The Eneco Tour got a new leader on Saturday as Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) soloed to victory in Aywaille.
Wellens attacked with 10km remaining in the 173.9km sixth stage from Heerlen to La Redoute, dropping breakaway companions Alexandre Pichot (Europcar) and Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ.fr).
Behind, Lars Boom (Belkin) launched a one-man pursuit, leaving a group that contained race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano), who began the day with a 49-second advantage on Wellens but held just two seconds on the second-placed Boom.
Boom couldn’t bridge the gap and contend for the stage win — Wellens won by nearly a minute — but he remained second overall, seven seconds behind the new race leader, while Dumoulin slipped to third overall at 13 seconds.
“I had a really good day,” said Boom. “Last year, I struggled on the La Redoute once and wasn’t able to get back in the race after that. I’m very happy with this performance. It’s too bad that Wellens snatched the white jersey.”
As for Wellens, he said the race went as planned, only more so.
“Before the start we had agreed to see how far Jelle [Vanendert] and I would get,” he said. “After the stage to Geraardsbergen yesterday I already had a good feeling, although that wasn’t completely my terrain. This morning I noticed my legs felt good again and that it could be my day.
“When I jumped away the riders behind me didn’t give full gas. The team captains were isolated and there wasn’t any organization. Afterwards Lars Boom did everything he could to get rid of GC leader Tom Dumoulin and then the tempo was raised.
“The stage win was my first goal, and then getting in top 10, that was really important for the team. Considering I stood at 49 seconds I never thought I would be able to get the first position. Fantastic that I win and take the jersey as well.”
Sunday’s seventh and final stage is a 183.4km run from Riemst to Sittard-Geleen, and Wellens plans to defend his lead.
“Tomorrow we will do everything we can to keep that jersey. The bonification seconds will play a role, so we will have to race attentively,” he said.
Boom thinks he still has a shot at the overall victory, though he conceded that Sunday’s finale would be “another tough day.”
“Seven seconds seems a bit too much, but we’re going to make a plan,” he said. “During the race we will try to anticipate the moves as much as possible. Today was a key stage for the overall and it went well.”