Odd Christian Eiking (Wanty Groupe Gobert) won stage 3 of the Tour de Wallonie from a late solo attack. Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea) won the group sprint for 2nd on the stage and Lorrenzo Manzin (Vital Concept) secured 3rd place.
Stage 3 of the Tour de Wallonie saw an attacking race take place over the 169km route between Chimay and La Roche-en-Ardenne. After an early 3 rider breakaway was brought back with around 60km to go, Ryan Gibbons went onto the attack for Team Dimension Data, with 6 other riders. They were able to ride open a 30 second lead but Lotto-Soudal were chasing hard from the main group for their race leader, Tim Wellens.
Gibbons drove the pace in the lead group as hard as he could, trying to set up our climbers behind, for the tough final 30km of the stage. As Gibbons lead group was caught at the foot of the Cote de Samree climb, Ben O’Connor went to the front of the peloton and ripped the race apart by setting a very high tempo on the modest gradient. Over the summit, the group was reduced to around 40-odd riders and our African Team had O’Connor, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Lachlan Morton and Mekseb Debesay in the front selection.
O’Connor and Morton did a fine job keeping the tempo up in the main group, as we looked to set-up Ghebreigzabhier for the final climb. The steep 2.8km Cote du Pied Mont peaked 7km from the finish-line but the run-in to the climb was rather technical. Our young Eritrean was slightly caught out of position as the climb started and Wellens had attacked from the front.
Ghebreigzabhier had to make up some ground over the steeper gradients but he did so successfully, going over the top of the climb in a select group of 10 riders. The 2nd group was not too far behind though and O’Connor and Morton were still there, in the mix. Upfront Quickstep and Katusha had the numbers advantage with 3 and 2 riders respectively, out of 10 the riders.
With Quickstep and Katusha attacking, Wellens had his work cut out to follow but he was able to match each move, until Eiking went solo with around 4km to go. Hesitation to chase at the front saw Eiking ride away with stage and the 2nd group of Morton and O’Connor was also able to catch back up to the the Ghebreigzabhier group. They’d be sprinting for 2nd though as Eiking arrived first by a handful of seconds.
Gino Van Oudenhove – Sport Director
After the strong performance of yesterday was foiled by bad luck, the guys perfectly switched the disappointment into some positive and offensive riding today. Amanuel was there again with the GC guys on the last climb and a group with Lachlan and Ben later joined on the downhill too. It was a rather crazy finish so unfortunately no top result, but with this type of riding from the entire team, we will get there pretty soon.