Bad luck for Peter Sagan at BinckBank Tour stage 6 as puncture slows his strong performance.
After the opening sprint stages of the BinckBank Tour made the overall standings close, the GC race started to explode with the addition of climbing to the later days, and today’s stage saw hard climbs and inclement weather ready to shake up the overall race. While the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, had pushed hard and moved into a podium spot, the slightest mishap can often put an end to a rider’s chances through no fault of their own. Today, a puncture less than 25km from the finish slowed the Slovak rider, and while he keeps hold of the blue points jersey, Peter’s bad luck cost him time in the GC race.
Yesterday’s climbs brought stage 5 of the BinckBank Tour to life, and today’s punishing route promised more excitement. The 203.7km route made this the race’s longest day, but in addition to the difficulty that the distance alone would create, the stage also saw fourteen climbs dot the profile. These climbs being spread out evenly over the day meant there was little respite for the riders, and so the racing was going to be hard from the very start. The finish would be one of only a few spots in the stage where the roads levelled out, but after such a difficult day and at this late stage of the race, there was no telling who would be in a position to fight for the win.
A little more than thirty seconds separated the top ten in the GC at the start of today’s stage. A well-planned attack or a strong finish could really make an impact for any of the GC riders, but with UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, just two seconds off the top spot, he would have every reason to work hard on today’s punishing stage. With a difficult parcours ahead of them, the break took some time to form, waiting for 50km before making their move – a group of six building an advantage of four minutes over the peloton. The poor weather was clearly going to be a factor in today’s stage, with some narrow roads, winding descents and street furniture making the route treacherous, and so the peloton was working to keep the escapees within catching distance. However, the leaders didn’t appear to want to play along, extending their advantage to five minutes with less than 100km of the day remaining.
Setting a blistering pace, the peloton brought the break closer – even as they made their way up wall-like climbs that barely left enough room for two riders side by side. Steadily the break was brought back in, with BORA-hansgrohe and Sunweb doing much of the work. With less than 30km to go, the catch was made, but no sooner was the break back in touch, another attack came, this time with a determined group of seven making their way up the road. With some strong riders in this escape, Peter and his BORA-hansgrohe teammates gave chase, but when he was so close to making the catch, a puncture for the Slovak rider slowed him in his pursuit, and the narrowness of the road made getting support difficult. The subsequent lack of cohesion in the UCI World Champion’s group made it even harder to reduce the gap, and in spite of Peter working to force the pace, he had no option but to go at his group’s speed. With the leaders over the line, Peter’s group lost valuable time in the GC.
After starting the day feeling strong and confident, Peter’s flat in the closing 25km left him unable to catch the late break. "We had another tough stage at the BinckBank Tour under harsh weather conditions. Once again, the team worked very well and I was positioned at the right place at the right time. With 25km to go, I was in the front group, together with all the main GC contenders and I launched my attack. Unfortunately, I suffered a puncture in the worst time possible, in a part of the course where my team car was in the back. In addition, there wasn't any neutral assistance vehicle, either car or motorbike, so I lost precious time until I had my wheel changed. By then, it was too late to reach the front group. It's a pity, my form was very good today and our plan was working perfectly."
BORA-hansgrohe Sports Director, Jens Zemke, saw that the only thing that held the team back today was simply bad luck, after an otherwise excellent performance. "What can I say? 25km before the finish, Peter started his attack but because of the cobblestones and wet roads, he had a puncture. Unfortunately, there was no neutral assistance vehicle there and we were in the back, the way we usually are in a race. He tried and gave his best to come back to the group but in the final kilometres all the other riders in the front gave 100% and rode fast. Yesterday, we were close to the overall win and today everything changed."
The BinckBank Tour comes to an end tomorrow, but it’s not going to be a procession into Geraardsbergen, with plenty still to race for. The stage starts out fairly flat, but after the first half of this 191.3km parcours, the climbs start coming thick and fast. Following a circuit that climbs the Muur and the infamous Bosberg twice, taking it easy on the last day isn’t an option.