Gianni Vermeersch wins queen stage in Dunkirk, Philippe Gilbert new leader: “I would have liked to have taken more distance”

Hugo Coorevits and Michael Van Damme

Philippe Gilbert is therefore the new leader on the eve of the closing of the Four Days of Dunkirk. Although the almost forty-year-old leader of Lotto-Soudal would have preferred a larger lead over Oliver Naesen and Jake Stewart. “I fell fourth today at the finish line just after the bonus seconds,” said a previously disappointed Gilbert, who laid his cards on the table less than two kilometers from the finish in Cassel. “It will be very difficult,” Gilbert told Nico Mattan, who interviewed him on behalf of the organization of the Four Days of Dunkirk. “I also refuse to think that the overall victory is mine. We also have intermediate sprints in the final stage in which bonus seconds can be earned.”

At 1.5 kilometers from the finish, on the last ascent of the Kasselberg, Philippe Gilbert launched his attack. Gianni Vermeersch and Oliver Naesen reacted so that a Belgian trio could take a shot at the stage victory.

Oliver Naesen launched the sprint too early and was remounted by Gianni Vermeersch. Jake Stewart was third ahead of Gilbert.

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Gianni Vermeersch was very satisfied with his victory. “This is my dream ride. I train a lot in this area. I knew Gilbert would attack in the final. His attack was very strong. But I was still able to get on his wheel. In the sprint itself, Naesen tried to surprise me, but in the end I finished it,” said the West Flemish.

The riders had to climb the Mont de Cassel nine times in the queen stage of 183.7 kilometers. After about 25 kilometers a leading group had formed with six riders: Max Poole (DSM), Maurice Ballerstedt (Alpecin-Fenix), Louis Blouwe (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Andrea Mifsud (Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur), Léo Danès ( Team U Nantes Atlantique) and Alex Colman (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise), who finally secured his polka dot jersey.

With sixty kilometers to go, a chasing group of three riders (Matthieu Ladagnous, Jake Stewart, Stéphane Rossetto and Michael Gogl) joined the front runners, where Colman and Danès dropped out. The peloton followed at 1’23”, while the maximum lead of the front runners had been six minutes.

In the final, many riders tried to get away, but in the end the winner would come from a peloton of about forty riders. Gilbert broke free from this, after which Vermeersch and Oliver Naesen became one and two.

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