Gilbert and Vakoč move into BinckBank Tour top 10
Quick-Step Floors took command of the team classification with two stages to go.
What a day of racing it's been in the Netherlands, where a spectacular and thrilling stage 5 of the BinckBank Tour unfolded on the lumpy roads of Amstel Gold Race, with Quick-Step Floors again among the protagonists. By the end of the day, the general classification witnessed a major shake-up, a trend which it's very likely to continue this weekend, when the riders will take on two other stages, which will include climbs from Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Petr Vakoč was the one who instigated a move one hour into the race, on the first hill of the stage, where he was soon followed by six other guys, together with whom he put around three minutes between them and the peloton. In the final 25 kilometers, the bunch was on their heels, but Petr and Michael Hepburn (Orica-Scott) attacked from the break and went for the Golden Kilometer bonifications, where the 25-year-old Czech picked up nine seconds.
A flurry of attacks split the pack with around 15 kilometers remaining on a short, sharp climb, where several teams forced a selection, which saw only 15-20 riders make the cut. Helped by Yves Lampaert, Philippe Gilbert bridged to the group which included also Petr Vakoč, the only survivor of the original escape, who then moved to the front to set the pace and shut down the attacks launched with four kilometers to go.
Eventually, Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo) managed to get clear and take both the win and the leader's jersey in Sittard-Geleen, while the group rolled over the line just three seconds later. Philippe Gilbert sprinted to sixth at the end of a day which elevated him to the top 10 overall, more exactly in seventh position, just ahead of Petr, who thanks to his remarkable ride made a jump of 72 places in the general classification.
"The start was pretty hectic, with small roads and a lot of road furniture. I saw the first climb of the day as the best opportunity to attack and I did just that, forcing a selection. We worked well together, but the peloton didn't give us too much leeway. Inside the last 25 kilometers, when Hepburn went, I jumped and managed to mop up the bonus seconds. Then, once that group caught us, I did my best to hang in there and help Phil", Petr Vakoč said at the end of stage 5.
In the overall standings, with two stages to go, Philippe is only 29 seconds behind the new race leader, but the 35-year-old is confident there will be opportunities to turn the tables on his opponents: "Having Petr in the break was perfect for us, as all that we had to do was to stay attentive in the peloton. When the bunch split once the teams dropped the hammer, I relied on Yves to help me bridge across, and he did a great job. Unfortunately, all that chasing meant there wasn't too much left in the legs to sprint, but overall I am satisfied, because I am still in the fight for the GC and everything is possible over the next two days."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele