Aaron Gate has finished 6th in the final stage of the Baloise Belgium Tour. The Aqua Blue Sport rider sprinted strongly in the finale to finish behind Jens Debusschere of Lotto Soudal who took the win ahead of Coen Vermeltfoort of Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij and Boy van Poppel of Trek-Segafredo.
The final stage of the Baloise Belgium Tour was destined to be one for the sprinters. The stage was 169.6km long from Tienen to Tongeren with a technical finish that would keep several riders on their toes. The intensity of the stage was high from the start and it took some time before a breakaway was finally able to go clear with Tim DeClerq of Quick-Step Floors, Mathias Brandle of Trek-Segafredo, Benjamin DeClerq of Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Taco van der Hoorn of Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij and Daan Soete of Telenet Fidea Lions.
Back in the pack the pace remained relatively high as the break werekept to around 1.35mins. After just 2 hours of racing the field had already covered an impressive 92km. The gap began to come down though and with 50km of racing to go the lead had been reduced to 35 seconds. With the Belgian National Team on the front of the pack the pace was perfect for the peloton to catch the break before the golden kilometre which they duly did.
Jens Keukeleire took the first sprint but Philippe Gilbert took the second and third sprints and from there it became all about what would happen at the finish line. Initially after the sprints a group of 12 riders have formed with 4 riders from Quick-Step Floors in Gilbert, Julien Vermote, Yves Lampaert and Remi Cavagna, but eventually it all came back together again. Tony Martin of Katusha-Alpecin, however, wasn’t quite willing to let it all come down to a bunch sprint just yet as he tried to breakaway; but to no avail. It would all come down a bunch sprint finish.
Lotto Soudal surged to the front of the race at just the right time as we have seen them do so many times before. They had four riders on the front as the race went through the final kilomtre. Aaron Gate was poised in about seventh position as the field hit the sweeping left hand sprint. It was a difficult sprint to judge, and Gate had no team support in the sprint; but he held his own well despite having to adjust his line. Gate started the sprint on the left hand side of the road and had to move to the right and then swerve slightly to avoid Bert van Lerberghe of Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise.
But there was nothing anyone could do to stop Jens Debusschere who took the stage. Overall Jens Keukeleire did enough to take the overall win ahead of Remi Cavagna and Tony Martin. Aaron Gate finished 24th overall.