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90th Ronde van Vlaanderen - PT
Belgium, April 2, 2006
Tommeke is King of Flanders, again
Boonen beats Hoste in two-up; Hincapie third
By Jeff Jones and Brecht Decaluwé in Ninove
With Belgium's King Albert II watching the finish of the 90th Ronde Van Vlaanderen from the tribune in Halsesteenweg, the undeniable king of Belgian cycling, Tom Boonen, powered across the line to beat Leif Hoste in a two man sprint to win the Ronde. Boonen, the outstanding favourite, didn't disappoint his legion of fans today, following Hoste's decisive attack on the Valkenberg with over 30 km to go, then riding another two man time trial to the finish. Hoste was unable to attack the impressive Quick.Step rider, and it was always going to be lopsided sprint.
"Hoste and myself were the strongest men in the race, but I had a better team," Boonen explained (four Quick.Steps made the front group of 18 after the Koppenberg). "We found each other in the finale. His attack showed how strong he was. I asked the team to put me in a good situation at the Muur van Geraardsbergen. So they rode what we call a high pace. In the end, I didn't have to wait on the Muur to get to the front front and take the win."
It's Quick.Step's second successive ProTour classic win after Milan-San Remo, and once again, Boonen and his team held all the cards. But Driedaagse van De Panne winner Leif Hoste did take the initiative and was not afraid of the world champ. "Today I was as strong as Boonen," commented the Discovery rider. "Without shame I can say that. My bad luck was that the wrong man joined me in the escape. In my situation, I couldn't permit myself to let them catch us. He was faster than me, that's how he could win."
"It's already some time that I've been saying that you should attack if you want to win. Men who wait are not right. OK, I didn't win but still...Of course, I thought about winning. That's logical when you're up front with two men and have an advantage of almost two minutes at the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Everybody will ask me why I didn't try to shake him off. I felt on the Muur and the Bosberg that it was impossible. Going into the sprint, I allowed myself to get into a good position. So, during the last two kilometres, I didn't do any work. We were almost standing still, but what can I do?"
Third place went to another Discovery rider, George Hincapie, who easily won a four man sprint, 1'17 behind the two leaders. Hincapie was frustrated after he crossed the line. "I'm a bit disappointed because we didn't win. Hoste played his card and that's alright. Sadly, my legs felt better than ever but I couldn't show it. In the pursuit, Bettini covered every move the others made. After 260 kilometres, everything is possible. If you look to my sprint, you'll see that I'm a few bike lengths ahead of the others."
With his win in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and fourth place in Milan-San Remo, Tom Boonen is now the new ProTour leader. He will wear a special rainbow striped ProTour jersey in next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, where he is again the top favourite.
How it unfolded
It was raining lightly at the start in Brugge's Grote Markt, but it didn't stop a massive crowd turning out with their umbrellas to see the riders sign on. They had to wait a while, because none of the riders were in a hurry to get wet. The 199 starters left the square a little late, as a result, and began the long battle against the elements and the parcours that is the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
The first two hours were nervous, as the riders fought to stay out of the wind and avoid crashes. As expected, there were a few casualties along the way, with Nico Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) being one of the first to crash, then puncturing later on, and Michael Barry (Discovery) crashing and abandoning. After 41 km were covered in the first hour, Skil-Shimano's Tomoya Kano and Christoph Meschenmoser abandoned, starting the long list of "did not finishers", while Frank Vandenbroucke (Unibet.com) was put in difficulty by the wind.
The rain stopped before midday, as was forecast, and the sudden sunshine started to dry the roads. There was a lot of pre-race concern about the Koppenberg, and whether it would be passable today. But after a lot of the mud was cleaned off overnight, it became a matter of how wet it would be. It was expected to be a key point in the race.
Surprisingly, it took until km 93 for the first breakaway of the day to form. Six riders: Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Ludovic Auger (FdJeux), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), David Boucher (Unibet) and Rik Reinerink (Skil) managed to get a gap after Kortrijk, and after a short chase by the peloton, they were allowed to go. After 125 km, they had 4'40, but didn't get much more than this. In the meantime, a big crash took down 15 riders, with Wim de Vocht (Davitamon-Lotto) being taken to hospital. The speed had picked up, thanks to the tailwind, and the average was 43 km/h after three hours.
En route to the first climb, the Molenberg, and Peter Van Petegem punctured twice. But he was able to return to the front before the climb, where Tom Boonen led the way through another mass of fans. Up front, Boucher and Reinerink dropped out of the lead group, leaving four in front on the cobbles at Mater-Kerkgate (km 150) with a sub four-minute gap. Discovery and Gerolsteiner were working in the peloton.
The bunch eased up a little through Oudenaarde, allowing the four leaders to reach 4'45 again, before the inevitable upping of tempo started. The road to Kluisbergen is wide, but the racing is always nervous with the Kwaremont looming. Roger Hammond (Discovery) crashed and injured his knee, and he was out of the race.
In front, Schmitz and Marichal dropped Auger and Albasini on the Kwaremont as they struggled to maintain their lead. Paolo Bettini started the selection happening in the bunch, stringing the peloton out over the 2.2 km cobbled berg. The pace continued on the Paterberg, with Quick.Step in particular keeping the speed high. Then it was full gas with the tailwind to the Koppenberg (km 185), the hardest climb of the race.
Boonen was piloted to the foot of the climb in front, and he flew up it, gapping everyone and passing the suffering Auger like he was standing still near the top. Behind, Bettini (Quick.Step), Klier (T-Mobile), Van Petegem (Davitamon), Cancellara (CSC), Hincapie (Discovery) and Petito (Tenax) chased and closed the gap, with Ballan (Lampre-Fondital), Hoste (Discovery), Kroon (CSC), Ventoso (Saunier Duval) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) the next group to make contact. The next group all walked up: Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Zabel (Milram) and Quick.Step's Pozzato and Baguet, who were chasing at 30 seconds over the top. As feared, most of the peloton ended up running up the Koppenberg, losing crucial time.
The two remaining leaders, Schmitz and Albasini, were caught after 195 km, with the chase groups coming together to form an 18 man lead group: Boonen, Bettini, Baguet, Pozzato (Quick.Step), Van Petegem (Davitamon), Klier, Schmitz (T-Mobile), Cancellara, Kroon (CSC), Hincapie, Hoste (Discovery), Petito (Tenax), Ballan (Lampre), Flecha (Rabobank), Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Zabel (Milram), Ventoso (Saunier Duval) and Marichal (Cofidis). Sergei Ivanov (T-Mobile) was chasing alone, after being one of those unlucky enough to have had to walk up the Koppenberg. He got some help from the dropped Schmitz on the Boigneberg (km 201), but couldn't quite close the gap to the lead group, and let them go, frustratingly.
With Pozzato and Baguet now riding tempo for Boonen, the group began to thin down further. Ventoso and Marichal were dropped by Foreest, and Baguet eventually finished his work on the Leberg (km 216). There were five more climbs, and Quick.Step had the upper hand, giving the others a free ride for a while as they protected Boonen.
The final key moment of the race came on the Valkenberg (km 226), when Hoste put in a serious attack and was marked by a vigilant Boonen. Karsten Kroon tried bravely to close the gap, but had to give up when he was just off the wheels of the lead pair. "I got as close as ten metres, but then Boonen took over from Hoste," Kroon told Cyclingnews. "I wanted to react earlier, but I was trapped between other riders. I was just too late; otherwise I would at least have a podium place in a race that was extremely hard."
Then on the descent back into Brakel, Bettini played a perfect spoiler role in the chase group to allow Boonen and Hoste more time, and they did not hang around, riding at 75 km/h on the way to the Tenbossestraat, gaining 40 seconds.
It became apparent that none of the chasers had the strength to catch the two leaders, and it was going to be a battle for third place. The chase group whittled down to Bettini (Quick.Step), Van Petegem (Davitamon), Klier (T-Mobile), Cancellara, Kroon (CSC), Hincapie (Discovery) and Ballan (Lampre) as Boonen and Hoste sped towards the Muur van Geraardsbergen with the wind blowing them further away.
Both leading riders were strong today, and neither tried to take an advantage on the Muur, or the Bosberg that followed. Boonen did more of the work on the climbs, while Hoste pedaled a lower gear and looked comfortable. Hoste was on a good day, but he needed to be on a brilliant one to get away from the world champion. He wasn't.
The gap grew to 1'40 as the chasers were powerless now. On the run into Ninove, Hincapie, Van Petegem, Ballan and Cancellara were able to get away to contest the third place, but all eyes were now on the pair in front. The kilometres ticked down rapidly as they continued their 55-60 km/h pace towards the finish.
Only when Boonen approached the 1 km to go banned in the lead, did he slow down and try to get Hoste to come through. He said to Hoste that he would not lead out the sprint from the front, and would stop if necessary. But the Discovery rider smartly stayed behind, waiting until they turned the corner with 450m to go before thinking about his move. Unfortunately, Hoste's surprise jump was not enough to put the world champ in difficulty, and Boonen wasted little time in reacting and coming past Hoste with 200m to go to take an expected, but still another impressive victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. George Hincapie put another Discovery rider on the podium by winning the sprint for third from Van Petegem, and Ballan and Cance rounded out the top six.
So ended another edition of Vlaanderen's mooiste: more difficult than in recent years, where the weather hasn't played as much of a factor, but with the same result.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Luc Claessen/www.ctm-images.com
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by Peter Bentley
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 6.24.26 (40.423 km/h) 2 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 1.17 4 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 5 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 7 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 1.50 8 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 9 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile Team 10 Roberto Petito (Ita) Team Tenax Salmilano 11 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 3.29 12 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank 13 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 4.21 14 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 15 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française Des Jeux 8.03 16 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner 17 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 18 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 19 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 20 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 21 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.Com 22 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 23 Bert Roesems (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 24 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 25 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile Team 26 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 27 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa) Rabobank 8.45 28 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux 29 Markus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 30 Matthew Wilson (Aus) Unibet.Com 31 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 32 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas 33 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 34 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 35 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 36 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 37 Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 38 Constantin Zaballa Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears 39 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears 40 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 41 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Team Tenax Salmilano 12.27 42 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 43 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile Team 44 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole 45 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Unibet.Com 46 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Skil-Shimano 47 Marco Velo (Ita) Team Milram 48 Niko Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 49 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Team Tenax Salmilano 50 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 51 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Phonak Hearing Systems 52 José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears 53 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 54 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Credit Agricole 55 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 56 Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 57 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 58 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 59 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 60 Serge Baguet (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 61 Frank Hoj (Den) Gerolsteiner 62 Sven Renders (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 15.54 63 De Kort (Ned) Koen Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 64 Angel Castresana Del Val (Spa) Unibet.Com 16.21 65 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole 66 Luke Roberts (Aus) Team CSC 67 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 68 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Skil-Shimano 69 Ludovic Auger (Fra) Française Des Jeux 70 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Team Milram 71 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 72 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 73 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 74 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 75 Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Team Tenax Salmilano 76 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 77 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 78 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank 79 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Credit Agricole 80 Koen Barbe (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 18.58 81 Marco Milesi (Ita) Liquigas 82 Erki Pütsep (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance 19.16 83 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 84 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 85 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 86 Ruslan Pidgornyy (Ukr) Team Tenax Salmilano 87 Enrico Poitschke (Ger) Team Milram 88 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Team Milram 89 Franck Renier (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 90 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 91 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Française Des Jeux 92 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Team Milram 93 Renaud Dion (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 94 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 95 Joseba Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 96 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 97 Johan Coenen (Bel) Unibet.Com 98 John Gadret (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 99 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française Des Jeux 100 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 101 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 102 Stefano Zanini (Ita) Liquigas Starters: 199 Classified: 102
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 89 pts 2 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 70 3 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 52 4 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 51 5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 50 6 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram 47 7 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 45 8 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital 43 9 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 42 10 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 40 11 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas 35 12 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears 35 13 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 31 14 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 30 15 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 30 16 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 26 17 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 25 18 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 25 19 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 24 20 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 23 21 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 23 22 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 21 23 José Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 20 24 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 15 25 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas 15 26 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 15 27 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 15 28 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 10 29 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 6 30 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5 31 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 5 32 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 5 33 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 5 34 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 4 35 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 4 36 Markus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 3 37 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears 3 38 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 3 39 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 2 40 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 2 41 Christopher Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 2 42 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 2 43 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 2 44 Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 2 45 Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 2 46 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre-Fondital 2 47 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1 48 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 1 49 Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 1 50 Bradley Mcgee (Aus) Française Des Jeux 1 51 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française Des Jeux 1 52 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 1 Teams 1 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 71 pts 2 Gerolsteiner 59 3 Team CSC 55 4 Phonak Hearing Systems 55 5 Lampre-Fondital 51 6 Rabobank 51 7 Quick Step-Innergetic 49 8 Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 41 9 Davitamon-Lotto 41 10 Credit Agricole 39 11 T-Mobile Team 35 12 Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears 34 13 Team Milram 31 14 Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 31 15 Française Des Jeux 30 16 Euskaltel-Euskadi 28 17 Saunier Duval-Prodir 23 18 Liquigas 19 19 Bouygues Telecom 18 20 Ag2R Prevoyance 12 Nations 1 Italy 232 pts 2 Belgium 161 3 Spain 138 4 Netherlands 108 5 United States Of America 104 6 Germany 50 7 Switzerland 31 8 Luxembourg 25 9 Portugal 20 10 Australia 9 11 Kazakhstan 5 12 France 4 13 Norway 4 14 Russian Federation 2