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Discovery Channel sprinter Max van Heeswijk won his second stage at the ENECO Tour when he sprinted to victory in Monday's fifth stage in Hasselt. Quick Step's Rik Verbrugghe kept the overall lead with two stages still to go.
"We came here trying to win a stage and finish with two riders in the top 15," said Discovery DS Dirk Demol. "As it stands now, we have two stage wins and I'm confident we may be able to have two guys in the top 10 following the time trial."
The break of the day was only caught 4km from the finish in Hasselt. Liberty Seguros' Sergio Paulinho, the silver medallist in the Olympic road race last year, made a final bid for glory as the peloton closed in but couldn't hold off the bunch on his own.
Leif Hoste and Roger Hammond then set up Van Heeswijk for the final sprint. "Those guys worked hard to get him in a good spot and then he won easy," Demol said. "Max won just the way he always wins - with a final acceleration that immediately gives him two bike lengths."
Demol has also been impressed by Janez Brajkovic, making his pro debut with the team at the Tour of Benelux. "He's immediately been pulling hard and riding at the front; it's like he's been with us all year," said Demol of the Slovene, who is currently in the top 20 overall. "He's so excited and happy to be here with us. It's been a good performance for his first race. I think he has a big future with our team."
Demol was among the team managers critical of the organisation of this Belgo-Dutch event. Demol described the race as "a catastrophe" and "not worthy of the ProTour" following a series of incidents in recent days, including the bunch going the wrong way during Sunday's stage and the breakaways they were chasing effectively being penalised for this by having their advantage cut.
"I won't go into what happened on Sunday again," Demol told L'Equipe. "But I do want to mention the stage finishes on local circuits a few days ago. It's scandalous to take risks like that with the riders. I know this region well and I can assure you that there are places the race could go that are less dangerous, where there are fewer obstacles."
There has also been criticism of some of the post-racing organisation. Bouygues Telecom DS Ismal Mottier said that no less than 12 teams had been lodged in one Lige hotel on Sunday evening. Such was the demand for pasta that "some of the riders went to bed still feeling hungry. It's shameful," said Mottier, who added: "I won't even mention the incident with the bus which came the opposite way down the course on Sunday."
Stage 5, Verviers-Hasselt
1 Max van Heeswijk (Hol) Discovery Channel 194km in 4.41.06
2 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
3 Stefan van Dijk (Hol) MrBookmaker.com
4 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
6 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
7 Aart Vierhouten (Hol) Davitamon-Lotto
8 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile
9 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel
10 Unai Yus (Spa) Bouygues Telecom
1 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 24.25.34
2 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 0.06
3 Michael Blaudzun (Den) CSC 0.14
4 Erik Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 0.15
5 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.16
6 Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Discovery Channel 0.18
7 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile 0.20
8 Thomas Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 0.25
9 Sergei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile 0.36
10 Pieter Mertens (Bel) Chocolade Jacques
12 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
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