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58th Omloop Het Volk - 1.1

Belgium, March 1, 2003

Main page    Course description/timetable     Start list    Results

Complete Live Report

Start time: 11:45 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:40 CET

Crowds
Photo: © CN
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Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 58th Omloop Het Volk, the first Belgian race of the year and one that is looked to by many. Today's race is run between Gent and Lokeren over 200 kilometres, containing 10 climbs including the Kluisbergen, Oude Kwaremont and Muur Van Geraardsbergen. There are also several flat cobbled sections in the final 50 km, which should help split things up if the hills don't.

Despite earlier predictions and some rain last night, the weather today is comparatively dry, although there is a chance of rain later on. The recent wet could cause the cobbles to be a little slippery however.

12:00 CET - 9 km/191 km to go
The riders have left Gent in overcast, but relatively dry conditions. After a 15 minute neutral zone they officially started at 11:45 on the Grote Steenweg Noord. They are now approaching Nazareth on the main road. No-one has attacked yet.

12:09 CET - 14 km/186 km to go
Four riders have attacked on the Gentsesteenweg, and have a small break on the field. Tony Bracke (Landbouwkrediet), Kristof Trouvé (Palmans), Jacky Durand (FDJ) and Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2r).

12:23 CET - 20 km/180 km to go
These four riders, Bracke, Trouve, Durand and Agnolutto have now got a lead of four minutes. Sebastien Mattozza (Marlux) and Mickael Buffaz (Jean Delatour) are chasing them, but have not caught them.

Johan Capiot
Photo: © CN
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Cyclingnews spoke with BankGiroLoterij director Johan Capiot before the start today in Gent. Capiot has won this race twice previously in 1990 and 1992, so he knows what Het Volk is all about. Still looking nearly as fit as he was when he racing, he was happy with the recent performances of his team. "Everything's fine, no problem," said Capiot. "We have a good team. We won two stages in Rhodes so it's ok."

Capiot will draw on his experience to direct the team during the race. "I won this race two times and for sure that helps now," he added. "We had two or three days of big training over the parcours. We did the whole circuit and I know this parcours very well. That's easy for the riders. I can talk to them in the race and say 'now you must go to the front' or 'it's difficult here'."

"The weather is not so hard today. The temperature is ok, there's no rain for the moment. It's going to be a big group at the finish I think. Not very big, but 30-40 riders."

Capiot says that he has a number of options today. "I've got a few riders who are in very good shape. [Gerben] Löwik is the guy in top shape."

12:39 CET - 29 km/171 km to go
The four leaders are approaching the first climb, Kluisberg, 1.1 km long and averaging 6%. They now have over 5 minutes lead on the peloton, which has caught Mattozza and Buffaz.

12:50 CET - 38 km/162 km to go
The leaders, Trouve, Bracke, Durand and Agnolutto, have crossed the Kluisberg with a 4'15 lead. However, Bracke has a flat tyre and the others wait for him. The first hour of the race saw 36.6 kilometres covered, and already the tempo has picked up behind in time for the hills.

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago's Tom Steels, winner in 1996 and looking good in his Belgian champion's jersey, was upbeat at the start today. "Yes I feel good, I've got good legs," he said.

13:04 CET - 45 km/155 km to go

Robbie McEwen
Photo: © CN
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The leaders have now crossed the second climb of the Côte de Trieu, with the peloton still fairly quiet behind them. The time check at the top of Kluisberg was 6'30, and is now 6'50 at the top of the Côte de Trieu.

Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) was looking fresh at the start, although he wasn't confident of his chances today. "I had a knee injury at the beginning of the season, but yeah it's no probs now. We'll see today how far I get."

13:18 CET - 54 km/146 km to go
Jacky Durand (FDJ), Kristof Trouve (Palmans) and Tony Bracke (Landbouwkrediet) have dropped Agnolutto on the Oude Kwaremont, which they rode up with their 6'50 lead intact. Agnolutto is forced to chase on his own, or drop back to the peloton. On the Muziekbos a few km later, he is 50 seconds behind the leading trio. His chances of regaining them are slim, although there are no more climbs for a while.

Some other news: Malte Urban and Sven Teutenberg (both Team Coast) did not start in Gent today. Also, Raivis Belohvosciks has abandoned the race.

Cyclingnews spoke to Baden Cooke this morning, and the FDJeux.com rider was a little nervous. "It'll be a bit of a shitfight out there," he said. "I haven't done this race before but I've done some like it. I'll be relying on my teammates a lot to help me remain in the front. Hopefully it works out."

"I've still got a way to go, I'm not at my best yet. Probably at Flanders and around then I'll be at my best."

13:45 CET - 72 km/128 km to go
In two hours, 72 km have been covered and there are still four leaders. Three of them, Jacky Durand (FDJ), Kristof Trouve (Palmans) and Tony Bracke (Landbouwkrediet), have 5'30 on the peloton while the fourth, Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2r), is around 2 minutes in front of the peloton. They have about 6 kilometres to go before Geraardsbergen, and the feared Muur.

Cyclingnews spoke with Team fakta's Scott Sunderland at the start today, and the Australian was looking quite relaxed for his first classic of the season. "Everybody from Gent's here!" he remarked. "I feel pretty calm, mainly because I'm not really riding for myself today. I'll be mainly riding for Frank Hoj and Magnus Backstedt. Magnus is very strong. Hopefully he can get through the race without any punctures or broken wheels - he tends to break a lot of wheels, but he should be ok."

"The weather looks like it's going to hold up. Maybe on the last cobble sections we'll get a bit of rain. Even now it's not perfectly dry because the roads are still damp."

Scott also predicted a group of 30 to 40 riders at the finish. "They're going to have a tailwind today so they're going to be moving between Lippenhovestraat and the first section, so I don't think there's much chance of any groups coming back to the bunch. If I could be one of them, it'd be really nice. Or if we could have Magnus up there it would be really nice."

Favourites? "I think Quick Step, Cofidis, Lotto-Domo, then guys like Hincapie, Klier, Hoj and I think Ludo will be alright too."

14:04 CET - 86 km/114 km to go
Agnolutto is dropping further behind the three leaders, and is now four and a half minutes off the back of them. He has made it over the Muur van Geraardsbergen though - just five more climbs to go! The peloton is still at around 6 minutes.

Some photos of the start are now available. Click here to view them.

14:17 CET - 92 km/108 km to go
The leaders have 108 kilometres to go, and are racing through the feed zone towards Brakel. They have a lead of 8'43 to the peloton, and 5'10 to Agnolutto.

On the Muur van Geraardsbergen, Andreas Klier (Telekom) fell and was taken to hospital. He is of course out of the race. Also his teammate Steffen Wesemann has abandoned, as has CSC's Geert Van Bondt (CSC).

Museeuw and Van Petegem
Photo: © CN
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14:20 CET - 94 km/106 km to go
Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo) has punctured, and two teammates, Wim Van Sevenant and Aart Vierhouten, wait for him.

Stefano Zanini (Saeco) has abandoned.

Most of the peloton had to walk up the Muur...

14:27 CET - 104 km/96 km to go
The three leaders, Kristof Trouve (Palmans), Tony Bracke (Landbouwkrediet) and Jacky Durand (FDJ) have 7'45 the peloton (Agnolutto has now been caught) , as they cross the Valkenberg climb. Lotto-Domo and Quick Step are making the pace in the peloton.

In the peloton, Frank Vandenbroucke has punctured, but doesn't seem too concerned and chases back on. He easily gets them at the top of the Valkenberg.

14:32 CET - 107 km/93 km to go
The three leaders are gradually being reeled in by the peloton, led by Quick Step and Lotto-Domo. The gap is down to 6'26 as the peloton race along Oudenaardestraat.

There is a fall in the peloton, and Ruud Verbakel (Vlaanderen-T Interim) comes off. Up in front, it's Cofidis pushing the pace just before the Eikenberg.

14:38 CET - 113 km/87 km to go
Durand struggles on the back of Trouve and Bracke on the Eikenberg, with its maximum grade of 11%. The three leaders cross the top with 6'02 to the peloton, where there are more falls.

Durand is dropped near the top of the Eikenberg, and will struggle to catch them again. However, the two others wait for him and he regains the lead.

The peloton is led by Lotto and most of the Quick Step team on the narrow roads. Museeuw and Boonen are prominent.

14:44 CET - 117 km/83 km to go
Frank Vandenbroucke (Quick Step) attacks on the Eikenberg! He gets a good gap, as his teammates block the road. He looks good, as he nears the top with a 5 minute deficit to the three leaders.

The peloton is down to about 55 riders at the top of the climb, with Quick Step, Cofidis, and Lotto-Domo the teams with the largest representation. Vandenbroucke comes back to the peloton. Andrei Kashechkin (Quick Step) forces the pace at the front - it's obvious that Quick Step wants to keep the pressure on. He gets clear with a Sidermec rider - Balducci.

14:50 CET - 120 km/80 km to go
Kashechkin and Balducci are caught at the end of the Holleweg cobbled section, as the peloton in one long line gets within 4'30 of the leaders (Durand, Trouve and Bracke). Their days are numbered.

Scott Sunderland is out of the race, after breaking his shoe-plate after 30 km of racing. According to his team director Peter Meinert, he just pulled on the pedals and the plate broke. He crashed in the mud without hurting himself. As there were no spare shoes in the team car and as Scott wanted to keep going, they changed the shoe-plate which took a lot of time. By the time he got back on the bike needed changing too. Scott was too frustrated and tired from chasing so he decided to call it a day and is on his way back home, on the bike.

14:53 CET - 122 km/78 km to go
Kashechkin is doing great work for his Quick Step team, forcing the pace on the front through Horebeke. He now has another small gap, and is just 3'47 behind Durand and co.

The leaders are now on the 2300m cobbled Haaghoek. They are still together, although Durand is not working.

A Fassa Bortolo rider - Cancellara - leads the peloton onto the Haaghoek. He has a host of Quick Step riders behind him, with Kashechkin once again back into the fold. The peloton has grown again to 65 riders or so.

14:58 CET - 124 km/76 km to go
Lorenzo Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet) has fallen and looks a bit lost in the mud on the side of the road.

The leaders tackle the Leberg climb (the 8th of 10) with Dudu grimly hanging on. He makes it, as it's only 600m long. But their gap is now only 3'21.

Bettini forces the pace on the Leberg, and really gives it some stick. An Ag2r rider hangs onto the leader, and the peloton is once again stretched out.

15:03 CET - 127 km/73 km to go
Slava Ekimov (USPS) takes a turn on the front over the top of the climb, and there seems to be a bit of relaxation in the peloton. Tom Boonen is on the front again.

The three leaders, Trouve, Bracke and Durand, are now on the Berendries (Climb 9, 900m at 5%, with a maximum of 14%). Durand is swinging his way up the climb, but he is surviving. The gap is just over 2 minutes at the top.

Museeuw sits comfortably in second wheel behind a teammate on the Berendries, with Peter Farazijn (Cofidis) close behind. Robbie McEwen is in the front group of the peloton, although not at the front.

15:11 CET - 135 km/65 km to go
The peloton is again reduced to 40 or so riders, but now some riders from different teams show themselves at the front. Bortolami (Sidermec), Ekimov (USPS), Kirsipuu (Ag2r), Freire (Rabobank), Boonen, Museeuw, Bettini and more from Quick Step, Van Petegem, McEwen (Lotto-Domo)...

Speaking of Tom Boonen, the big blond Quick Step rider accelerates through Zwalm, creating a bit of a gap. He gets a Fassa Bortolo rider (Pozzato) on his wheel, and the pair start to work together. Bernhard Eisel (FDJ) realises the danger and joins them. Boonen's aim is to increase the tempo. They have a 2 minute deficit to the two leaders on the cobbles at Rozebeke. Durand has been dropped from the front group.

Bettini and Museeuw force the pace behind Boonen, and split the peloton. Farazijn is also with them.

15:18 CET - 139 km/61 km to go
Bettini, Boonen, Museeuw and Vandenbroucke are all in the chasing group with Pozzato and Farazijn. There is general panic in the peloton.

The six chasers are just 1'40 behind Bracke and Trouve as they approach the Molenberg, the last climb of the day. This could be a big coup for Quick Step if they stay away. However, a group of nine with Cassani, Kasheckhin, Kirsipuu, Eisel, Van Petegem, Van Heeswijk are chasing.

The two leaders struggle up the 300m cobbled Molenberg, with its maximum of 17%.

15:20 CET - 140 km/60 km to go
Museeuw, Vandenbroucke, Boonen, Bettini, Pozzato, and Farazijn chase the two leaders on the Molenberg. Van Heeswijk bridges the gap, and now there are seven. Kirsipuu is close behind them, but hasn't got on.

15:25 CET - 141 km/59 km to go
Over the top, and it's a Quick Step team time trial chasing down Tony Bracke and Kristof Trouve. They are just 1 minute behind them. However, the other three riders are helping a little. Durand is caught by them, and sits on the back for a little while.

15:28 CET - 144 km/56 km to go
Kirsipuu, Bruylandts, Cassani, and Van Petegem are in another chasing group just behind Museeuw's Quick Step boys.

The two leaders (Bracke and Trouve) are on the Paddenstraat, with 40 seconds gap to Museeuw's (now) eight man group. Then there are another eight men at 15 seconds: Eisel, Kashechkin, Van Petegem, Petito, Sacchi, Cassani, Kirsipuu, and Bruylandts. Eisel punctures.

Bracke and Trouve, who have been away since km 12, are rapidly swallowed up on the Paddenstraat by the Museeuw group, which has now lost Durand. Museeuw, Vandenbroucke, Bettini, Boonen, Van Heeswijk, Farazijn and Pozzato are the leaders now.

15:33 CET - 147 km/53 km to go
As the leaders continue to work hard on the cobbles, Van Petegem's chasing group is not making much ground. Van Petegem himself is sitting on Fabio Sacchi's wheel near the back of the bunch, while Dave Bruylandts works on the front. Andrei Kasheckhin is in second wheel, and of course won't take a turn while he has four teammates up the road.

Trouve and Bracke have now been dropped from the leaders, meaning that there are seven left in front including four Quick Steps. The Kirsipuu/Van Petegem group is at 30 seconds.

15:39 CET - 150 km/50 km to go
Kirsipuu's group is not cooperating very well, given that they have to close a 35 second gap to a group with Museeuw in it. Kirsipuu, Van Petegem, Sacchi, Bruylandts, and even Durand take turns, while the others such as Kashechkin, Cassani, Trouve, Bracke, and Petito sit on the back. It looks to be Quick Step's race.

15:43 CET - 152 km/48 km to go
The 10 chasers are losing ground to the seven in front, and the gap increases to 43 seconds. Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini, Johan Museeuw, Frank Vandenbroucke (all Quick Step), Max Van Heeswijk (USPS), Filippo Pozzato (Fassa), and Peter Farazijn (Cofidis) are riding a perfect team time trial. They have a tailwind now, and are flying through Oombergen and Balegem towards Wetteren.

15:50 CET - 158 km/42 km to go
Some news from the 40 rider peloton, which is actually the third group on the road, and contains riders like Robbie McEwen, and Thor Hushovd. But they are a fair way off the leaders group. The seven front riders with Museeuw have a 1'16 gap to Kirsipuu/Van Petegem's chasing group of 10, who have actually started to close the gap a little.

Quick Step's Wilfried Peeters tells Belgian TV that "It's a good situation. In 10 kilometres the cobbles begin again, and then it will be clearer."

15:56 CET - 162 km/38 km to go
The leaders pass by a plane that has had to land next to the road(!) They have 2'07 to the next group through Wetteren. The peloton has now caught Kirsipuu's group, and is being led by Lotto-Domo, but the chase will certainly be too late.

The leaders: Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini, Johan Museeuw, Frank Vandenbroucke (all Quick Step), Max Van Heeswijk (USPS), Filippo Pozzato (Fassa), and Peter Farazijn (Cofidis)

16:02 CET - 166 km/34 km to go
The seven leaders are approaching the final 30 km section, which contains numerous short stretches of cobbles - nine in total. In the peloton, which is still losing ground, it's Rabobank and Lotto-Domo doing the chasing.

A danger man in the front group is Filippo Pozzatto, winner of the Trofeo Laigueglia. He is sitting on the back of the group, but if he survives to the finish he is a good sprinter.

Bettini forces the pace on the Krimineelstraat cobbles, but Van Heeswijk chases him down.

16:07 CET - 173 km/27 km to go
The seven leaders are approaching the next cobbled section: Kleine Molenstraat. There are a lot of corners in this part of the race, and it's hard to keep the tempo going. But the gap is still increasing to the peloton, and it is now 2'40. They're not coming back.

Museeuw and Boonen make it hard at the front, and there is an immediate reaction from Van Heeswijk, who is riding a great race. It comes back together.

16:11 CET - 177 km/23 km to go
Tom Boonen goes hard on the next section of cobbles, but Farazijn and Pozzatto chase him down. There is an immediate counter by Paolo Bettini. Van Heeswijk, Boonen and Pozzatto are chasing. They close it. That leaves Museeuw, Vandenbroucke and Farazijn off the back.

Bettini attacks again, and Pozzatto has to chase him. Museeuw, VDB and Farazijn have got back to the others.

The leaders are now Bettini, Museeuw, and Van Heeswijk.

16:15 CET - 179 km/21 km to go
Bettini, Museeuw and Van Heeswijk are leading VDB, Boonen, Farazijn and Pozzato with 20 km to go. This could be the decisive break, as Pozzato and Farazijn will have to do all the work to close it. But Van Heeswijk doesn't want to work in front.... But now he does. He must realise this is his best chance.

Farazijn and Pozzato are fighting a losing battle, with Boonen and VDB having a free ride. The gap is now 12 seconds to Museeuw, Bettini and Van Heeswijk.

16:18 CET - 182 km/18 km to go
The leading trio are navigating their way along the narrow and muddy roads that mark the finale. Bettini is in a little bit of trouble on the 500m Heistraat cobbled section, but can stay on the back of Van Heeswijk ok.

The leaders now have 22 seconds on the Pozzato/Farazijn/Boonen/VDB chase group, with the peloton at 3'17. It's been Quick Step all day. The only rider who could spoil it now would be US Postal's Max Van Heeswijk.

16:22 CET - 184 km/16 km to go
They're on the Vogelzangstraat, a 1300m section of cobbles. Van Heeswijk sits behind Museeuw as Bettini makes the pace. Behind them, Farazijn and Pozzato try to limit the damage, with Boonen and VDB still doing no work.

In the peloton, Roberto Petito has fallen. He looks ok though.

16:24 CET - 186 km/14 km to go
Museeuw leads off the Vogelzangstraat and looks strong. However he will have to be careful of Van Heeswijk, who is no slouch of a sprinter. The favourite would be Bettini at the moment.

The gap to the four chasers is growing, and is now 52 seconds.

16:28 CET - 189 km/11 km to go
With just one short cobbled section to go, it may come down to a three man sprint. Behind the leading three, there is some action in the four man chasing group. Vandenbroucke attacks, Pozzato chases, then Boonen counters and is away, perhaps riding into fourth place. Farazijn is dropped.

Vandenbroucke attacks Pozzato and catches Boonen. Now we have four Quick Step riders in the top five positions in the race. There is a 1 minute gap between Museeuw, Bettini and Van Heeswijk and Boonen/VDB.

16:32 CET - 192 km/8 km to go
8 km left, and the three leaders are still working smoothly. Max is not afraid of coming through for his turn, and still looks quite fresh. Behind them, Tom Boonen and Frank Vandenbroucke are making a rearguard action, with Fillippo Pozzato and Peter Farazijn being left behind.

16:35 CET - 194 km/6 km to go
Museeuw attacks with 6 km to go, but Van Heeswijk chases him. Bettini waits, but doesn't counter. Bettini keeps the tempo high, and Museeuw sits in third wheel. Van Heeswijk takes over, then Museeuw. The gap to Boonen and VDB is 1'02.

16:37 CET - 195 km/5 km to go
Museeuw attacks again with 5km to go - hard. Van Heeswijk chases, but loses time gradually. Bettini is on his wheel. The gap is not too big, but it's growing by inches.

16:38 CET - 196 km/4 km to go
It's Van Heeswijk versus Museeuw, with the Dutchman trying to close the gap to the Lion of Flanders. He is not succeeding. Also, Bettini is sitting on his wheel, ready to go if Museeuw is caught.

Museeuw looks behind at 3 km to go. The gap is growing - 250 m now.

16:41 CET - 198 km/2 km to go
With 2 km to go, it looks as though Museeuw will be the 50th Belgian winner of Omloop Het Volk. Max Van Heeswijk cannot close the gap. Bettini should be able to get second.

16:42 CET - 199 km/1 km to go
Bettini finally takes over from Van Heeswijk, but Museeuw is certainly going to win. He hammers into Lokeren with tongue hanging out, on his way to winning this race for a second time.

He rests his arms on the bars and knows he's got it won. He talks on the radio to the team director and receives the applause of the crowd as he rides down the finishing straight.

16:44 CET - 200 km/0 km to go
Johan Museeuw raises his arms as he wins the 58th Omloop Het Volk. A well earned victory and a very impressive one. Van Heeswijk takes the sprint for second place, 15 seconds behind Museeuw. Bettini is third. Boonen and Vandenbroucke come down the finishing straight with arms raised too - it's the team's win. Boonen might have crossed a little in front of VDB.

Results

Unofficial
1 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Quick Step-Davitamon     4.55.31
2 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal                0.16
3 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Davitamon
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Davitamon           1.30
5 Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) Quick Step-Davitamon      
6 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Fassas Bortolo            2.39
7 Peter Farazijn (Bel) Cofidis
8 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Sidermec                3.36
9 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Sidermec
10 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo

 

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