Tim Wellens has taken the fourth stage and the leader's jersey of the BinckBank Tour after a close sprint finish in Houffalize. It was the first win of his Lotto-Soudal outfit since the passing of its young star Bjorg Lambrecht. Wellens dedicated the win to his late team-mate: "This victory is for him."
Tim Wellens loves the Ardennes. In previous years the Belgian picked up his first three BinckBank Tour stage wins in the southern part of Belgium and he added a fourth on Thursday after a tense sprint in Houffalize.
"It was a strange day, because nobody seemed to believe in their chances," Wellens said. "None of the teams took the race in their hands."
So Wellens did it himself. Together with team-mate Maxime Monfort he cracked open the race with 80km to go. Later on he even tried to go solo. "We needed a hard race," he explained. "Team-mate Stan Dewulf was in the early breakaway and that was good for us. Afterwards he helped me out by setting the pace. I thought about going alone, but it was too early. Then Laurens De Plus attacked really strongly and made the race extra hard. We felt Marc Hirschi wasn't fully doing his part, so Laurens and I decided to work together, a little bit against him. We know each other well. At the end I managed to win the sprint."
It was the first victory for Lotto-Soudal since the fatal accident of its rider Bjorg Lambrecht, which made the win very special for everyone involved. "We long thought about whether we would start here. We were riding thinking about Bjorg all the time. This victory is for him, of course. It's a good win for the entire team," Wellens commented. Wellens is now aiming to defend his green leader's jersey and claim his third overall BinckBank Tour win, saying: "We're really happy with the stage win, but our goal is the overall win. We'll have two more tough days with the time-trial and Sunday's final stage to Geraardsbergen, so the weekend will be crucial."