Impressive day for Bahrain Victorious at the Benelux Tour. The longest and toughest stage on the menu (Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve > Houffalize207.6km) became the most spectacular and sweetest one so far for the team.
The riders faced a series of côtes in the Ardennes, especially in the final laps, including some steep climbs. The race was nervous immediately after the start with some attacks as the flat initial part was ideal to set a breakaway.
At 10 km Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos) went into the move gaining a maximum of 7 minutes. But as expected, when the first of the 10 Côte on the menu came after about 100km, the race exploded.
With 49km to go as Thomas was got back, on the Côte Bois des Mointes Mohorič attacked, with Hirschi and Colbrelli joining him.
The leading trio continued their action while behind the peloton split. At 25km to go, a solo attack of Sonny Colbrelli turned out to be the winning move. With Mohorič stopping the chase, the Italian Champion maintained a substantial advantage (42 seconds) to storm to a tremendous solo victory. Behind him, a reduced chasing group sprinted for runner-up place, and to complete the team’s excellent work, Matej Mohorič took second place.
With today’s victory, Sonny Colbrelli also moved into the overall leader’s jersey, with an advantage of 51″ seconds to the Slovenian Champion, who sits in second place. That is a perfect scenario with only one stage to go.
Sonny Colbrelli: “It has probably been one of the hardest races of my life. With Matej, we attack in the first of the final laps, and Hirshi followed us. Then we agreed to try one time each. When it was up to me, I went that it was a bit early actually and I didn’t think to arrive alone. But I always kept a good tempo and never looked back. I’m so happy as I can say to have done something extraordinary. It never happened to me to win a race like this way. Tomorrow, let’s see how I will recover as today I spent a lot. But as a team, we also have Matej ready to fight for the GC”.
Rolf Aldag, Bahrain Victorious SD: “The goal of the day was to take a win, having the two strongest guys in the peloton like Sonny and Matej. It was great to see how Matej controlled the chase to give his teammate a good advantage to go also into the leader jersey today. The key to success was to believe in himself and ride aggressively, execute perfectly every move. Now we have also the leader’s jersey with one stage to go. We’re looking forward to it. We have more than an option. Mohorič can also have his opportunity. We don’t change our goals. We came here intending to win stages, and we went for it every day, and we will do the same tomorrow to defend and win the leader jersey”.