A tough stage four saw Xandro Meurisse (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) emerge victorious in the Four Days of Dunkirk, with young Kiwi Dion Smith (One Pro Cycling) claiming fifth on the stage to move up to fourth overall.
The day was expected to cause a shakeup in the overall standings, with nine laps of a tough 15 kilometre finishing circuit sorting the wheat from the chaff. The circuit featured two climbs on each lap, including the cobbled Mont Cassel.
An early move of eleven riders managed to build a lead of three minutes, with two of Smith’s team mates, Yanto Barker and Kristian House, joining in, but as they hit the circuit the break began to disintegrate and lose time to the peloton behind. With about 70 kilometres to go it was all over for the break as the peloton swept them up. However, the peloton itself was not doing too well either, with riders being shelled out the back on each ascent, reducing the number of riders in contention, and forcing those keen on a good result to stay near the front of the field at all times.
Shortly after the break had been absorbed it was time for another to form, but the six riders did not get a lead beyond 30 seconds as the Direct Energie team of race leader Bryan Coquard controlled the pace at the front of the peloton.
The break started to fracture once more, before reforming, but an increase in pace in the peloton saw them swept up with some 20 kilometres left to go. Numerous breaks came and went as the pressure in the peloton remained high, so high in fact that only some 27 riders remained in contention at the front of the race. With three kilometres remaining it was all back together again, thanks to some hard work at the front of the peloton by Etixx-QuickStep, but the final climb provided a springboard for yet more attacks, as Rob Ruugh (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) jumped clear the moment the break was caught. Etixx-QuickStep kept up the pacemaking duties, before two more riders jumped clear, sweeping past Ruugh, who was gathered up by the peloton behind.
A group of three had now formed in front of the race as they hid the cobbles for the last time, with race leader Coquard being joined by Marco Frappotrti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Pierrick Fedrigo (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) as the remnants of the peloton remained spread all over the hillside. Meurisse then managed to ride across to the leaders, as the bunch closed in on the riders. Meurisse managed to make a slight gap, before being closed down by others, as they started watching one another. However, it was Meurisse who made the decisive move, outsprinting Coquard for the win, thereby ending the Frenchman’s run of three stage wins. Smith was the first rider from the bunch to cross the line, behind Frapporti and Fedrigo.
The stage result meant that Coquard retained his race lead, with Fraporti in second, 24 seconds back, ahead of Meurisse, only one second further back. Smith made a big move up the standings, going from 27th overall to fourth overall, 36 seconds off the race lead.
|7||Delio FERNANDEZ CRUZ||ESP||DMP||+3|
|9||Rasmus Christian QUAADE||DEN||SSG||+11|