The stage winner Tim Merlier has 60 points and leads the points classification by seven ©Getty Images

Tim Merlier claimed his second win of the 2021 Benelux Tour in a bunch sprint on stage four to regain control of the points classification.

Mads Pedersen of Denmark looked certain to cross the line first until the Belgian pipped him just short of the finish; Dutchman Danny van Poppel secured the final podium spot after launching a long-range sprint.

Switzerland's Stefan Bissegger finished safely in the peloton to remain in pole position in the general classification.

The EF Education-Nippo rider's lead has been cut down to 13 seconds, however, as Dane Kasper Asgreen made up ground in the golden kilometre.

The golden kilometre is a concept where a rider can earn bonus seconds in the lead-up to the finish in order to make the racing faster and more exciting.

The 166.1km flat stage took riders from Aalter to Ardooie in Belgium in what was always likely to end in a bunch sprint as it finished with four laps of a 15km circuit.

It began with chaos as a crash halted the whole race just beyond the start line.

Remco Evenepoel of Belgium rode powerfully to control the lead for Deceuninck-QuickStep prior to the golden kilometre.

It was anyone's race in the final kilometre.

The Trek-Segafredo team pulled off the best lead0out although they were caught by Van Poppel.

Meanwhile, Alpecin-Fenix's Merlier tracked the onrushing Pederson and pounced at the last moment to steal the victory.

Tomorrow sees the tour enter the first of the hilly stages.

A brutal 188km journey from Riemst to Bilzen has the potential to shake up the whole field as the puncheurs will now be looking to make their mark in Belgium.