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88th Ronde van Vlaanderen - CDM
Belgium, April 4, 2004
Mooi win for Wesemann
By Chris Henry in Meerbeke
Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) is a quiet rider, one who has shown flashes of great potential between periods of more modest results, but today he put his name among the greats by winning the Tour of Flanders. Wesemann claimed victory from a three man escape which formed on the penultimate climb of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, beating Leif Hoste (Lotto-Domo) and Dave Bruylandts (Chocolade Jacques) to the line in Meerbeke. Wesemann bounced back after a fall early in the race, played his cards right, and had the strength to follow through with the winning move.
"On the Muur I was watching Museeuw and Van Petegem, but when neither attacked I realized I had to make my own move," Wesemann said after his victory. "After the top [of the Muur] it was just a question of keeping going until the finish."
Indeed, with all eyes on defending champion Peter Van Petegem, three-time Flanders winner Johan Museeuw (in his last appearance at de Ronde), and other leaders such as Paolo Bettini and Michael Boogerd, Wesemann not only took an opportunistic win, but showed himself to be the strongest rider in the race.
"When we were riding to the finish with three, I asked my sport director Mario Kummer who Bruylandts and Hoste were. Mario assured me that I could beat them in the sprint. I stayed calm and finished it off."
Second placed Leif Hoste (Lotto-Domo) had an incredible race, making the early break and surviving the next 230 km until the finish. "If you had told me before the start that I would be second in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, I would have laughed it off," he told Belgian TV. "I received instruction from the team to go in an early break. First of all I managed that. But apparently there was more to come. Finally we went with three at the front of the race."
In third position was the consistently strong Dave Bruylandts (Jacques), who couldn't shake his breakaway companions with an attack in the final kilometre. "I'm a bit disappointed, but I knew it would be difficult against Wesemann in the sprint, so I had to do something," he said. "I tried to ride away, and if Hoste hadn't reacted, then I would have won the Ronde van Vlaanderen. You always have to let the fastest sprinter react to an attack and that was Wesemann. I'm angry at the rider Hoste but not at him as a person."
Hoste's response was, "I ride for myself. I don't ride for the national team, right? I didn't have to ride at the front. I had spent all day in front and I had Van Petegem and Van Bon behind me. They were the top men and me the helper."
In his Flanders swan song, Museeuw kept himself in the company of the pre-race favourites for the majority of the race, and said afterwards that he did everything he could and was satisfied with his effort. His Quick.Step-Davitamon teammate Paolo Bettini, on the other hand, acknowledged his own mistake of marking only Van Petegem and allowing the winning move to go clear without him. Milan-San Remo winner Oscar Freire maintained his World Cup lead, but made a hasty exit after the finish, fearing a broken nose after he too crashed earlier in the race.
How it unfolded
With a stiff breeze blowing off the Belgian coast, the peloton set out for a tough slog to Oostende before turning inland toward the famed bergs of Flanders that define the prestigious classic. The requisite early break went clear, but in fact the first quarter of the race was marked by a number of groups trying to define themselves ahead of the nervous peloton. An early break of four eventually grew to 18, including, among others, Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner), Thomas Bruun (CSC), Jan Schaffrath (T-Mobile), Martin Elmiger (Phonak), Benoît Joachim and Antonio Cruz (USPS), Stefano Zanini (Quick.Step), Jörg Ludewig (Saeco), and Steven De Jongh (Rabobank).
Second placed Leif Hoste's performance began early on when he led an eight man chase group behind this first big move, eventually catching the leaders after 44 kilometres and forming an even larger leading group. Hoste would spend virtually the entire day in the front positions, showing great tenacity to pave the way for his leader Van Petegem, and ultimately take his own chance when his man wasn't up to the task.
The lead group, 26 riders strong, built an advantage of over four minutes before riders began to tail off the back of the break and the anxious leaders set their teams to the chase. As the race hit the first of the climbs, the leaders' advantage dropped below the four minute mark as a number of counter attacks upped the pace. Despite having men up front, Lotto-Domo and US Postal Service led the chase early on over the climbs of the Rekelberg and the Molenberg. A chase group went clear with Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet) in search of the large leading bunch, gaining time on the main peloton spreading the race out across the Flemish countryside.
As the front-runners hit the short, steep Wolvenberg climb (km 160), their advantage had grown once more, this time to over five minutes. The intermediate chase group, led by Belgian veteran Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), built its own gap to 2'15 over the main bunch. Dierckxsens had plenty of talent in his group, including Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) and Nico Mattan (Relax-Bodysol), both of whom showed good form at the Three Days of De Panne.
After the climbs of the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, and Koppenberg, the head of the race had split into three groups, as riders like Hoste, Lotto teammate Thierry Marichal, and Stefano Zanini (Quick.Step) forced the pace and caused more damage on the tough cobbled ascents. The peloton by this point was closing in, however, within 2'30 of the leaders and chasing hard. By the top of the Taaienberg, the pressure from Dierckxsens helped spit more riders out from the chase group and a new set of ten going clear. Bruylandts opened his own gap in the main field along with Museeuw, showing himself early relatively early but clearly with strength left in his legs.
American George Hincapie, winner Wednesday in De Panne, tried to spark a winning move on the Leberg. Frustrated, he found nobody to help him, particularly as Van Petegem's Lotto team had two men further up the road. Bruylandts was the next to give it a go, taking Serguei Ivanov with him while Michael Boogerd leapt across to catch the tail end of the move. They were soon caught by the group of favourites, but the attack signaled the coming of the crucial point in the race, with the often decisive climbs of the Tenbosse, the Muur, and the Bosberg still to come.
Van Petegem tried to go clear on the paved rise of the Tenbosse, but Bettini wouldn't let him go. By this point eight men were still away up front, but their advantage was dwindling quickly as the more than 200 kilometres covered seemed to do nothing to blunt the speed of the peloton. The leaders were caught just before Geraardsbergen and the showdown was on on the Muur with a big group of heavy-hitters still together.
It was at this point that the expected attacks from Van Petegem, Vandenbroucke, and Museeuw didn't materialize, leaving Wesemann and Bruylandts to spark the winning escape with Hoste in tow. Hoste, who had been away in some fashion all day long, avoided taking any pulls as the trio sped toward Meerbeke. The other two let him sit on, preferring to take their own chances rather than get caught up in a premature tactical battle. Hoste did close the gap when Bruylandts put in a last kilometre attack, but it only served to set up the powerful Wesemann to take the sprint and claim his first ever World Cup victory.
Images by Chris Henry/Cyclingnews
Images by Luc Claessen/Cyclingnews/www.actiefotos.be
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
1 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team 6.39.00 (38.65 km/h) 2 Leif Hoste (Bel) Lotto-Domo 3 Dave Bruylandts (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf 4 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Lotto-Domo 0.28 5 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 6 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile Team 7 Rolf Aldag (Ger) T-Mobile Team 1.09 8 Frank Høj (Den) Team CSC 1.16 9 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 10 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 11 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Lotto-Domo 12 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 1.17 13 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 1.30 14 Jörg Ludewig (Ger) Saeco 1.38 15 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 16 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo 17 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile Team 18 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Relax-Bodysol 19 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 20 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 21 Stijn Devolder (Bel) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 22 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) AG2r Prévoyance 2.10 23 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 24 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner 25 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 26 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 27 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 28 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco 29 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 30 Roger Hammond (GBr) MrBookmaker.com-Palmans 31 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Lampre 32 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 33 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) Phonak Hearing Systems 34 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 35 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 36 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Domo 37 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak Hearing Systems 38 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 39 Nico Mattan (Bel) Relax-Bodysol 40 Tristan Hoffman (Ned) Team CSC 41 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo 42 Chris Peers (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf 43 Stephan Schreck (Ger) T-Mobile Team 44 Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) Fassa Bortolo 45 Jan Schaffrath (Ger) T-Mobile Team 46 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank 47 Daniele Nardello (Ita) T-Mobile Team 48 Michel Van Haecke (Bel) MrBookmaker.com-Palmans 49 Stefano Zanini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 2.22 50 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 2.34 51 Servais Knaven (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon 4.56 52 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf 53 Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Saeco 5.07 54 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 55 Fabio Sacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 56 Bert Hiemstra (Ned) Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf 57 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Team CSC 58 Benoît Joachim (Lux) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 59 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems 7.38 60 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 61 Massimiliano Mori (Ita) Domina Vacanze 62 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC 63 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim 64 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Lampre 65 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Rabobank 66 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi 67 Erwin Thijs (Bel) MrBookmaker.com-Palmans 68 Bert Roesems (Bel) Relax-Bodysol 69 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) FDJeux.com 70 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim 71 Johan Coenen (Bel) MrBookmaker.com-Palmans 72 Mario Aerts (Bel) T-Mobile Team 73 Alexandre Bazhenov (Rus) Domina Vacanze 74 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 75 Christophe Mengin (Fra) FDJeux.com 76 Scott Sunderland (Aus) Alessio-Bianchi 77 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita) Saeco 78 Jo Planckaert (Bel) MrBookmaker.com-Palmans 79 Peter Wuyts (Bel) MrBookmaker.com-Palmans 80 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 81 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 82 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre 83 Oscar Camenzind (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 84 Maximilian Sciandri (GBr) Team CSC 85 Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 86 Bart Voskamp (Ned) Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf 87 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo 88 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto-Domo 89 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank 90 Geert Van Bondt (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 91 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 92 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Relax-Bodysol 93 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 8.36 94 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Domina Vacanze 9.49 95 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone 96 Andy Flickinger (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 11.20 97 Mikel Artexte Gezuraga 98 Geert Omloop (Bel) MrBookmaker.com-Palmans 99 Jan Van Velzen (Ned) Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf 100 Roy Sentjens (Ned) Rabobank 101 Josu Sillinoiz Aresti 102 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 12.38 103 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) FDJeux.com 104 Cédric Hervé (Fra) Crédit Agricole 13.51 105 David Clinger (USA) Domina Vacanze 15.24 106 Jimmi Madsen (Den) Team CSC 17.53 107 Andris Nauduzs (Lat) Domina Vacanze 108 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 109 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) AG2r Prévoyance 110 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 111 Stefano Casagranda (Ita) Saeco 112 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Saeco 113 Martin Hvastija (Slo) Alessio-Bianchi 114 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Lampre 115 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Lampre 116 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Crédit Agricole 117 Johan Verstrepen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 118 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 119 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Lotto-Domo 120 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Relax-Bodysol 121 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 122 Thomas Bruun Eriksen (Den) Team CSC 123 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 124 Erki Pütsep (Est) AG2r Prévoyance 125 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Gerolsteiner
1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 103 pts 2 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team 100 3 Leif Hoste (Bel) Lotto-Domo 70 4 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team 70 5 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 51 6 Dave Bruylandts (Bel) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf 50 7 Stuart O'grady (Aus) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 50 8 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 44 9 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Lotto-Domo 40 10 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 40 11 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile Team 37 12 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floo 36 13 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 32 14 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 29 15 Rolf Aldag (Ger) T-Mobile Team 28 16 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Lampre 28 17 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Domo 26 18 Frank Hoj (Den) Team CSC 24 19 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 20 20 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Lotto-Domo 15 21 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 14 22 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco 14 23 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 13 24 Jörg Ludewig (Ger) Saeco 12 25 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) FDJeux.com 12 26 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 11 27 Josu Silloniz Aresti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 11 28 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 10 29 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile Team 9 30 Guido Trentin (Ita) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 9 31 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Relax-Bodysol 8 32 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 8 33 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 7 34 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 7 35 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 6 36 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 6 37 Stijn Devolder (Bel) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 5 38 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance 4 39 Michele Gobbi (Ita) De Nardi 4 40 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 3 41 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner 2 42 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 2 43 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 1 44 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 1 Teams 1 T-Mobile Team 20 pts 2 Fassa Bortolo 15 3 Rabobank 13 4 Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 12 5 US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 11 6 Lotto-Domo 9 7 Quick.Step-Davitamon 7 8 Euskaltel-Euskadi 7 9 Saeco 4 10 Gerolsteiner 4 11 Phonak Hearing Systems 4 12 Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf 3 13 Alessio-Bianchi 3 14 Team CSC 1 15 Brioches La Boulangere 1