The German is fifth overall with one day left, as Zdenek Stybar sprints to third from a reduced group.
The penultimate stage of the BinckBank Tour was an intense and action-packed one, ridden at a ferocious pace by the peloton. Once four men got away after the first hour of racing, Quick-Step Floors moved to the front with Tim Declercq and Florian Sénéchal, who put in a massive amount of work to control the quartet over the hilly route which featured more than 20 hills, bringing the original five-minute gap down to just two minutes before making the catch with around 50 kilometers left.
That was the cue for two other riders to go clear and put a full minute between them and a single-file bunch who began chasing the leading pair under the impetus of Dwars door Vlaanderen winner Yves Lampaert. The Belgian Champion accelerated on a climb and drew a response from a handful of men, bridging to the duo and setting a relentless pace. This flurry of action was followed by a short moment of respite, which saw the attackers being joined by the peloton after the Golden Kilometer.
After another series of attacks, a second regrouping took place 15 kilometers from the finish in Sittard-Geleen, but the race was again ignited, this time by an attack of Tim Wellens (Tim Wellens) on the last ascent. Sensing a lull in the peloton, former BinckBank Tour winner Zdenek Stybar reacted and after putting in a supreme effort, he closed the gap to the Belgian, and the two looked poised to fight for the win, but a late attack from the leader's group saw three riders join the party as the road flattened out, including Maximilian Schachmann, and from this newly-formed move, Gregor Muhlberger (Bora-hansgrohe) attacked under the flamme rouge arch and soloed to victory.
One of the most aggressive riders on this stage which lived up to its hype, Stybar sprinted to third, the seconds gained on the road and at the finish helping him make a jump of 25 places in the general classification: "It was a very hard race from the beginning. Tim and Florian did a marvelous job in the first part of the stage, before things became chaotic in the closing part. I jumped from group to group and then attacked to catch Wellens, seeing the group wasn't committed to the chase. We were joined by others, and I knew I had a chance of taking the win, but then one guy let a gap to Muhlberger and that was that. But there's still one day left and we won't give up, as many things can still happen."
In the general classification, Quick-Step Floors have two riders in the top 10 – Yves Lampaert (9th), who moved up a few places despite crashing in the final, and Maximilian Schachmann, who climbed to fifth at the end of this 204.4km-long stage, some 30-odd seconds behind first place. The 24-year-old German, fifth on Saturday and on the Venray individual time trial, was in high spirits after another top-notch ride, which gave him extra confidence ahead of the final day, Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure – Geraardsbergen.
"It was harder than I had actually expected. The team was superb, taking the race in their hands, controlling hostilities and making it hard. Unfortunately, I almost came down when the peloton split and then I had to ride hard and jump from group to group in order to return at the front", Max said. "I was tired in the end, but still had enough to leave the others behind on the final climb. I came really fast and tried to close the gap for Styby, but it was very tough on that circuit with all those corners. Now it's important to have a good recovery, because another hard day in the saddle awaits tomorrow."
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