Ahead of the race’s time trial that he will start as a favourite and that will be crucial for the general classification, Stefan Küng is right on course. On the opening stage of the BinckBank Tour, the 26-year-old Swiss man could avoid the massive crash that split the peloton with four kilometers remaining. He then could finish within the time of Jasper Philipsen, who won the sprint. Fabian Lienhard and Tobias Ludvigsson did however go to the ground, but without real consequences.

“In Belgium, we must always stay in front”, Frédéric Guesdon

A relatively short stage opened the 2020 edition of the BinckBank Tour on Tuesday. Barely 132 kilometers were to be covered between Blankenberge and Ardooie – actually 85 before the three local laps that clearly suited the sprinters. “Almost the entire stage was pretty smooth,” summarized Frédéric Guesdon. “First, there was no wind. In that region, that is often what makes the race harder. Actually, if we would have had yesterday’s weather today, it would have been a whole different race. We just had to be careful about the road, which was a little wet due to the rain. But given the fairly calm weather conditions, there was not supposed to be fierce racing. That’s indeed what occurred with that two-man breakaway that went almost from the start. After that, the sprinters’ teams took control and quietly came to catch them”. Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) and Thimo Willems (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) were the day’s audacious riders, but the peloton did not give them much hope.

Entering the final circuit with less than a two-minute gap, the bunch took it easy not to close the gap too quickly and thus favour new counter-attacks. Still, the duo got swallowed before the “Golden Kilometer”, located just after the twenty-kilometers banner, and which offered a nice fight for the bonus seconds. Groupama-FDJ did not get involved. “We knew that riders way faster than Stefan would fight for them,” explained Frédéric. However, the Swiss rouleur did remain well on the alert in front of the peloton for the last fifty kilometers. “Today the goal was to get to Ardooie safely, and without losing time on the first riders, especially for Stefan,” Frédéric continued. “That’s what he managed to do.” Positioned among the first 20 riders of the bunch, the new Worlds’ bronze medallist was then able to avoid the massive crash that split the bunch in two just four kilometers from the finish. “We know that in Belgium we must always stay in front, a collision can happen very quickly and today was another proof of that, added Frédéric. We would take too many risks staying in the back. This time, we went through and so much the better. Without this crash, it would have been a very quiet day. In any case, it’s a good day for us as Stefan has fulfilled the mission and our riders seem to have been spared overall”.

“We have several cards, including a very good one, for the time trial”, Frédéric Guesdon

Tobias Ludvigsson and Fabian Lienhard did fall on the pile of riders in the finale, but they managed to get up and to get back on their bike without any real problems. “They finished the stage with some minor scratches, but overall it looks okay. We’ll see how they feel tomorrow,” added Frédéric. On Wednesday, there will be the BinckBank Tour’s first test. The time trial might not be decisive but it will for sure be important for the rest of the competition. Stefan Küng will approach it as a favourite after getting bronze in the Worlds’ event but also given his track record in the very race (twice winner of the time trial, 4th in 2019). “There are also Van der Poel, Kragh Andersen and a few others, but yes, he logically should be on the podium”, previews Frédéric Guesdon. “He came here to perform well on this time trial. Based on his latest results in the discipline, he should be there, but his previous time trials were much longer than this one. There are only eleven kilometers tomorrow so it’s more open than a championship. Anyway, we have several cards, including a very good one, for this time trial”.

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