Tim Wellens has won the fourth stage of the 2019 BinckBank Tour. The Belgian Lotto-Soudal rider beat Marc Hirschi and Laurens De Plus in the sprint after a very short but attractive 96km stage to Houffalize. Wellens also takes over the leader's jersey from triple stage winner Sam Bennett.
Because of the ultra short 96-kilometre distance the fourth stage promised to deliver a lot of fireworks and so it did. Iljo Keisse launched the first attack at the start en was joined by Stan Dewulf.
The duo amassed a lead of 2m30 before the favourites in the peloton started getting involved. On the first ascent of the Rue Bois des Moines team-mates Maxime Monfort and Tim Wellens threw a first grenade with a powerful attack. That whittled the peloton down to some 40 riders including the likes of Greg Van Avermaet, Laurens De Plus, Zdenek Stybar, Philippe Gilbert and leader Sam Bennett. Pre-race favourite Bob Jungels initially missed out, but managed to come back once the second group caught up to the leading pack.
The cease-fire didn't last for long as De Plus went on the assault on the second ascent of the Rue Bois des Moines. Van Avermaet quickly responded and so did Stybar, Wellens, De Plus, Soren Kragh Andersen, Jay McCarthy and Simon Clarke. The group of eight caught Keisse and Dewulf but the peloton refused to allow them a big lead. With 38km to go the bunch seemed about to catch up again, the perfect time for Wellens to launch a serious attack. Not keen to go it alone, the Belgian Lotto-Soudal rider decided to let the group of favourites catch up again. On the last climb of the Saint-Roch De Plus put everyone on the limit again with a serious jump. Wellens and Marc Hirschi managed to follow him. Ivan Garcia Cortina impressively bridged the gap from the chasing group to the three leaders.
After a fiercely contested Golden kilometre, in which Hirschi and Wellens both took six bonification seconds, a strong De Plus decided to save up for a splitting attack on the Côte Achouffe. Hirschi and Wellens both gambled but eventually closed the gap. Cortina had to let the trio go as they would decide the stage in a sprint in the streets of Houffalize.
Hirschi seemed on his way to the stage win, but with a final jump Wellens managed to overhaul the young Swiss star. Wellens not only took the stage win, but also took over Sam Bennett's lead in the general classification. The Belgian now leads Hirschi by four seconds, with De Plus another ten seconds back.