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58th Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne - 1.1
Belgium, February 27, 2005
By George, he's done it!
By Jeff Jones
George Hincapie has completed a solid weekend for the powerful Discovery Channel classics team by winning the 58th edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne in a two man sprint with Kevin Van Impe (Chocolade Jacques). In a typically hectic finale, the pair escaped with 6 km to go as the rest of the front group exploded. Bert Roesems salvaged Davitamon-Lotto's pride by taking third place, 14 seconds behind the winners after Davitamon-Lotto managed to get all its men into the front group.
"Today was like a World Cup," Hincapie said after crossing the line. "From the beginning there were attacks all day; it was really a race of attrition, everybody was completely dead. I was able to get in a good break and he (Van Impe) was super strong. I went with him and it was a good day.
"He was very strong. We went at a time when the group was not very organised: we caught the breakaway, everybody was going as hard as they could. I bridged up to one break and there were seven of us; I saw he went, and he before the tailwind section so I knew that was a good moment. I had to go super hard to get him and I'm glad I got him."
Hincapie added that he felt tired from yesterday's efforts in Het Volk, but paid tribute to his team and Stijn Devolder, who rode a very good race again. "Stijn was super strong today. I was actually kind of tired from yesterday; but I think a lot of guys were. Yesterday was another very hard race. I'm definitely going to take a day off tomorrow!"
Hincapie's last win in Flanders came in 2004, when he won the Driedaagse van De Panne. Before that, it was the 2001 edition of Gent-Wevelgem. "I trained really hard this winter. I stayed healthy and I felt strong. I wanted to get a win before the big races come, but in Belgium that's not easy. My last races that I've won have been in Belgium, so maybe I have good luck here."
Second placed Kevin Van Impe, who is the nephew of the great Belgian climber Lucien Van Impe, had no answer to Hincapie's jump from behind with 300m to go. "I'm not disappointed," said Van Impe. "But if you're there at the end, it's a missed chance. I felt good but there was one attack after another. Nico [Eeckhout] told me to try and so I did. Hincapie came with me and I felt he was really strong when he took over. "It's the first time that I've ridden such a finale. As a young rider, I have a lot to learn. I prefer to get second than tenth."
Third was Bert Roesems, who missed the move from Hincapie and Van Impe, and spent the last five kilometres dangling agonisingly close behind them. But Roesems' time trialing skills were no match for the two leaders, and he had to settle for third. "I gave everything that I had," said Roesems. "But the leaders worked well with each other. In the chaotic finale it was racing on instinct. So I thought that everyone was back, but it appeared to be only ten men."
How it unfolded
The 58th edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne got under way at noon in bright sunshine, with a 40-50 km/h northeasterly blowing into the riders faces for the first 60 km. Attacks were frequent on the outward journey, causing the peloton to split in half, but it wasn't until the front bunch reached Ninove and began the run for home that a breakaway succeeded. 10 riders, including 2003 winner Roy Sentjens (Rabobank), his teammate Joost Posthuma, Sebastian Rosseler (QuickStep), Preben Van Hecke (Davitamon-Lotto), Leif Hoste (Discovery), Johan Coenen (MrBookmaker), Nico Eeckhout (Jacques), Thomas Lövkvist (Francaise des Jeux), Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) and Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole) got clear and established a four minute lead with just under 100 km to go.
As the riders reached the second climb at La Houppe, it began to snow and there were some very miserable looking faces in the peloton. Although Bettini and Nuyens had already abandoned, Quick.Step took the race in hand as Rosseler wasn't feeling too good in front, so Kevin De Weert, Kevin Hulsmans and Bram Tankink started riding a hard tempo. The snow eased up on the Kanarieberg where Discovery's Stijn Devolder and George Hincapie were also looking very strong.
The peloton started to blow apart on the Kruisberg with 80 km to go as an offensive led by Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Serge Baguet (Davitamon-Lotto) and Bert Scheirlinckx (Flanders) gradually drew riders out of the group. This, some 30-40 riders came to the foot of the Oude Kwaremont, 3'20 behind the breakaway. In front, it was Vasseur who flew up the climb looking very strong, only to be caught later. However, Rosseler, Lövkvist and Lemoine were cooked and although they regained the leaders, they were ultimately dropped.
As expected, the peloton fragmented on the Kwaremont when Devolder stomped his way up the climb. Boonen, Hulsmans, De Weert and Tankink (Quick.Step), Steegmans, Roesems, Van Petegem, Mattan and Baguet (Davitamon-Lotto), Hincapie and Roulston (Discovery), Kroon (Rabobank) and Klier (T-Mobile) followed in a chase group, catching Devolder over the top. Another nine man group with Vierhouten, Vogels (Davitamon), Van Impe (Jacques), Joachim (Discovery) and Renshaw (FDJ) was chasing them hard, eventually getting on, and that was essentially it.
Back down towards Ronse and then up the Cote de Trieu, the lead group lost Rosseler, Lövkvist and Lemoine for good, leaving Sentjens, Posthuma, Van Hecke, Hoste, Coenen, Eeckhout and Vasseur to try and hold their 2'30 advantage over the next group. From group three, Van Impe and Vierhouten managed to bridge the gap to the second chase group over the top of the Trieu, and now Davitamon-Lotto had nearly all its men in front. But with Van Hecke still up the road, Quick.Step was forced to do most of the chasing. Also because neither Lotto nor Discovery had a sprinter to match Boonen.
The wind was now in the riders faces as they raced back towards Kuurne and the Quick.Step train slowly pulled back the breakaways to within a minute at 50 km to go. But then things stabilised as Quick.Step either eased up or ran out of gas, and the leaders hung out in front. Rosseler and Tankink expended themselves at 25 km to go, leaving just De Weert and Hulsmans to do the work for Boonen with 45 seconds to the leaders.
Hulsmans took over and brought the gap down to 35 seconds, then De Weert knocked another 10 seconds off and as the leaders came past the line in Kuurne with two laps to go, they had just 23 seconds. That was the signal for attacks to begin among the lead group, and each rider took it in turns to go, with Sentjens, Posthuma, Eeckhout, Coenen and Vasseur dropping the others with 17 km to go. But there was some serious action from behind when Steegmans attacked together with Boonen and Devolder, bridging the gap to the front riders with ease and forming an interesting looking group.
Devolder did his utmost to weaken Boonen, attacking repeatedly while the others watched. It worked, and the Lotto-led bunch clawed its way back to the group with nine kilometres to go. There was no way that anyone wanted a bunch sprint with Boonen there, so the attacks continued non-stop until Kevin Van Impe (Chocolade Jacques) and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) went in the tailwind with 6 km to go. The only Lotto rider to react was Roesems, but he wasn't quick enough and the two were away.
Working strongly and smoothly together over the final kilometres, Hincapie and Van Impe kept the pressure on all the way until the last 500m. As Van Impe led down the finishing straight, Hincapie jumped with 300m to go to power past the young Belgian and take a big win.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Christine Grein/www.capture-the-peloton.com
1 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 4.42.00 (40.426 km/h) 2 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 0.01 3 Bert Roesems (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 0.14 4 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 0.28 5 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Davitamon - Lotto 6 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Rabobank 7 Hayden Roulston (NZl) Discovery Channel 0.30 8 Serge Baguet (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 0.39 9 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Crédit Agricole 0.44 10 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile 0.45 11 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quickstep 12 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 13 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.17 14 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech 1.31 15 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Française des Jeux 16 Johan Coenen (Bel) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech 17 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Discovery Channel 18 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 19 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank 20 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 21 Bart Voskamp (Ned) Skil Moser 22 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep 23 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Flanders 24 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 25 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon - Lotto 26 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 27 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel 28 Cycril Lemoine (Fra) Crédit Agricole 29 Andy De Smet (Bel) Skil Moser 30 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep 31 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 32 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel Starters: 190 Classified: 32