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43rd E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - 1.HC

Belgium, March 26, 2005

2004 Results    Results    Past winners

Boonen's best ever?

Quick.Step gun is not just a sprinter

By Jeff Jones

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
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Although it's hard to go past his wins in Gent-Wevelgem and the final stage of the Tour de France last year, Tom Boonen's second consecutive victory in today's 43rd E3 Prijs Vlaanderen was arguably his best yet. After isolating himself from his teammates when he followed an attack by T-Mobile's Andreas Klier on the Taaienberg with 55 km to go, Boonen rode with the German all the way to the finish, never much more than half a minute away from the nearest chasers. Naturally, Boonen had no problems winning a two man sprint against Klier, but the way in which they held off the likes of Peter Van Petegem, Nico Mattan and Erik Dekker for an hour and a half was extremely impressive. "I was looking over my shoulder quite a lot," Boonen said after his fifth win of the season. "I had a feeling that at any moment one of the riders chasing us was going to get away from the group and catch us.

"I am very happy. I wanted to win today but I really didn't think my move would have continued for so many kilometres. I won this race last year; it's not easy repeating a win with just a 12 month difference. Today's race was great test for me in light of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen. I had a chance today to see some of the opponents I'll be racing against on the roads of the Ronde."

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
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Boonen also said he was motivated by criticism in the media recently, after his relatively poor performances in Milan-San Remo and Dwars door Vlaanderen. "In fact, I was annoyed by the criticism I in the press in the last few weeks. I was not good enough in Milan-Sanremo and also in Dwars door Vlaanderen I was nowhere according to the media. I couldn't sprint any more and was past my peak. I reacted today in a fitting way, I think. This is a brilliant race to put on your palmares. I've done it now for the second consecutive time. It was a tough race."

Andreas Klier was disappointed but philosophical with his second place. "It's a hard task to stay in front with two. Definitely against a group of five men that is chasing at half a minute. My teammate Steffen Wesemann was in there too."

Although Wesemann was visibly frustrated about not being able to go for his own chances, T-Mobile chose to stick with Klier, perhaps remembering the 2003 Gent-Wevelgem, where Klier beat Vogels and Boonen in a small group sprint and Boonen was even led out by a teammate.

"I got the green light from sports director Mario Kummer and could go all out for the victory," said Klier. "At the end, I gambled and lost. I knew that I was slower than Boonen, but wanted to sell my skin dearly, because he also did his part of the work in our break. I hoped that he would have lost his edge."

How it unfolded

Excellent weather conditions greeted the 187 riders at the start in Harelbeke, with temperatures just below 20 degrees and a light northeast wind blowing. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) did not start, suffering from a saddle sore, and instead went training. He will be in tomorrow's Brabantse Pijl.

After a fast start, a group of 11 riders got away after 100 km with most of the major teams represented: Marc Wauters (Rabobank), Kevin Hulsmans (Quick.Step), Eric Baumann and Bas Giling (T-Mobile), Aart Vierhouten (Davitamon-Lotto), Allan Johansen (CSC), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), Geoffroy Lequatre (Crédit Agricole), Tom Stubbe (Chocolade Jacques), Sebastian Siedler (Wiesenhof) and Christophe Mengin (Francaise des Jeux).

Discovery Channel was not represented in the break, so Dirk Demol's boys drove the peloton in pursuit until Hayden Roulston was able to bridge a small gap just before the first climb of La Houppe with 83 km to go. Canny Dutchman Erik Dekker (Rabobank) saw his chance and also got across the gap, forming a group of 13 in front. The peloton eased off the gas and the gap quickly blew out to 1'30 as Quick.Step and Lotto set a controlling tempo for their team captains.

Under the impulse of Quick.Step's Davide Bramati and Wilfried Cretskens and Lotto's Wim Vansevenant and Nico Mattan, the bunch came within 1'00 of the break at the foot of the Eikenberg with 64 km to go. That's when things started to heat up in the peloton, as Van Petegem, Mattan, Vansevenant (Lotto), Boonen (Quick.Step), Klier (T-Mobile) and Kopp (Wiesenhof) split off the front of the bunch in pursuit of the big early break. It didn't take long for them to close the gap, especially when a train crossing stopped the break just before the Stationsberg at 61 km to go. But the gap was only 10 seconds at that point, and the chasers would have caught the leaders anyway.

Nico Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto)
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The problem was that the peloton also came very close to bridging the gap, and by the time the barriers went up again after some 20 seconds, only 10 seconds separated the front two groups (the peloton wasn't slowed at all by the train crossing). Erik Dekker realised the danger and didn't want to waste the small advantage that the now 19 man break had, and upped the pace on the Stationsberg to keep the broken peloton at bay.

Stijn Devolder (Discovery) was the biggest name missing from the front group, and he led a small bunch containing Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) and Jurgen Van De Walle (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) across to the leaders. But on the Taaienberg with 57 km to go, Andreas Klier made what turned out to be the decisive attack. The German stomped on the pedals with Tom Boonen digging deep to stay on his wheel, and the pair opened up a 10 second gap on Lotto teammates Peter Van Petegem and Nico Mattan, who were leading the front group at the time.

At the top of the Taaienberg, there was a regrouping behind, as Devolder, Farazijn, Wesemann and Voeckler got up to the chase group, followed by more riders in dribs and drabs. The gap grew to 30 seconds at 50 km to go and it seemed as though the two leaders would have their work cut out to hold off the big chase group over the next six climbs. But despite the danger, the gap held.

Stijn Devolder attempted to bridge across on his own but couldn't get closer than 27 seconds before he punctured and had to return to the peloton, which was now at the magic minute mark on the Kapelberg with 43 km to go. On the Paterberg, the two leaders rode smoothly up as the next big chasing move started behind them, led by the impressive Erik Dekker. By the top of the 400m/12% cobbled monster, Dekker had pegged the gap back to 45 seconds with Mattan, Van Petegem (Lotto), Wesemann (T-Mobile), De Jongh (Rabobank), Kopp (Wiesenhof) and Guesdon (FDJ) in tow.

It looked like this group would come back to the two leaders, while the rest of the peloton appeared to be cooked. Indeed, on the Oude Kwaremont with 35 km to go, Boonen and Klier looked tired and lost half of their lead as Van Petegem and Mattan led the chase group to within 20 seconds. Kopp and Wesemann were able to stay with the two Belgians, while Dekker dropped off to help De Jongh, and Guesdon was dropped for good. De Jongh didn't have the legs today and told Dekker to go on, and the Dutchman easily regained the four remaining chasers.

Boonen and Klier
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Over the top of the Kwaremont, Boonen and Klier stepped on the gas again and got out to 30 seconds with the chase group now down to five: Van Petegem, Mattan, Dekker, Kopp and Wesemann, who was not contributing as his teammate was up the road. At the top of the Knokteberg with 27 km to go, it was back down to 22 seconds, then 19 seconds, then 11 seconds at the end of the Varent cobbles with 19 km to go. It looked like the leaders were history, but they refused to give in and again forced it out to 20 seconds at the foot of the Tiegemberg, the day's final climb.

Van Petegem was looking good and put in a big effort on the Tiegemberg to try to get the leaders back for good. The best he could do was 15 seconds and it was now becoming clear that the chasers were running out of steam. In the final 10 km, Boonen and Klier upped the pace and broke the spirit of the pursuers. It was 30 seconds with 2 km to go and the nail biting pursuit match was over. A frustrated Steffen Wesemann knew that Klier had little chance of beating Boonen in the sprint, but he could do nothing to help.

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
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Klier did not resort to any cat and mouse tactics with Boonen in the final two kilometres, and even took the lead with one kilometre to go. It wouldn't have mattered. Boonen didn't move until Klier accelerated at 200m to go, then immediately jumped around the German to open up an unbeatable two bike length lead, allowing him plenty of time to celebrate his second consecutive E3 Prijs victory in a row. Klier thumped the bars in frustration, but at least he secured second place. Van Petegem attacked the chase group with 1 km to go to take third place and show that he has the form for next week's Ronde Van Vlaanderen.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP Photo

Images by Bert Geerts

Results - 200 km

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep                             4.42.54 (42.418 km/h)
2 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile                                  
3 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto                 0.13
4 David Kopp (Ger) Wiesenhof                                0.17
5 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto                           
6 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile                           0.22
7 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                0.33
8 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) - SportsTech            2.50
9 Eric Baumann (Ger) T-Mobile                                   
10 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC                               
11 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone       
12 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Davitamon - Lotto                      
13 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank                               
14 Stefan Schumacker (Dui)                                      
15 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2r Prévoyance                          
16 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française des Jeux                      
17 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                        
18 Michal Precechtel (Cze) eD'system - ZVVZ                     
19 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile                                
20 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française des Jeux                   
21 Christophe Detilloux (Bel) Française des Jeux                
22 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank                                 
23 Koen Barbé (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim               
24 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld - Valsir               
25 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel                        
26 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                     
27 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux                    
28 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quickstep                           
29 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Flanders                             
30 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Rabobank                                  
31 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep                                 
32 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel                           
33 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone    
34 Glenn D'Hollander (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago            
35 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago                
36 Hayden Roulston (NZl) Discovery Channel                      
37 Guido Trenti (USA) Quickstep                                 
38 Peter Farazijn (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone       
39 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel                       
40 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank                                  
41 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quickstep                               
42 Benoît Joachim (Lux) Discovery Channel                       
43 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                       
44 Rolf Aldag (Ger) T-Mobile                                    
45 Sean Sullivan (Aus) Barloworld - Valsir                      
46 Angel Castresana Del Val (Spa) - SportsTech  

Starters: 187
Classified: 46

Past winners

2004  Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon    200 km in 4.31.00 (43.173 km/h)
2003  Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank           209 km in 4.33.00 (45.934 km/h)
2002  Dario Pieri (Ita) Alessio                200 km in 4.45.00 (42.10 km/h)
2001  Andrej Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Adecco         209 km in 5.08.49 (40.41 km/h)
2000  Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Farm Frites         209 km in 5.13.00 (40.06 km/h)
1999  Peter Van Petegem (Bel) TVM-Farm Frites  206 km in 4.39.10 (44.30 km/h)
1998  Johan Museeuw (Bel) Mapei-Bricobi        201 km in 4.48.00
1997  Hendrik Van Dyck (Bel)
1996  Carlo Bomans (Bel)
1995  Bart Leysen (Bel)
1994  Andrej Tchmil (Mda)
1993  Mario Cipollini (Ita)
1992  Johan Museeuw (Bel)
1991  Olaf Ludwig (Ger)
1990  Sören Lilholt (DÄN)
1989  Eddy Planckaert (Bel)
1988  Guido Bontempi (Ita)
1987  Eddy Planckaert (Bel)
1986  Eric Vanderaerden (Bel)
1985  Phil Anderson (AUS)
1984  Bert Oosterbosch (Ned)
1983  Willy Tackaert (Bel)
1982  Jean Bogaert (Bel)
1981  Jan Raas (Ned)
1980  Jan Raas (Ned)
1979  Jan Raas (Ned)
1978  Freddy Maertens (Bel)
1977  Dietrich Thurau (Ger)
1976  Walter Planckaert (Bel)
1975  Frans Verbeeck (Bel)
1974  Herman Vanspringel (Bel)
1973  Willy In'T'Ven (Bel)
1972  Hubert Hutsebaut (Bel)
1971  Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel)
1970  Daniel Van Ryckegem (Bel)
1969  Rik Van Looy (Bel)
1968  Jacques De Boever (Bel)
1967  Willy Bocklant (Bel)
1966  Rik Van Looy (Bel)
1965  Rik Van Looy (Bel)
1964  Rik Van Looy (Bel)
1963  Noél Fore (Bel)
1962  André Messelis (Bel)
1961  Arthur De Carbooter (Bel)
1960  Daniel Doom (Bel)
1959  Norbert Kerckhove (Bel)
1958  Armand Desmet (Bel)

Past winners by Mario Stiehl,