dumoulin. If today was fun, tomorrow promises to be fascinating.