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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Ronde van Vlaanderen Cycling News special for April 3, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Jeff Jones

Ronde van Vlaanderen wrap-up

Tommeke is King of Flanders, again

By Jeff Jones and Brecht Decaluwé in Ninove

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

With Belgium's King Albert II watching the finish of the 90th Ronde Van Vlaanderen from the tribune in Halsesteenweg, the undeniable king of Belgian cycling, Tom Boonen, powered across the line to beat Leif Hoste in a two man sprint to win the Ronde. Boonen, the outstanding favourite, didn't disappoint his legion of fans today, following Hoste's decisive attack on the Valkenberg with over 30 km to go, then riding another two man time trial to the finish. Hoste was unable to attack the impressive Quick.Step rider, and it was always going to be lopsided sprint.

"Hoste and myself were the strongest men in the race, but I had a better team," Boonen explained (four Quick.Steps made the front group of 18 after the Koppenberg). "We found each other in the finale. His attack showed how strong he was. I asked the team to put me in a good situation at the Muur van Geraardsbergen. So they rode what we call a high pace. In the end, I didn't have to wait on the Muur to get to the front front and take the win."

Also see: Full results, report & photos, Live report and Photos.

Women's Ronde: Melchers does it again

By Jeff Jones and Brecht Decaluwé in Ninove

Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint)
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
(Click for larger image)

Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) scored the first of two Ronde van Vlaanderen doubles today when she beat Austrian Christiane Soeder (Univega) in a two woman sprint. Melchers won this race in the same way last year, but was with her teammate Susanne Ljungskog. This year, up until 2 km to go, it looked as though she would finish alone, but when Soeder finally caught her, victory wasn't assured.

"It was a short sprint, so I could win it," Melchers told Cyclingnews after the race. "Winning today was harder than winning last year, because now, you start as a favourite. The wind and the rain made it really hard. I experienced the race like a war, but I succeeded in winning it."

Melchers attacked a lead group containing Soeder, Edwige Pitel (Bianchi-Aliverti) and Kimberly Anderson (T-Mobile) on the Valkenberg with around 30 km to go, and built up what looked like an unbeatable lead of nearly a minute. "When I got away, it was still so far away to the finish. On the Muur van Geraardsbergen, I got cramps. I chose to take it easier and also allow people to come back to me. The sprint was to be as short as possible, because I knew the cramps could come back."

Also see: Full results, report & photos and Photos.

Baguet a happy man

One of the Quick.Step riders working his heart out of his skinny body for Tom Boonen was Belgian National champion Serge Baguet. Just after the finish and only having minutes to spare because he had to make his flight to Spain only few hours after the 258km long Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Baguet told the media that he's not finished yet.

"I might be 37 years old but I'm still feeling very good!" confirmed a happy man. "We have given proof again to be one of the best teams in the world. It's fantastic to be in this team and to work for a guy like Boonen. When you see him win, it feels good. It actually went really well today; I think every other rider in that break had already come to terms with the idea that there wouldn't be anything they could do against Boonen," joked Baguet.

Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland

Post-race quotes

Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel, 2nd)

Leif Hoste (Discovery)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"Today I was as strong as Boonen," he told Cyclingnews in the finish. "Without shame I can say that. My bad luck was that the wrong man joined me in the break. In my situation, I couldn't allow myself to let them catch us. He was faster than me, that's how he could win. I've been saying for a while now that you should attack if you want to win. The ones who wait are not right - OK, I didn't win, but still...

"Of course, I thought about winning. That's logical when you're up front with two men and have an advantage of almost two minutes at the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Everybody will ask me why I didn't try to shake him off, but on the Muur and the Bosberg I felt that it wasn't possible. Going into the sprint, I got myself in a good position. So, during the last two kilometres, I didn't do any work. We were almost standing still, but what can I do...?

"I trained a whole winter to be in form for this race. With that knowledge and being in a dream situation in front, you can't let yourself get caught because you can't win in the sprint against Boonen. Next week I'll try again in Paris-Roubaix. This Leif Hoste is even stronger than the one from two years ago. Without bad luck, I'll be there in the finale in Roubaix. The team was not as strong as I thought, but we had bad luck with Barry and Hammond crashing. It also proves that the 3-days of De Panne-Koksijde are not the same as the Tour of Flanders."

George Hincapie (Discovery Channel, 3rd)

George Hincapie (Discovery)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

"I don't know, I felt really good today," he told Cyclingnews. "I was in a situation where I couldn't do much. The team was second and third so we have to be happy with that. But I had really good legs today and maybe I could've done a little better. Hoste surprised me a little with his jump on the Valkenberg. But that's ok, I'm happy for Leif. He‘s a really good teammate and he always works hard for the team. We wanted to win today but I'm happy with him getting second. I had super good legs but I'm a team player and once a team mate is in the road I just sit back." Hincapie was a little frustrated, however, adding later, "I'm a bit disappointed because we didn't win. Hoste played his card and that's alright. Sadly, my legs felt better than ever but I couldn't show it. In the pursuit, Bettini covered every move the others made. After 260 kilometres, everything is possible. If you look to my sprint, you'll see that I'm a few bike lengths ahead of the others."

Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto, 4th)

"Hoste's attack was very strong; I was on Bettini's wheel," said Van Petegem after the finish. "20 metres and the two were gone. The sprint for third place? I ride to win and not to get on the podium. I had a lot of pressure the last few days. In the team, many riders were stressed. It's not easy to win here. But I'm in good shape and next Sunday, there's Paris-Roubaix. I'll try to win it."

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre, 5th)

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"In the end I paid for all of the efforts I had to make to get to the front again after the Koppenberg," Ballan was quoted on Radsportnews. "When Hoste attacked, my legs were heavy. They had a lot of strength in front and we couldn't come back. But I'm satisfied with my form and I want to do well in Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix."

Karsten Kroon (Team CSC, 8th)

The Dutchman almost managed to get into the last break with Boonen and Hoste, as he explained to Cyclingnews at the finish: "I got as close as ten metres, but then Boonen took over from Hoste. I wanted to react earlier, but I was trapped between other riders. I was just too late; otherwise I would at least have a podium place in a race that was extremely hard. I wanted to attack before Hoste did, but the Quick.Step team was very strong. Between the Boigneberg and the Berendries they rode a high pace and it was just not possible to attack. This performance gives me lots of confidence for the coming races. Especially in the Amstel Gold Race I want to perform well."

Erik Zabel (Milram, 11th)

"The race was decided at the Koppenberg and that's where it ended. In front of me, two riders crashed. Together with Hushovd and Pozzato I came back to the leading group, but it took up a lot of energy which I missed in the finale. I finished the race feeling very tired."

Filippo Pozzato (Quick.Step, 13th)

"We all worked for Tom, because this is his race," he told Radsportnews. "He is a phenomenon. It was right to count on him, and we showed that to everybody who speculated about internal fights in the team."

Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole, 14th)

It was chaos
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"I'm quite happy with my performance, considering that one week earlier I wasn't feeling good at all," he told Jean-Francois Quénet. "Unfortunately, the last 20 kilometres were too much for me. I had to walk over the Koppenberg, although I was well-placed in the middle of the road, but somebody pushed me to the wet side, then for half of the climb I had to run and I was far behind Tom Boonen's group, which was gone. For 15 km, I chased hard with Erik Zabel, Serge Baguet and Filippo Pozzato. We eventually came across to the front group but I spent too much energy in that chase. It was a big effort. I couldn't have won the Tour of Flanders because Boonen was just too strong, but what I've done today shows that I have good form before my favourite race, Paris-Roubaix."

Sergey Ivanov (T-Mobile), 25th

The Russian champion made an enormous effort trying to get back into the leading group, and was very disappointed at the finish. "On the Koppenberg there was a rider that stopped right in front of me," he told Cyclingnews. "The riders that escaped there were certainly away forever. But I couldn't bear it if I wouldn't have tried to reach them. I jumped from group to group in an effort to catch them. The last gap of 30 metres proved to be too much. There were four riders from the Quick.Step team riding hard in front, that was more than I could handle. Paris-Roubaix is also something for me, but the Tour of Flanders was the race where I wanted to shine."

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram, DNF)

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"I abandoned after the Eikenberg after 200 kilometres," he told Radsportnews. "I didn't have a bad feeling on the cobbles, but on the Koppenberg I had to get off the bike. I saw how, 200 metres in front of me, Zabel and Hushovd left to get back to the front. I tried to join them, but in the end it just wasn't possible - also in my head."

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