This Sunday, Olivier Le Gac celebrated his thirtieth birthday at the front on the Renewi Tour, on the race’s fifth and final stage. The Frenchman spent almost 150 kilometres in a breakaway before being caught by a first peloton who fought for victory in Bilzen. Matej Mohoric won the stage, Tim Wellens took the overall, while Jake Stewart placed in the day’s top-20 to complete the week.

A few hills, wind, cobblestones and narrow roads. That was pretty much the menu for the last day of racing on the Renewi Tour. Several laps were to be covered around Bilzen for a total of 187 kilometres, and from the first ten, Olivier Le Gac managed to slip into a solid breakaway of nine riders. With Senne Leysen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Nicolò Buratti, Dušan Rajović (Bahrain Victorious), Cameron Wurf, Luke Plapp (INEOS Grenadiers), Andrey Amador (EF Education-EasyPost), Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) and Karl Patrick Lauk (Bingoal WB), the now thirty-year-old was able to hit the front. “It was a nice breakaway, made up of strong riders, and we knew it could go far,” said Sébastien Joly. “It was kind of a special day for Olivier, but above all, it was an opportunity for him to race in the lead”. Shortly after halfway, at the end of the first lap of the big circuit, the leading group had a 4’30 advantage, but they suddenly stopped. “There was a small protest, especially from the leader’s team who found the finish a little too tricky,” said Sébastien. “There were talks to try to change the course but there were no other possibilities. The wisest decision was therefore to stop the times five kilometres from the finish, at the bottom of the last climb”.

“It will do them good for the Canadian races”, Sébastien Joly

The bonus seconds at the golden kilometre and at the finish were also cancelled, giving rise to two races in one: one for the overall up to the last five kilometres, and another one for the stage victory until the end. “A second start was given with the last gap recorded”, added Sébastien. “The breakaway went very fast straight away, but so did the peloton because they knew that the break was going to seize this opportunity to increase its gap. For the final, we had Lars, Valentin and Kevin in case of moves, then on Jake and Laurence for a possible sprint”. Unfortunately, the Groupama-FDJ men were trapped entering the last lap of the circuit, following a climb then a short, cobbled section which split the pack. Olivier Le Gac’s breakaway was caught by a first peloton of around twenty men, and the Frenchman then slipped back to the second bunch. “We got a bit in trouble, so the team pulled with Lars, Kevin and then Laurence who finished the job“, explained Sébastien. First reported at just ten seconds, the second bunch then dropped back to more than forty seconds with twenty kilometres to go. Its chances seemed over, but eight kilometres from the finish, it returned just a few tens of metres away from the leading men. “We came back very close to the front group, Jake almost made the jump, but it wasn’t enough,” said Sébastien.

In the last climb, the Briton did try to bridge across, but the leading men also went hard and were therefore never seen again. Matej Mohoric eventually took the win, while Tim Wellens had secured the overall win five kilometres earlier before sitting up. On the line, Jake Stewart placed nineteenth. “The week’s balance is mixed”, concluded Sébastien. “However, we saw good things with Laurence, who showed some qualities in the bunch sprints. Jake was getting better too, day by day. Then, when the race was really hard, with the time trial or during the slightly more technical stages in Flanders and Limburg, we were not up there. This can be explained in particular because part of the squad was returning to racing after the Tour or the World Champ, and it was not easy. It will obviously do them good for the Canadian races, but surely, if we want to come back to this event hoping for more, we will have to change our approach”.

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