A defect stops Team NetApp shortly before the finish
The Ster ZLM Toer started today with the first of four stages covering 151 kilometers from Eindhoven to Geleen. The flat stage was predestined for a mass sprint in which Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) relegated top sprinters Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) and Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) to second and third places respectively. Team NetApp's sprinter Andre Schulze was no longer able to intervene in the sprint after Blaz Jarc encountered a defect.
A four-rider breakaway group set the tone of the race. The four Dutch riders were able to break away from the peloton shortly after the start of the race and built up a lead of up to 5 minutes. Nevertheless, the sprinter teams left nothing up to chance, catching up with the breakaway group 15 kilometers before the finish line. Shortly afterwards there was a crash. Blaz Jarc, who was supposed to prepare the sprint for Andre Schulze, was caught up in the crash, but was able to continue the race.
"In the last few kilometers before the finish line, the route got narrower and narrower and had lots of curves and roundabouts. Unfortunately Blaz had a defect at the most inopportune time and crashed. He lost all of the energy he needed to get Andre into position in an attempt to catch up with the peloton once again. Andre thus had to rely on himself in the final stretch of the race and had to brake heavily in the final curve due to a wave," said Sport Director Enrico Poitschke, explaining the outcome of the sprint finale.
"Tomorrow's stage is quite demanding – everyone will have to ride very attentively. The route covers 167 kilometers, starting and finishing in Schimmert (Nuth) including sections of the Amstel Gold Race such as the Cauberg, one of four mountain classifications. While the climbs aren't high, they are long. Even if just a small group of riders is the first to reach the finish line, tomorrow's stage certainly won't result in a preliminary decision," said Enrico Poitschke, looking to the second stage.
stage 1, 14 June: Eindhoven – Sittard/Geleen, 151 km
stage 2, 15 June: Nuth (Schimmert) – Nuth (Schimmert), 167 km
stage 3, 16 June: Hotel Verviers – La Gileppe (Jalhay) Belgium, 187 km
stage 4, 17 June: Schijndel – Boxtel, 163.5 km