BriefAustralian Scott Sunderland took the 53rd GP Nokere, a Belgian kermesse race from a fancied field of riders. The 149 riders set out on a hilly circuit and Scott instigated the initial break with three riders early on in the race - from Vlaanderen 2000, one from La Francaise des Jeux and Voskamp from TVM. They stayed away fro 60 kms before the peloton caught them. Then 4 kms later a 14 rider break went away and that proved to be the decisive event in the race.
By the time they came to the finale, the top group had shrunk to just 8 riders and Scott won after attacking over the top of the Nokereberg about a 12% hill. He had a safe margin from Van Bon, and two Lottos and Tristan Hoffman from TVM. He was pretty tired but did another hour's training after the race.
The local press report that Scott faxed me opens with the line: "Thank you, Mr. Noel, was the first words that Scott Sunderland said to Noel Demeulenaere at the finish line after winning the GP Nokere. The "god father" laughed and winked to Walter Planckaert who with Hoj on Sunday in the Omloop van het Waasland and then Sunderland in the 53rd GP Nokere Koerse has seen his team take two wins in four days. The Australian, who lives in Zottegem, who rode last year with the GAN team but ran out of options at the end of the season after GAN left him high and dry. As is the case with many of his other colleagues it was Demeulenaere who provided the safety net. It was the Palmans-Ideal team.
The 31-year old Sunderland provided his team with a wholehearted finale to win the race. "I was not feeling fresh enough myself and I hoped that there was no-one in the top group who could dominate the end. Luckily, I was hanging on a silken thread and Feys held Van Bon when he attacked 700 metres from the finish."
The globetrotter made the winning move going over the top of the Nokereberg for the last time. Winning for the rider from Inverell (NSW, Australia) is not a yearly occupation. The last time he won was in the Omloop van de Waalse Gewesten on August 6, 1996. In 9 years as a professional he has had 5 wins. Sunderland was the "third dog".
[Bill notes: Meaning that Scott has always worked for the glory of others].
The local riders Chris Peers and Hendrik Van Dijk (who has won this race for the last two years) came so close to winning the race. Last year the TVM rider (Van Dijk) gave the flowers to his wife Isabel. This year he cracked.
The two created the final break and drove the top group of 14. Peers had 4 colleagues with him, Van Dijk, Hoffman and Michealsen. The rider from East Flanders was third overall but this was enough to win the Championship of the Province, after Van Dijk cracked under the pressure. Tom Desmet, Erwin Thijs and Wim Feys tried to put the pressure on as they came to the 12th and last climb of the Nokereberg, but Van Bon (who had brought a camera team from Nederland 3) had the answer everytime.
And for the regional viewers there was Canvas reporting on a story slaves on the bikes. This is clearly the pearl of Nokere sport.
Thousands of spectators trouped out to the cobbled Nokereberg to watch a peloton of 147 riders. There were 30 elite riders without contract riding and for the second day in a row the whole compliment of the Dutch Tegeltoko team (Elites without contract). "That alarms me" said the Ipso team leader Paul De Baeremaeker. "I was in Wanzele on Wednesday and all the Dutchmen rode as a group. If that was not enough there was also a swarm of French rider coming across the border."
The National Sports Commission is having a meeting today to study the issue. The elite riders with contracts raced very cleverly in Nokere. For the first hour of the race they went so hard that their younger (amateur) colleagues went out the back. [Bill: they thrashed the poor guys!]. Only Noor Svein-Gaute Holestel of the Danish amateur team Chicky World could mix it. Briek Schotte, the winner of the Nokere Koerse in 1945 said: "There is a world of difference between the amateurs and the professionals. The youngsters now know what it means to ride for your bread and butter. We have seen a beautiful race today and a fascinating end. You could not ask for any more than that."
Race distance - 154 kms:
1. Scott Sunderland (Aus) Palmans-Ideal 3.38.00 (42.385) 2. Leon van Bon (Ned) Rabobank 3. Chris Peers (Bel) Lotto-Mobistar * 4. Tristan Hoffman (Ned) TVM 5. Wim Feys (Bel) Lotto 6. Tom Desmet (Bel) Collstrop 7. Erwin Thijs (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002 8. Fabien De Waele (Bel) Lotto 9. Hendrik Van Dyck (Bel) TVM 0.42 10. Lars Michaelsen (Den) TVM 11. Kurt Van de Wouwer (Bel) Lotto 1.07 12. Svein-Gaute Holestol (Den) elite 2.13 13. Frank Hoj (Den) Palmans-Ideal 14. Christophe Detilloux (Bel) Lotto 15. Hans De Clercq (Bel) Palmans-Ideal 5.10 16. Carlo Bomans (Bel) Palmans 17. Davy Delme (Bel) Tonissteiner 18. Bart Voskamp (Ned) TVM 19. Jean-Pierre Heynderickx (Bel) Home Market 20. Frank Corvers (Bel) Palmans-Ideal 5.10 147 starters* - first Oost-Vlaams rider and thus awarded the Oost-Vlaams championship