Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny) took victory on stage 4 of the Tour de Luxembourg, edging out Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) by just a second in the 23.9km time trial.
The Belgian’s second win of the season saw him ride a strong second half of the TT in Pétange, overturning a five-second deficit to McNulty at the 15km checkpoint. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) rounded out the stage podium at 20 seconds back.
Another UAE Team Emirates rider, Marc Hirschi, ascends to the race lead from second overall. He now leads McNulty by two seconds, while previous leader Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) is now third at three seconds back.
Speaking in the post-stage interview, Campenaerts dedicated the win to his uncle, who died before the start of the race. “It wasn’t easy for me. My uncle Bob died just before the start of this race. It was very unexpected and, therefore, difficult for me and my father. He told me that there was no better way to honour him than to go to Luxembourg and win a stage for him. So I am very happy that I was able to take this time trial victory with Bob in my head.
“It’s been a while since I was in the hot seat in a time trial or that I rode a good time trial at all,” he added. “I knew that I could be close after the course recon, but guys like McNulty work hard on their time trial because they want to do well in the GC.
“I don’t train it all year round, but I do have experience. I therefore committed myself to this time trial with the necessary support from my girlfriend. So, it’s a nice win and even nicer because it was so close. Cycling is about entertainment and just a one-second difference – that’s exciting!”
Campenaerts’ stage win was, surprisingly, his first time trial victory in four years, dating back to Tirreno-Adriatico 2019. He averaged 51.032kph on the out-and-back course, which included a 700-metre, 6.3% hill just after the midway point.
Of the early runners on the day, Alex Kirsch (Lidl-Trek) was the quickest man, taking the hot seat as the 36th man off, setting a time of 28:38. His time, 46 seconds quicker than anyone else to that point, would last until Campenaerts set off 25 minutes later.
The 31-year-old set a strong time of 19:19 at the checkpoint, the quickest until McNulty tackled the course, before beating Kirsch at the line by 32 seconds.
A plethora of strong contenders packed the late runners, with Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) and Felix Großschartner (UAE Team Emirates) among those putting in strong rides with times of 28:30 and 28:26 to go fifth and fourth in the final standings.
Ulissi also came close, edging out Großschartner for the stage podium by fractions of a second, while his teammate McNulty, setting off 45 minutes after Campenaerts, posed the biggest challenge for the stage win.
The American looked a good bet to prise Campenaerts out of the hot seat at the checkpoint, but he couldn’t hold on to his advantage on the final run to the line, losing six seconds over the closing 8km to miss out on the stage win.
Still, it was an overall positive day for UAE as Hirschi took over as the race leader. Setting off second, a minute before Healy, who trailed by 15 seconds on the GC, he put 22 seconds into the Irishman to grab the leader’s jersey ahead of Sunday’s hilly closing 177km stage.
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