The Benelux Tour, better known as the BinckBank Tour in recent years, got off to a flying start on Monday in the Netherlands. In what was a very flat terrain, the wind made things crazy within the bunch that split into several pieces in the last hour of racing. Active and attentive, Stefan Küng managed to enter the right group of about thirty riders that eventually fought for victory in Dokkum. The Swiss rider ideally launched his race, while his main goal of the week is already due tomorrow with the time trial.
For the opening stage of the Benelux Tour, the riders needed to head towards the province of Friesland, in the North of the Netherlands, for a day without a single climb. The first minutes of racing also proved relatively calm since a breakaway including Guillaume Boivin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange), Julien Duval (AG2R Citroën), Arjen Livyns, Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Logan Owen (EF Education-Nippo) and Ward Van Hoof (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) took the lead quite early on. The numerous sprinters’ teams then took control in order to keep the seven fugitives under four minutes during the first part of the race. “In the meantime, there was still some action in the peloton, as it broke for the first time after 50 kilometres,” noted Jussi Veikkanen. “It split into 4-5 pieces and Stefan was on the front. On the other hand, Jake got less successful as he suffered a small crash, but he did not seem too much hurt. A few minutes later, everything got back together”. The bunch indeed got back in order for a bit, but the previous moves certainly were a first warning. Shortly after passing through Lauwersoog, by the seaside, another turning point occurred while the breakaway only had a two minute-lead. “At kilometre 105, we found ourselves along the sea,” Jussi said. “As you might expect, the peloton broke up into several pieces again but Stefan was again in the front group”.
“I was very attentive”, Stefan Küng
With almost 70 kilometres to go, the Swiss rider found himself in a group of about 40 men that soon made a real gap on the rest. “It was my first day of racing since Tokyo, and I didn’t feel great at the start,” he said. “But once the race really started, I just felt better and better. It all exploded with 110 kilometres to go and I was in a good position at the front. I was very attentive and I knew that I had to be in front all the time because the race could split at anytime.” This first bunch joined the day’s breakaway thirty kilometres from the line, and after the golden kilometre fight, regrouped for the finish. Tim Merlier could then take the win in the sprint. Stefan Küng secured his position at the front of the group, taking 15th on the line. “We still hoped to have more guys in front, but Stefan was solid today and was able to finish with the first group”, said Jussi. “It’s promising for tomorrow’s time trial”. “I am certainly there”, certified the Swiss rider. “I feel good about the time trial. I especially prepared for it for the final part of the season. Before the European and World Championships, this is a first small test. I have already won it twice in this race, I know what I need to do, and I will give everything to achieve the best possible result tomorrow”.
Winner of the time trial in 2017 and 2018, the discipline’s European champion could also claim the leader’s jersey after the 11 kilometre-course. “We’re taking this race stage after stage,” said Jussi. “We won’t think too much about the general classification, even if it is a good thing he’s up there. We are now fully focused on tomorrow’s time trial. We have three good cards, we will give the maximum and will take stock on the evening. We are not aiming for the leader’s jersey, but for the stage victory”.