Just like he did on the opening stage, Laurence Pithie once again got in the mix of the bunch sprint on the Renewi Tour this Saturday, in stage 4 to Peer. After a nervous, crash-marred final marked, the New Zealander managed to enter the day’s top-10 once more, in ninth position. His teammate Jake Stewart finished two places behind. Sunday, the race will end with a hilly stage towards Bilzen.

After two days made for the GC men, the sprinters were to come back on the spotlight on the Renewi Tour. As the 180 kilometres leading from Beringen to Peer featured no proper difficulty, everything was in place for a royal sprint. Kamiel Bonneu, Aaron Van Poucke (Team Flanders-Baloise), Ludovic Robeet and Cériel Desal (Bingoal-WB) still took the lead after just ten kilometres to animate the race. “The wind was a little stronger than the last few days”, explained Sébastien Joly. “However, when we checked before the stage, we realized that there weren’t many exposed portions, so in the end there was never really any acceleration on the first part. On the circuit, there was a bit more movement, but nothing very serious”. Seventy-four kilometres from the end, the riders crossed the finish line in Peer for the first time, before four local laps of about eighteen kilometres. Following a push from Jasper Philipsen, the morning breakaway was eventually caught quite early, with nearly sixty kilometres to go. The peloton therefore remained all together until the last lap of the circuit. A dozen kilometres from the line, the GC riders fought for the bonus seconds of the golden kilometre, and a few minutes later, a crash broke the peloton in pieces. “Lars and Valentin fell, though not too seriously, while Miles was slowed down”, said Sébastien. “Unfortunately, it was almost inevitable that a crash would occur given how small the road was.

“It’s super cool to sprint at this level”, Laurence Pithie

A peloton of around fifty units therefore headed to the finish, but many trains were still up there to lead-out their sprinter. “As in the first stage, we went for Laurence in the sprint, and he was helped by Jake and Olivier in the final”, added Sébastien. “The sprint was pretty hectic today”, said Laurence. “There was a lot of fighting for position, especially on the narrow roads. You really had to be attentive and stay towards the front because the circuit was super dangerous. I was fighting a little bit into the final corner and unfortunately lost some speed, which meant I had to close a gap to De Lie’s wheel. Basically, it was finished for me from that point as I did my sprint from the final corner to come back. I didn’t have the legs to finish it off but it’s still a top-10 in the WorldTour level. It’s super cool to be sprinting at this level and getting some more top-10s.” The New Zealander then settled for ninth place on Saturday while Sam Welsford took victory. “Laurence is not a pure sprinter, and we are at WorldTour level,” recalled Sébastien. “Competing in the sprint with the best allows him to gain experience. He was indeed a little blocked, but to be 7th or 9th is not the most important thing”.

Due to the crash in the last ten kilometres, Valentin Madouas and Lars van den Berg lost some positions in the general classification. On Sunday, the Renewi Tour will end with a hilly fifth stage of 187 kilometres (1800 meters of elevation gain). “Hopefully we’ll have a good day, and we will try to animate the race,” added Laurence. “It’s going to be eventful regarding the general classification, and as for us, we will make sure to do an aggressive race and complete this Renewi Tour with a nice stage”, concluded Sébastien.

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