Caleb Ewan took stage five of the Benelux Tour 2021 with a superb showing of speed and strength on the uphill finish, beating Sonny Colbrelli in Bilzen.
Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) came up late to fly past Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), with the latter fading to fourth behind Danny van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert).
The race leader Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) was dropped with around 10km to go but second overall, Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) suffered a mechanical with 8km to go and he lost 42 seconds.
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That means Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) took the leader’s jersey off fellow Swiss rider, Bissegger, on the final sprint day before heading into the tough climbs on stage six.
How it happened
Stage five of the Benelux Tour started in Riemst with various hills on the menu over the 192km route to Bilzen, with a three man break getting up the road early.
The break had a gap of about four minutes with Hugo Houle (Astana-Premier Tech), Casper Pedersen (DSM) and Jack Bauer (BikeExchange) all up involved.
The pace was on and off throughout the day over the technical, stressful roads and as they approached the Golden Kilometre, which came earlier than in previous stages, the gap was at 46 seconds thanks to an acceleration by Deceuninck – Quick-Step with 30km to go.
The break also lost a rider in all this on one of the climbs with Houle losing touch on the ascent. The break, including Houle who was in between the break and the peloton, swept up all the seconds in the Golden KM between 28 and 27km to go.
Ineos Grenadiers’ Andrey Amador tried a bizarre move on a short descent but he was brought back very swiftly along with Houle on the Letenberg climb with 24km to go as Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) set the pace.
Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) then tried to escape with Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) with 21km to go but the peloton were not keen on them getting away and they were brought back a kilometre later.
Seven separate teams hit the front in the last 20km to try and pull Bauer and Pedersen back as they still had 43 seconds. Lotto-Soudal came en masse to the front with Philippe Gilbert leading the way.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step then took over with Álvaro Hodeg working hard for his leader, Kasper Asgreen as the race turned onto the very tight roads yet again with Bauer and Pedersen getting caught with 10km to go.
Asgreen launched an attack on a climb with Mohorič countering over the top but neither move got anywhere with 9km to go. Mohorič went again on the descent as he used his superior downhill ability.
Asgreen then had a mechanical at the base of the descent and the Danish rider who was second overall was left behind as was the overall leader, Bissegger who had gone pop.
Bahrain Victorious were pushing the pace hard on the front with Heinrich Haussler, Mohorič and Fred Wright setting up Sonny Colbrelli. Asgreen was being supported by Michael Mørkøv to try and chase back on, now 20 seconds back.
The peloton hit the Letenberg for the final time as Mohorič attacked again. Sagan jumped onto the move immediately. Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers) tried to counter that move but it was all kept together, albeit very strung out with 3km to go.
The sprinters’ teams then came up to control the final as Bahrain Victorious led Colbrelli out. The Italian champion launched first on the rise to the finish with Sagan in the wheel, however it was Ewan who came up at speed to take the win.
Asgreen ended up losing 42 seconds meaning it was Küng who went into the blue leaders jersey going into the penultimate day of racing.
Benelux Tour 2021, stage five: Riemst to Bilzen (192km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Team Bahrain Victorious
3. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
7. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
8. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Team Bahrain Victorious
9. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
10. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r-Citroën Team
General classification after stage five
1. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ