Wellens takes stage victory and leader’s jersey in Houffalize


After yesterday’s third consecutive win by Bennett, Tim Wellens scored another hattrick in the BinckBank Tour today! The Lotto Soudal rider took his third stage victory in Houffalize after earlier ones in 2015 and 2017. During the short but action-packed 96 kilometres long stage, De Plus, Hirschi and Wellens proved to be the strongest riders in the race. Marc Hirschi launched his sprint for victory quite early, but it was Tim Wellens who conquered - with an ultimate jump to the line - not only the stage victory but also the leader’s jersey.

Lotto Soudal rider Stan Dewulf opened today’s fourth BinckBank Tour stage as he set up the first breakaway of the day, together with Iljo Keisse. At around 50 kilometres from the line, the race was set on fire inside the bunch, which resulted in an elite group being formed at the front, including Lotto Soudal riders Stan Dewulf and Tim Wellens. Just as the chasing group was about to join, Wellens decided to attack solo, but soon, he dropped back to the reduced bunch. Right after starting the final local lap, the front group once again split to pieces under the impetus of De Plus. At first, only Tim Wellens and Marc Hirschi seemed able to answer that acceleration but García Cortina could bridge to the front some kilometres later. The Spaniard was dropped on the ultimate climb of the day, which meant De Plus, Hirschi and Wellens would battle for the win in Houffalize. At ten kilometres from the line, the tactical game began but eventually, the trio would sprint for victory. Marc Hirschi launched his sprint early but Wellens was still able to pass the Swiss rider with an ultimate jump to the line. In addition to taking the stage victory, the 28-year-old Belgian now also leads the general classification.

Tim Wellens: “We had a difficult week but thanks to the support of Bjorg’s parents, we decided to - after the guys continued in the Tour de Pologne - also take the start in the BinckBank Tour, with a stage victory as the objective. A good general classification would be the logical consequence of that. The past three stages were quite dangerous at times - something typical to racing on Flemish roads - but we managed to not lose any time.”

“Today, the second part of the BinckBank Tour kicked off with a stage that could possibly be decisive. We tried to make it a hard race today. When I was riding alone at the front for a moment, I dropped back because I was wasting energy. A few moments later, I still felt strong enough to respond to the acceleration of De Plus and go to the line together with him and Hirschi. Due to the short distance, I was a little afraid that time differences would remain limited, but eventually we worked together really well. I get on great with Laurens De Plus so we would make sure one of us could take the stage, but eventually it was a sprint man to man.”

“Before the stage, I rewatched the final kilometres a couple of times, which certainly helped me going into the final corner. I knew that I couldn’t go full gas immediately, so I stayed on Hirschi’s wheel. Eventually, I could beat him with an ultimate jump. I wasn’t sure that I won but eventually, it was enough to take the stage win and the leader’s jersey. Saturday’s eight kilometres long time trial is something that should suit me but that is also the case for De Plus. I hope to still lead the race on Saturday night. We have a kind of ‘Classics team’ for Sunday’s stage in Geraardsbergen and they should be able to assist me as good as possible. Of course, I want to keep this jersey but there are still some difficult stages to come.”