Soudal Quick-Step’s Belgian remains in contention for a podium finish this week.
The queen stage of the Tour de Luxembourg headed north and took the riders on a demanding finishing circuit featuring some old Roman roads and the spectacular Côte du Niklosbierg, a 3.6km climb that had some excruciating 18% gradients. The peloton tackled it three times inside the final 50 kilometers of the race, and every time this happened, the speed went up and riders began getting dropped, the rain also playing a part in this.
On the penultimate ascent, Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) bridged across to the lone survivor of the breakaway, and together they opened a considerable 50-second gap. Ilan Van Wilder showed some solid climbing on the slopes of the Niklosbierg, and despite the numerous attacks that came there, he remained in the GC favourites’ group, which began the descent some 40 seconds behind the Irishman.
Despite their efforts, Healy remained at the front and took the win on the finish line in the shadow of the picturesque Vianden Castle, while from behind Ilan concluded in 12th place. This elevated the 23-year-old Belgian to eighth on the general classification, ahead of Saturday’s crucial individual time trial in Pétange.
“From the moment it began raining, it was really cold. On the last climb I could follow the best, then I found myself a bit isolated until Fausto and Mauri came back and put me in a good position ahead of that tough cobbled hill. I couldn’t really push the power needed there and I was very cold, but I could limit the losses, and on Saturday I hope to take back some time”, Ilan explained after the stage.
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