Jasper Stuyven sprinted to fifth place from a select group of riders that played for the stage win at the end of stage five at the Binckbank Tour Friday.
The 165-kilometer race, a mini-version of Amstel Gold, was peppered with 18 tough climbs. The attacks and pace on the undulating parcours first created a dangerous split in the peloton with 50 kilometers remaining, but with race leader Stefan Küng (BMC) flatting and dropping out of the front group, it was eventually chased back. A final selection of 16 men formed over the last uphill with just over six kilometers remaining, and this move would ride to the finish.
"The race really started when Sunweb went to the front and split the peloton and a group of 40 riders went away and we had five riders there," explained Trek-Segafredo director Dirk Demol. "Küng was there, but he punctured, and then BMC chased really hard to bring him back so after that we had a group of 100 riders again. It would have been really good for us if Küng didn’t have that puncture, but okay that's racing. In the end, we still had Jasper in the front."
With the peloton regrouping and two men from the day's seven-man breakaway still holding a small gap, three riders attacked to form a leading group of five. The big selection came moments later when the strongest riders, including Stuyven, accelerated over the top of the final climb.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) pushed the pace of the elite group numbering 16 that contained most of the pre-race favorites.
Stuyven tried his hand with four kilometers to go, countering an acceleration by Sagan and drawing out Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale), but the pair were brought to heed with just over 2 kilometers remaining.
"Jasper tried to attack at the end, and Bakelants was with him, but he was not wanting to go full gas, or not capable. There was a moment when they were slowing down, and Jasper grabbed his chance and went again, and maybe it was better to wait for the sprint, but it is easy to say that afterward," added Demol.
The next attack proved to be the winning move as Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo) jumped away and held off the rest of the group by three seconds to secure the win and take over the race lead.
Sagan won the sprint for second with Stuyven finishing in 5th place.
"We are protecting Jasper 100% to go for the GC, and he was there in the first group, so it was again good for us. I was hoping that we could have two riders there, but when it split again, Edward said he didn't have the best legs. He also raced on Sunday the European Championships, 240kms and travel on top to come straight here, so when you calculate that on top of the hard racing this week, he did not have the best feeling today," said Demol.
"We have had a good Binckbank Tour so far; we have a stage win, a second place and two times fifth. It's hard racing here. I have to say that the last two stages were already really, really hard: a thousand corners, always right, left on small roads, rain, and the pace has been superfast. And tomorrow will be over 200kms. When you have the legs, you will be there, the strong riders will be there, and the next days it will be a race between the classic riders like Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke, Sagan, Gilbert… It will be an interesting fight.
"We have been there every day, the guys are riding well together, and that's nice to see. We will give it a go in the last two stages."