After doing so much of the heavy lifting to ensure the surprise success of the break on stage 3 of the BinckBank Tour, fourth place initially felt like a scant reward for Matej Mohoric. As the Bahrain-Merida rider wheeled to a halt in Antwerp, however, it gradually became apparent that he would receive the considerable consolation of moving into the green jersey of race leader.
“I always had the general classification in the back of my mind beside the stage victory. I still focused on the stage win, but I knew it was going to be quite hard as the other guys knew I was the strongest because I pulled the most to arrive to the finish with the biggest gap possible,” Mohoric said just past the finish line on Desguinlei.
Mohoric was the driving force behind the five-man break that upset the sprinters by coming in 1:11 clear of the peloton. The Slovenian attacked to pick up 9 seconds during the trio of ‘Golden Kilometre’ bonus sprints in the finale and then kicked three more times on the run-in. Taco van der Hoorn (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) would ultimately clip away for the stage victory, however, and Mohoric risked coming away empty-handed when Sean De Bie (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan) pipped him to third place on the stage and the final bonus seconds.
“In the final, I tried to go with the Roompot guy when he attacked but I couldn’t close the gap,” Mohoric said. “I thought that Sean De Bie would do a long sprint, but he decided to target me and sprint for second place afterwards, which is fine. But I think I might just still get the jersey.”
Indeed, as Mohoric spoke at the finish, his Bahrain-Merida entourage were performing the mental arithmetic to establish whether he or De Bie would be called to the podium. A discreet nod from a soigneur confirmed that he would take over from Stefan Küng (BMC) atop the overall standings. Mohoric starts stage 4 with a lead of one second over De Bie, with Küng a further 21 seconds back in third.
The BinckBank Tour’s first stage on Belgian roads was expected to finish in a bunch sprint, but when Küng’s BMC team handed over the reins at the head of the peloton, there was a marked hesitancy among the sprinters’ teams. On reaching the finishing circuit with 25km to go, Mohoric and company still had almost three minutes in hand, and the combined might of Quick-Step Floors, LottoNL-Jumbo and Mitchelton-Scott could not peg them back.
GC and Classics
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