De Lie sprints to victory on the Eeuwfeestwal
After 18 climbs and two cobblestone stretches, it was ultimately Arnaud De Lie who justified his role as favourite when he took the 74th edition of the Ronde van Limburg. The Italian Consonni was second, ahead of Dutchman Van Poppel.
The 74th Ronde van Limburg gets underway at 1:30 p.m. This year with fans and under a beautiful blue sky. After just 6 km, the first breakaway of the day forms. There are 5 riders who have chosen to attack: Schuermans (BEAT Cycling), Vandevelde (Minerva Cycling Team), Ferasse (B&B Hotels KTM), Blouwe (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Lemmens (Tarteletto-Isorex).
Things are progressing well in the first hour of the race. With the wind in their sails, the peloton moves right through the Hoge Kempen National Park. After the passage on the first climb of the day, the Duivelsberg, the gap has grown to 3’50”. This gap starts to shrink as soon as the peloton reaches the local loop at Alden Biesen. There, 5 hills and 2 cobblestone stretches await. At the front, it is Ferras who loses ground.
In a chaotic sprint, Bora-hansgrohe takes command. De Lie is ousted from the wheel of Bennett and has to get the job done alone. In the final stretch, De Lie passes the duo from Bora-hansgrohe. Consonni sprints to second place, Van Poppel finishes third.
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Then, with 33 km to go, Vandevelde also has to drop out of the leading group with a flat tyre. The gap between the leaders and the peloton is still more than 30 seconds. Just before entering the last lap, Bonneu (Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Bekaert (Baloise Trek Lions) and Kerckhaert (BEAT Cycling) counterattack. They join up with the survivors of the early breakaway. With a 20-second lead, they plunge into the final lap.
Bonneu and Blouwe join forces at the front, 23 km from the finish. Their attempt does not last long. At 18 km from the finish, they all come together again. On the last climb of the day, Renard (Cofidis) tries one more acceleration, but Lotto Soudal has everything under control in the peloton. Due to a crash in the last three kilometres both Cavendish and Thijssen, two of the favourites, see their chances go up in smoke.