Nineteen-year-old Remco Evenepoel continued his run of form at the Baloise Belgium Tour on Saturday, placing third on the stage won by Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) and setting himself up to take his first stage race win for Deceuninck-QuickStep when the five-day race ends Sunday in Beringen.
Evenepoel joined Campenaerts and Andreas Lorentz Kron (Riwal Readynez) in a three-rider move that finished more than a minute ahead of the field on the 151km fourth stage that featured climbs of the La Redoute and Roche-aux-Faucons. Evenepoel took a 52-second lead over Campenaerts in the overall and increased his lead to third-placed Tim Wellens to 2:02. Sunday’s final stage is a flat affair that should favour the young Belgian.
“Today is a day I will always remember,” Evenepoel said in a statement posted on his team’s website. “My team did a tremendous job – Eros [Capecchi], Pieter [Serry], everybody in the squad – they were all superb and I want to thank them for their help. From my part, I gave it my all on this legendary parcours in front of an amazing public and retained the leader’s jersey, which gives me a lot of joy going into the final day.”
A breakaway of six riders escaped just 15km into the stage, but QuickStep’s efforts had the escapees back in the fold with less than 20km remaining. Hansen then launched an attack, but Evenepoel relied on his teammates to neutralise his rival’s move, with the young rider bringing Hansen back near the top of the Roche-aux-Faucons.
Evenepoel then jumped away with Campenaerts and Kron, and the chase was on once again. The QuickStep rider pressed the pace in the move, extending the trio’s gap before taking third in the sprint.
“The stage wasn’t easy, as the guys from Lotto applied pressure immediately, but I could rely on a great team and that gave me a lot of confidence” he said. “In the final, when Wellens attacked, I didn’t panic, just tried to control the gap before attacking in the false flat near the top of the climb. We caught him, and when I saw he was losing ground after Campenaerts’ acceleration, I pushed as hard as possible.
“In the sprint, I didn’t have enough to fight for the win, but Victor was anyway stronger, so congrats to him. I still lead the GC, but there’s one more day to go and we must remain calm, continue to control things and hopefully deliver Fabio for a bunch sprint”