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Full Preview Results Blow-by-blow report
Peter Van Petegem has started his season in the best possible way, winning the opening Belgian classic Omloop Het Volk for the third time in his career. Van Petegem benefited from the strength of his Lotto-Adecco team, which had the numbers in the final group to sway the chances of victory. In second place after a late solo attack was Dane Frank Høj, while Michel Van Haecke (Landbouwkredit-Colnago) finished third, just in front of a group of 16 riders.
Van Petegem is regarded as one of Belgium's top one day specialists, and won this race in 1997 and 1998. His victory in 2002 puts him up with three time winners Ernie Sterckx (1952-'53-'56) and Jos Bruyere (1974-'75-'80), the only riders to have won this race more than twice. This was certainly Van Petegem's best win ever in Omloop Het Volk, as the experienced 32 year old from Opbrakel made his winning move with perfect timing after his power-packed Lotto-Addeco squad dominated the day's proceedings.
It was also an important morale booster for Belgian cycling in the wake of the Frank Vandenbroucke disaster, which has dominated the press this week.
"I had super legs today," commented Van Petegem afterwards. "The team was very strong today, we could not lose. With three leaders (Andrei Tchmil, Robbie McEwen and myself) we had all the cards in our hand."
"I decided to attack in the final paved section which I know like the back of my hand. I was successful and I was sure of my sprint against Frank Høj. I will now prepare for the Tour of Flanders, and why not for Paris-Roubaix? I could show my condition there provided it doesn't rain."
The race was animated early on by Hans De Meester (Palmans-Collstrop) and Pascal Deramé, who attacked after 7 kilometres and were eventually caught on the Muur Van Geraardsbergen (84 km). The peloton had already started to splinter at this stage, and with 100km to go to the finish, Lotto-Adecco sent Glenn d'Hollander away to force the pace. He was joined by Mapei's hungry Hungarian Laszlo Bodrogi.
The two riders were caught by Max Sciandri (Lampre), Demeyere and De Jongh and the front runners were joined after the steep Molenberg climb by the top men who had accelerated after the break. Lotto ruled the roost with 4 riders (Tchmil, Van Petegem, D’Hollander et McEwen), there were other pretenders for the victory bouquet like Paolino Bettini and youngster Kevin Hulsmans (Mapei), old fox Sorensen & Michael Van Haecke (Colnago-Landbouwkredit), Van Dijck, cruncher Chris Peers & Jo Planckaert (Cofidis), Frank Hoy, Cédric Vasseur, Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) and Norwegian god Thor Hushovd.
As the cold (6 degrees) winds blew and the scrabbly clouds scudded across Flanders fields, behind the crucial move of the day Domo, Fassa Bortolo and Telekom made the chase behind but it was just too late. The Lotto boys had flown the coop and were simply setting up Van Petegem for the key move of the day while the competition struggled behind. After a massive pull by the brilliant d'Hollander got rid of the hangers-on, only Bettini, Van Dijck, Van Haecke, Høj, Planckaert, Hulsmans and Peers were left along with his Lotto teammates.
On the cobbles of Berringstraat with 19km to go, blond bomber Frank Høj got tired of being beat up on by Lotto and the Dane made his move. On the next cobblestone section in Vogelzangstraat, Van Petegem made a massive move, riding clear of the chasers and bridging the 20" gap up to Høj with ease. While Tchmil controlled the chasers, the two front riders worked together and with 5km to the finish in Lokeren, their gap was 30".
From then on it was just a matter of holding off the peloton to ensure victory for the Belgian, who had no problems beating Høj in the sprint. Michel Van Haecke (Landbouwkrediet) escaped for third place, while McEwen led the bunch home for fourth.
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
1 Peter van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 4.52.30 (41.436 km/h) 2 Frank Höj (Den) Team Coast 0.04 3 Michel Vanhaecke (Bel) Landbouwkredit-Colnago 0.16 4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Adecco 5 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 6 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Mapei-Quick Step 7 Andreij Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 8 Hendrik Van Dijck (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop 9 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis 10 Chris Peers (Bel) Cofidis 11 Glenn D'Hollander (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 2.15 12 Rolf Sörensen (Den) Landbouwkredit-Colnago 2.22 13 Lazslo Bodrogi (Hun) Mapei-Quick Step 14 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank 15 Geoffrey Demeyere (Bel) Vlaanderen - T Interim 16 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank 17 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Credit Agricole 18 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 19 Raphael Schweda (Ger) Team Coast 20 Maximilian Sciandri (GBr) Lampre-Daikin 2.37 21 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola 22 Matthew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 23 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop 24 Ludovic Capelle (Bel) AG2R-Prevoyance 9.22 25 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team Coast 26 Torsten Schmidt (Ger) Gerolsteiner 27 Malte Urban (Ger) Team Coast 28 Jan Verstraeten (Bel) Vlaanderen - T Interim 29 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Jean Delatour 9.34 30 Rene Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner 31 Servais Knaven (Ned) Domo-Farm Frites 32 Benoit Joachim (Lux) US Postal 33 Tom Desmet (Bel) Marlux - Ville de Charleroi 34 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Adecco 35 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) Telekom 36 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola 37 Matthe Pronk (Ned) Rabobank 38 Yoeri Beyens (Bel) Vlaanderen - T Interim 39 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Telekom 40 Frederic Guesdon (Fra) Francaise des Jeux 41 Nicola Loda (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 42 Coen Boerman (Ned) Rabobank 43 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) Francaise des Jeux 44 Gerben Lowik (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 45 Christopher Jenner (Fra) Credit Agricole 46 Sven Nijs (Bel) Rabobank 47 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole 48 Saulius Ruskys (Ltu) Gerolsteiner 49 Emmanuel Magnien (Fra) Bonjour 50 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) RDM-Flanders 51 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Tacconi Sport 52 Dario Pieri (Ita) Alessio 53 Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 54 Franck Renier (Fra) Bonjour 55 Fabien De Waele (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 56 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 57 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo 58 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) CSC-Tiscali 59 Peter Farazijn (Bel) Cofidis 60 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) US Postal Service 61 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites 62 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 63 Tom Boonen (Bel) US Postal Service 64 Tristan Hoffman (Ned) CSC-Tiscali 65 Piotr Wadecki (Pol) Domo-Farm Frites 66 Paul Van Hyfte (Bel) CSC-Tiscali 67 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 68 Andreas Klier (Ger) Telekom 69 Geert Van Bondt (Bel) CSC-Tiscali 70 Kristof Trouve (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop 71 Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop 72 Martin Hvastija (Slo) Alessio 73 Andrej Hauptman (Slo) Tacconi Sport 74 David Cioni (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 75 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Fassa Bortolo 76 Denis Zanette (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 77 Enrico Cassani (Ita) Domo-Farm Frites 78 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 79 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r-Prevoyance 80 Nico Mattan (Bel) Cofidis 81 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio 82 Steven Van Malderghem (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 83 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank 84 Bart Voskamp (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 85 Robert Sassone (Fra) Cofidis 86 Stephan Schreck (Ger) Team Telekom 13.00 87 Bruno Thibout (Fra) Jean Delatour 13.42 88 Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole 89 Matthew Wilson (Aus) La Francaise des Jeux 90 Jurgen Landrie (Bel) RDM - Flanders 91 Jerome Neuville (Fra) Cofidis 92 Nicolay Bo Larsen (Den) Gerolsteiner 93 Pascal Derame (Fra) Bonjour 94 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 95 Stijn Verstraelen (Bel) RDM - Flanders Results courtesy of Ronald Schipper and Reinier Meijer