Dutch rider Lars Boom won the Eneco Tour of the Low Countries after Sunday's final stage as former Tour de France winner Alberto Contador marked his return from a doping ban by finishing fourth. Rabobank rider Boom overhauled a four-second deficit at the start of the day on leader Svein Tuft of Canada to seal the overall victory by finishing second behind Italy's Alessandro Ballan of BMC in the seventh stage at Grammont in Belgium.
Francisco Ventoso of Spain finished third in the stage some 6sec off the pace. Spaniard Contador, returning to action following his two-year doping ban, came in fourth overall at 55sec after taking eighth place on the day.
"It's an encouraging return which has reassured me on a number of points," said Contador, who is now hoping to show his form in La Vuelta starting next week.
Boom took the title by a 26sec margin from France's Sylvain Chavanel.
"This is my finest victory since I have been focusing entirely on road racing," said Boom. "It's a shame I pulled off the overall win without landing any stage wins but that doesn't take anything away from my pleasure," he added.
RESULTS: The 184km final stage of the Eneco Tour of the Low Countries:
7th stage results
1. Alessandro Ballan (ITA/BMC) 4hr 54min 16sec, 2. Lars Boom (NED) at 2sec, 3. Francisco Jose Ventoso (ESP) 6, 4. Nick Nuyens (BEL) 6, 5. Marco Marcato (ESP) 6, 6. Diego Ulissi (ITA) 6, 7. Tony Gallopin (FRA) 6, 8. Alberto Contador (ESP) 6, 9. Laurens De Vreese (BEL) 10, 10. Niki Terpstra (NED) 10
Overall final standings
1. Lars Boom (NED/Rabobank) 24hr 51min 13sec, 2. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) at 26sec, 3. Niki Terpstra (NED) 49, 4. Alberto Contador (ESP) 55, 5. Luke Durbridge (AUS) 55, 6. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP) 58, 7. Svein Tuft (CAN) 1:00, 8. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) 1:05, 9. Sebastian Langeveld (NED) 1:07, 10. Jan Bakelants (BEL) 1:13.
OMEGA-PHARMA QUICKSTEP TEAM REPORT
Quick-Step Cycling Team made a select group on the final trip up the Muur to the finish, but unfortunately missed out on the breakaway that made it to the finish line and decided the overall. Still, they had a great result that put three riders in the top 10 of the GC.
Chavanel finished 2nd overall (+26"), and Terpstra finished 3rd (+49") after taking 10th for the stage. Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team also won the team classification.
Young rider Michal Kwiatkowski finished in the top 10 overall, taking 8th (+1'05"). Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team moved up to third in the UCI WorldTour rankings with this performance, passing Katusha Team and moving into 3rd place with 826 points.
"I'm happy about the final result. Today I was suffering a lot due to the warmth. I couldn't push as I wanted to on the pedals. Fortunately I knew the parcour. The experience in this kind of race is important. But I'm happy today. I entered in the selection for the race at the very last moment and I got 2nd place overall — not bad. Two years ago I was also 2nd here. It is definitely a race that suits me."
"I didn't expect this result. I think it's my best result in a general classification of a WorldTour race and I'm happy about it. Today the race was really fast and it was hot, but the team worked really well together. We were always united. In the final me and Tom, we pushed a lot to keep Chavanel in the first position and try to close the gap on Boom. But Lars today was really strong and he deserves this victory. Concerning me, I'm sure this result will give even extra motivation for La Vuelta, which is my next race."
"Today I had a flat tire in a bad moment, just at the top of the Tenbosse. I spent a lot of energy to come back and to reach the head of the peloton. I made it just before the Muur, so I really couldn't recover. It's a pity because I was planning to do something, just to shake up the group and see what would happen. In the last kilometers I worked for Sylvain and I'm happy that he and Niki took the podium. The team was great this week. This result repaid our efforts."
"Today we started with the intention to win the race. We decided that Tom would have been moved before the last passage on the Muur, but Tom had a flat tire and we couldn't finalize our plan. At that point, we changed our tactic, but in the final Boom was strong. However, we finished the race with a good team performance that permitted us to move up to 3rd place in the WorldTour ranking. We look to the next races with optimism."
Photos: OPQS/Tim de Waele