Lotto Soudal rider Philippe Gilbert has won the third stage of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque, finishing in Mont Saint Éloi. The 39-year-old Belgian launched his typical acceleration on a finish suited to the punchers and powered to the stage victory. Thanks to the bonification seconds, the Lotto Soudal rider moves up to second overall, in the same time as Dutchman De Kleijn.
Between Péronne and Mont Saint-Éloi, the peloton faced hilly terrain on the third day of racing at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque. An early breakaway of three quickly got up the road but everything would be decided in the four local laps of just over 12 kilometres long around Mont Saint Éloi, a short but steep climb, ideal terrain for the punchers.
On the local circuit, plenty of riders attacked but in the end no one managed to stay in front of the bunch. After the early breakaway was caught with under ten kilometres to go, another bunch sprint would take place. It was Philippe Gilbert who was guided to the front by his Lotto Soudal teammates and began the uphill finish in perfect position. Gilbert launched a powerful acceleration and quickly took a couple metres of advantage. The 39-year-old Belgian maintained his effort until the line and could celebrate his 79th professional victory.
Lotto Soudal was forced to change tactics after sprinter Arnaud De Lie crashed in the opening stage, says Philippe Gilbert. “We are here with a strong team and we were aiming for a good overall result and stage wins with Arnaud De Lie, amongst others. Unfortunately he was forced to abandon in stage one so we had to adapt our racing strategy a bit. And so it was done. The team rode a perfect race today and I was able to finish it off at the end.”
Gilbert is delighted with his first win in a long time. “This victory comes with a lot of emotions, it’s been a while since I took a win. But I clearly haven’t forgotten how to throw my arms in the air”, Philippe Gilbert said with a wink.
Gilbert’s stage win puts him on the same time as Dutchman De Kleijn, the leader of the general classification. “Everything is still to play for. Tomorrow we might get another bunch sprint but Saturday’s stage on and around Mont Cassel will be crucial. I know the climb from Gent-Wevelgem and it will obviously be a hard day. But with six Lotto Soudal riders still within ten seconds on GC, we still have several cards to play”, Gilbert concludes.