After a seemingly relaxed start to the 183.6-kilometer stage, a seven-rider breakaway, which including Koch, finally went clear as the race approached the first ascent of the iconic Muur van Geraardsbergen to begin the first of three local laps around the town.
The German rider, who came into the race following his debut Tour de France and the World Championships, looked strong in the front group which was sitting three minutes ahead of the peloton at the second passage of the finish line.
Soon after, with the pace beginning to increase and the gap between the breakaway and the bunch falling, an attack off the front of the peloton saw the breakaway grow to ten-riders strong before a move from Van der Poel off the front on the penultimate ascent of the famous finishing climb, saw the group explode with riders spread out all across the road.
Koch was sitting third out on the road with 47 kilometers to go however, with the lone leader, in the battle for the General Classification, the reduced main bunch eventually swept him up.
Van Hooydonck seized an opportunity to try his luck inside the final 30 kilometers and launched himself off the front of what remained of the peloton and, despite being quickly chased down, the Belgian’s impressive turn of speed forced more splits to open up.
In the end, the chasing group whittled down even further as the race for the overall title intensified in the closing kilometers, and ultimately, Van Hooydonck crossed the line as CCC Team’s best-placed rider in 27th place one minute 44 seconds behind Van der Poel, just ahead of a small group that also included teammate Gijs Van Hoecke.
Quotes From the Finish Line
Nathan Van Hooydonck:
“I was feeling good today and thankfully, the early morning rain eased off which made the finale a bit easier. When I attacked on the Denderoordberg, I was feeling good still and so I decided to give it a go otherwise I would just have been following the race instead of part of the action. I felt like I could do something and it was nice to make that attack. It was unfortunate that I didn’t get some of the other non-GC guys going with me as we could have maybe worked together. In the end, I missed just some meters at the top of the Muur but these meters decided the following 20 kilometers and so, I missed the good move there unfortunately but it is what it is. I think I did a good race today, I rode more aggressively and I think that is something we have to keep in mind for the races coming up.”
“I felt pretty good today. We said in the meeting before the start that we wanted to have somebody in the breakaway and we tried really hard at the start and I invested a lot of energy because it took a really long time for the breakaway to go clear, around 60 kilometers of full gas racing. Once the grouped went, we worked well together and I think, it was a good move especially on this kind of local circuit. In the end, Van der Poel and Senechal caught us from behind and they were really strong. They went again on the Muur and I tried my best to stay with them but Van der Poel was incredibly strong and he dropped us. It was really hard to come back from that. Overall, I was really happy that my legs felt good after the Tour de France and I didn’t feel too tired this week so it was nice.”
Stage 5: Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve > Geraardsbergen (183.6km)
Top 3: 1. Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 2. Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) 3. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain – McLaren)
CCC Team Top 3: 27. Nathan Van Hooydonck 33. Gijs Van Hoecke 85. Jonas Koch
Top 3 on GC: 1. Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 2. Søren Kragh-Andersen (Team Sunweb) 3. Stefan Küng (Groupama FDJ)
CCC Team Top 3 on GC: 38. Gijs Van Hoecke 60. Nathan Van Hooydonck 88. Jonas Koch