The great teamwork of KATUSHA was the key moment which allowed Viacheslav Kuznetsov to reach the final podium of the 37th VOO-Tour de Wallonie.
- I had very strong support today during the entire stage. The guys helped me all the way to the finish, especially on the last two laps. I want to thank my team for this day and for the final podium I got in this race, - explained Viacheslav Kuznetsov.
The decisive moment of the last and 5th stage became the final climb with 3,5 km to the finish line. A number of attacks exploded the peloton, causing the leader of the race Gianni Meersman from Etixx – Quick Step to be dropped from the group. At the same time Belgian rider Dries Devenyns from IAM Cycling did an attack closer to the top of the Cote de Val Fassotte (1,4 km, 5,8%). Three Team KATUSHA riders, Viacheslav Kuznetsov, Russian Champion Pavel Kochetkov and Egor Silin began to chase him. Kochetkov and Silin did amazing job and almost caught Devenyns with a few hundred meters to go.
- We almost caught him with 500 meters to go, but there was not another way but only to start the sprint. I did all possible in the sprint and it was close, but it was impossible to get more. I finished 4th. That was enough for the podium, and I can be satisfied with this result. Besides, I won the sprint classification. I was able to get points in the first day and later the team helped me to hold it until the last day. It is a nice bonus in this race. In general, I like the Tour de Wallonie. Two years ago I was 7th, last year I felt quite good, but crashed. This time I reached the podium and this makes me happy. I feel good in this kind of race, - added Viacheslav Kuznetsov.
Stage 5 started in Engis and finished in Dison after 188 km. In the first part of the stage a group of riders broke away together with KATUSHA’s Nils Politt. He did very good work in the break, protecting the podium place of Viacheslav Kuznetsov, taking points and seconds in the intermediate sprints. After the break was caught, KATUSHA riders did everything possible to neutralize all attacks. Until the last 3 km to go nobody could escape from the peloton and only the attack of Devenyns decided both the stage and overall classification. Second place in the stage went to Jelle Vanendert from Lotto Soudal, while the stage podium was completed by Evgeny Shalunov from Gazprom-Rusvelo. Viacheslav Kuznetsov was 4th, while Egor Silin finished 8th.
- We had a good plan for the stage. We sent Nils Politt in the break, and he did a very good job there – he took control over the every single intermediate sprint, making sure to not give the rivals the chance to take the bonus seconds and to pass Kuznetsov in general classification. Later, the team did it well, protecting Viacheslav in front of the peloton. On the last climb, the attack of Devenyns was really strong. Kochetkov and Silin did their best to bring him back, they almost caught him on the finish line and we missed just a little, because Viacheslav had a very good chance to win. Anyway, I think KATUSHA did a good race – we were active day by day, the team was united around its leader. A final podium in GC is a nice result, - said sports director Gennady Mikhaylov.
Thus, Dries Devenyns took the win in the final classification of the VOO-Tour de Wallonie. Gianni Meersman is second (+0.05), while Viacheslav Kuznetsov completed the overall podium of the race with 3rd place (+0.06).
Kuznetsov won the intermediate sprint classification with Nils Politt and Vladimir Isaychev on second and third places, respectively. Also, Nils Politt took second place in mountain classification.
Photo credit: (c) Tim De Waele