After two flat stages for the sprinters, stage three featured a hilly parcours with seven categorized climbs in what was an ideal fit for Van Avermaet.
The peloton let a five-rider breakaway go clear in the first 20 kilometers of the 192-kilometer stage but didn’t allow their advantage to exceed five minutes.
With 65 kilometers to go, the breakaway was in sight and despite a few riders jumping over to the group, their advantage remained slim with Van Avermaet and Trentin’s CCC Team teammates controlling things at the front of the bunch.
The catch was made approaching the first passage of the finish line with 27 kilometers to go, with Van Hooydonck leading the charge, from which point it was a battle for position ahead of the Cote de Cheratte, the steep final climb with nine kilometers remaining.
The CCC Team train positioned Van Avermaet well on the run into the climb and upon reaching the base of the climb, Van Avermaet showed his strength with an attack on the steep gradient.
The field quickly split and Van Avermaet’s move formed a select four-rider group with Stybar (DQT), Vliegen (WGT), and xx (INS) coming together at the top of the climb and on the early descent.
The leading quartet established a maximum advantage of 20-seconds inside the final five kilometers, at which point it was looking good for Van Avermaet’s group which was cooperating well, however, a regrouping behind and a strong chase from Groupama-FDJ saw their advantage reduce to just ten seconds approaching the flamme rouge.
Van Avermaet wasn’t able to hold off the reduced peloton and the catch was made inside the final kilometer, where Trentin was positioned well to contest the sprint, crossing the line in fourth place behind winner Sam Bennett (DQT).
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I’m a bit disappointed but also quite happy with my form. It was a good course for me so I gave it a try on the last climb. I hoped to have a strong group of guys with me to go to the finish. We were almost there but there’s a big difference between being caught there and the stage win or for the GC also, but it is like it is. The most important is the legs are good and I can be confident also for tomorrow. Hopefully, tomorrow it works out and we will see where I can end up as it’s quite important to score some extra seconds.”
Tour de Wallonie
Stage 3 Montzen > Visé (192km)
Top 3: 1. Sam Bennet (DQT), 2. Arnaud Démarre (Groupada -FDJ), 3. John Degenkolb (LTS)