Belgian Jelle Wallays (TopSport), the lone survivor of a five-man breakaway, took a solo win in Rotterdam at the end of the first stage of the 2013 World Ports Classic. In one fell swoop, the 24-year-old Flemish rider and 2010 Paris-Tours Espoirs champion got his first pro win and pulled on the blue jersey as the leader of the general classification.
World Ports Classic Act II gets rolling at 11:35
The sun shone above the heads of Antwerp mayor, Bart De Wever, and his Rotterdam counterpart, Ahmed Aboutaleb, as they kicked off the second edition of the World Ports Classic in front of Antwerp’s Museum aan de Stroom this morning. Although today’s 165 km stage to Rotterdam presented no major difficulties, it did have four cobbled sectors for the Northern classic specialists in the 138-strong peloton to make their move.
Petacchi grabs three seconds
The high pace set by André Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol teammates from the start deterred potential adventurers from trying their luck in the first few kilometres and ensured the bunch reached the first intermediate sprint in Brecht (km 15.5) together. Sparks flew as Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Alessandro Petacchi came out on top ahead of Greipel and Belkin’s Renshaw. The veteran Italian (39 years old) snapped up a 3-second time bonus which could well prove decisive in the general classification.
Five men wind their way
The kilometres after the intermediate sprint saw a flurry of attacks at the front of the race, but it was not until km 44.5 that five men managed to sneak away from the pack. The escapees, Belgians Van Bilsen, Wallays (TopSport) and Van Melsen (Accent Jobs), Dutchman Honig (Crelan) and American Rathe (Garmin), held a 2′15″ gap at the first cobbled sector in Galder (km 63). Shortly after the Rijsbergen feeding zone (km 71.5), the five breakaways were forced to stop due to an open bascule bridge, but the wheel of fortune turned back in their favour when their advantage ballooned to 4′45″ due to a signalling error.
Wallays in pursuit mode with the bunch hot on his heels
Meanwhile, in the main field, Bryan Coquard hit the deck at km 122, as alarm bells started ringing and the sprinters’ teams, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Lotto-Belisol at the fore, injected considerable urgency into the pursuit, breaking the peloton into two parts. The bunch soon regrouped and was just 1′15″ behind the five escapees with 25 km to go, when Jelle Wallays launched a well-placed attack to which his breakaway companions had no answer. The young Belgian held his ground and still had a 1′25″ gap with 10 km to go. He did not falter in the last few kilometres and took a solo win in Rotterdam, inaugurating his professional palmarès. André Greipel and Alessandro Petacchi led the peloton home 26 seconds back.