90th Ronde van Vlaanderen - PT
Belgium, April 2, 2006
Start List Results
Commentary by Hedwig Kröner, with additional reporting from Jeff Jones
and Brecht Decaluwé
Live coverage starts: 09:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 16:30 CEST
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
Welcome back to Cyclingnews'
Live coverage of the World's finest bicycle races! Today, we will live through
the Flandrian's favourite, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen - loved for its raw
beauty, this Spring Classic takes place in a country where cycling culture is
a way of life, including such nasty things as heavy winds, rain, cool temperatures,
cobblestones and sudden 15 percent climbs out in the middle of Flemish nowhere.
But this is the place where a cycling fan's heart starts thumping, so naturally
there are many wild supporters out on the 258 km-course today, making up the
typical flair of Belgian partying, including many of the country's hundreds
of beer types and waterzooi. The start on the market square in Brugge
is packed, too, but at the moment it's raining so people have their umbrellas
open. Temperatures are about 10° Celsius, with light wind...
nothing can stop a true Flandrian, as our Chief Online Editor Jeff Jones demonstrated
yesterday: He bravely fought his way through the 258 kms of madness in the 'Tourist'
version of the race. All thumbs up and hats off!
News from the route: The Koppenberg,
the steepest of the 17 climbs today with a maximum gradient of 22 percent, has
been cleaned. Of course, that only makes it possible for the riders to ascend
it, not for the team or service cars...
The weather has been continuously
bad these last few days in Northern Belgium, with the humidity making the pavé
sections soaking wet and slippery, making it impossible to get out of the saddle
on the "walls". Some may walk!
The peloton getting away
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
The start has been given 10 minutes
later as planned, and the bunch is currently riding through the streets of old
Brugge, a beautiful town with plenty of history, canals, bridges and that typical
Belgian architecture made of red bricks.
It's still raining lightly,
and those thick grey clouds don't look as though they're ready to move on.
There are 199 riders taking up the
challenge today, as Team Liberty decided not to replace Carlos Barredo and line
up with seven riders instead of eight.
Teams Crédit Agricole, Chocolade
Jacques, T-Mobile and Davitamon-Lotto were invited to anti-doping controls this
morning, but all riders were declared fit to start.
The official start has been given
- the Ronde begins! "Vlaanderen's mooiste" has a long and heroic history, which
makes up all its charm. Les Woodland's Ronde review takes a look at the essence of
10:24 CEST 7km/249km to go
All is calm in the
peloton, no early breakaway as yet. That's understandable, bearing in mind that
the first climbs only start at km 145 with the Molenberg.
the tempo is rather high, with a first crash to the back of the bunch, including
Nico Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) amongst others. No problems to get back up
on the bike though.
10:37 CEST 12km/244km to go
Did you know that
the frenzy new World Champion Tom Boonen created in Belgium led to a 30 percent
increase in the number of the "Royal Belgian Bicycle Ligue" licencees? The 25
year-old is a true role model for many young people, who have consequently taken
10:46 CEST 20km/236km to go
The riders are currently
in Oostende, one of the main North Sea holiday towns with large sandy beaches
and dunes. Wind the coastal breeze, the clouds break up a little and there is
even some sunshine! Let's hope it stays that way, but once we return back South
we could get more rain showers.
According to the organisers, some
15.000 bike tourists rode the leisure Ronde yesterday. While most of them chose
to complete a 140 km-parcours, some 2.000 wanted to get the full picture. Our
fearless man of the cobbles, Jeff Jones, also rode the 'real' Ronde yesterday and survived to tell
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
11:06 CEST 34km/222km to go
The race has been
picking up some speed. Nico Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) has had more bad luck:
a puncture. And while a handful of riders try to break away in front, the bunch
is moving back on them - the gap is too small at the moment to be calling it
Bart Dockx (Davitamon), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Liberty),
Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile) and David Boucher (Unibet) initiated the move, then
Enrico Franzoi (Lampre) and Marco Righetto (Liquigas) bridged up to them. But
they're gooone now.
The bunch is driven by Team Milram,
working for Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi. While the Italian doesn't have
a lot to hope for in this kind of race, Zabel has the experience of placing
In the first hour of the race, 41.2 kms were covered. Paul
Martens (Skil) came to a fall, but could continue the race a few minutes ago.
Charles Dionne (Saunier) punctured and was quickly attended to.
11:23 CEST 47km/209km to go
Torhout is the next
town the race drives through now: once a year in summer, Belgium's biggest Rock
festival is staged here, attended by thousands of young camping- and music-lovers.
Muddy feet guaranteed!
The first abandons are signalled
on race radio. Japanese rider Tomoya Kano and his German teammate Christoph
Meschenmoser (Skil-Shimano) have had enough...
11:33 CEST 58km/198km to go
It's clearing up
a little, but this morning at the start the weather was still pretty wet. Exactly
to the taste of Peter van Petegem (Davitamon), who told Cyclingnews "I
prefer the sun. But this is real RVV weather." Asked if it suited him, the 2003
RVV winner plainly said, "I think so."
What are the team's plans,
we then asked. "We have plans. With these conditions, we'll have to see. There
will be a lot of punctures and crashes and... the Koppenberg. There is only
one plan: the strongest wins," he replied. So he'll survive and see what happens
on the Muur? "I think that's the simplest," was 'De Peet's enigmatic response.
11:44 CEST 64km/192km to go
In the meantime,
we have the pleasure of announcing that there is now lots of blue sky all over
Flanders, so that the race will probably not be as damp as everybody feared!
Christophe Mengin (Française des Jeux) gets a new bike after experiencing mechanical
problems, but the field is still together.
Apart from getting wet, Cyclingnews'
Jeff Jones and Brecht Decaluwé also snapped a few photos at the start in Brugge.
here for a photo gallery from the start.
11:52 CEST 68km/188km to go
Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step),
Enrico Franzoi (Lampre) and Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) have attacked. There is
a small gap. Aaron Kemps (Liberty) and Alberto Curtolo (Liquigas) bridge up
to them but also drag the bunch onto the leaders again - the pack is together,
except for a few riders who are having trouble following in the back. Amongst
them, Frank Vandenbroucke (Unibet).
Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
Many people think that Quick.Step
is the team today, as it not only has the World Champion and RVV title
defendant Tom Boonen in its ranks, but also Paolo Bettini, Filippo Pozzato and
Nick Nuyens, all in good enough shape to be serious victory contenders.
Asked how he handled the pressure, Nuyens told Cyclingnews this morning:
"I like that, but we have a lot of good other riders. We have Paolo Bettini
and Filippo Pozzato as well as Tom. I like this race so if I'm there in the
finale, anything is possible. We can play the game like other times..."
As the bunch moves towards Kortrijk,
some will be thinking about their second breakfast coming up right after town:
at km 91 in Harelbeke, the team assistants have already spotted the best places
in the feed zone to hand out their musettes.
Aaron Olsen (Saunier
Duval) has abandoned.
12:09 CEST 85km/171km to go
Andy Cappelle (Landbouwkrediet)
attacks in the streets of Kortrijk, where many spectators have gathered. But
it's a no-go for him, too: the bunch takes him back.
12:21 CEST 95km/161km to go
A new attack just
after the feed zone: Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Ludovic Auger (FdJeux) and
Michael Albasini (Liquigas) try their luck. Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), David Boucher
(Unibet) and Rik Reinerink (Skil) are after them.
Javier Mejias and Carlos Zarate (both Saunier Duval) have abandoned.
12:27 CEST 102km/154km to go
We have a lead group:
Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Ludovic Auger (FdJeux), Michael Albasini (Liquigas),
Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), David Boucher (Unibet) and Rik Reinerink (Skil) are
about 10 seconds in front of a chasing peloton. Fighting hard...
12:36 CEST 107km/149km to go
The leaders have
increased their gap consistently, it is now 50 seconds. Seems like these six
are allowed to go...
But the bunch is still nervous, and Gerolsteiner's
Heinrich Haussler is the next to crash. Bad news for Michael Barry, too: he
crashed heavily earlier in the race. The Discovery Channel rider has been taken
to the hospital.
In the back, Unai Uribarri (Euskaltel), Nicholas
Roche (Cofidis), Christian Murro (Tenax) and Frank Vandenbroucke (Unibet) are
among those who have already lost contact. The race has now moved into East
Flanders, and there are still 40 kms to cover before the fist cobbled climb,
12:46 CEST 115km/141km to go
The six leaders
are doing really well. The gap to the peloton is already 2.15 now, and they're
moving closer and closer to the first cobbles.
There's been a bigger
crash in the bunch - about 15 riders went down.
12:53 CEST 119km/137km to go
Amongst the unlucky
are: Frederik Willems (Chocolade Jacques), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis), Andy Cappelle,
Johan Verstrepen (both Landbouwkrediet), Tomas Vaitkus (AG2R), Alexei Markov
(Caisse d'Epargne), Daniele Righi (Lampre) and Joost Posthuma (Rabobank).
Koos Moerenhout (Phonak) punctures on the Doorn cobbles section. Wim De Vocht
(Davitamon-Lotto) also crashes; he needs to be taken to hospital.
Hopefully, there won't be any more
crashes... at least it's dry now.
We had a chance to talk to World
champion and big favourite Tom Boonen this morning, who said, "I'm
fine. Since the race in De Panne-Koksijde finished, I enjoyed three
calm days. I was more nervous the last few weeks not knowing if
would turn out fine."
His teammate Paolo Bettini will be a dutiful
helper. "Our tallest guy, Boonen, is the leader today," Bettini told Cyclingnews.
"I'll be trying
to make it as difficult as possible for the others. This
way, Boonen will be
able to clinch it up in the finale."
The race has arrived in Oudenaarde.
A reminder: Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Ludovic Auger (FdJeux), Michael Albasini
(Liquigas), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), David Boucher (Unibet) and Rik Reinerink
(Skil) are off the front, having increased their gap to a couple of minutes.
The bunch is chasing, and a few riders have already abandoned, but all the favourites
are still there. As we approach the first climb of 17, the Molenberg, Peter
Van Petegem punctures, but is given a rear wheel from a teammate. Another Davitamon
rider then leads him back to the pack.
Van Petegem punctures again! That's
some bad luck for the 2003 RVV winner!
Niko Eeckhout, who also had some
technical problems earlier on, is hoping for a good placing. "There is a
lot of wind. That will make it tough, but I'm happy with that," he told Cyclingnews
at the start in Brugge this morning.
13:07 CEST 130km/126km to go
Renaud Dion (AG2R)
also went down in a curve, but he's back on his bike.
Liquigas is driving the bunch as the battle for good positions has begun. The
leaders are 3 minutes ahead.
Philippe Gilbert is up in the front
of the bunch, too. He has some ambitions today, as he told HLN that a
Belgian rider simply has to ride the RVV once. "And if you ever want to be known
in cycling history, you have to have RVV on your palmarès," he said. "The Omloop
Het Volk is already on mine, but that one has nothing to do with the RVV. The
hills are 400 kilometres from the the finish there," he joked.
13:12 CEST 133km/123km to go
Ludovic Auger (FdJeux)
and David Boucher (Unibet) both want the last position in the small six rider's
lead train as they arrive in a flat cobbles section, the Paddestraat. The weather
is stable, with the sun out sometimes, and only a few puddles on each side of
the narrow road show that it did rain this morning.
The riders choose
to take the edges of the road, racing hard.
13:16 CEST 136km/120km to go
The bunch is in
the Paddestraat now, too. A sunnier and FdJeux rider crash, but get back on
their bikes. Paolo Bettini has 20 metres in front of the main group, which has
the stretched-out peloton in its back.
The leaders lose some time,
the gap is now 2.45.
Back on smooth tarmac now, which
will make the bunch regroup.
At the start this morning, Erik Dekker
commented to Cyclingnews that he was happy that he didn't need to
race with Boonen for much longer as he will quit racing after this year: "It
only become worse, it is terrible. We all know that Boonen will win.
mission is to become second. The weather will make the race even harder
it is, but it will also be more dangerous. Hopefully I'll be spared
Five kilometres from the Molenberg,
the field is taking things easy on a wide, straight road. Preparing for the
first cobbled climb... It's 463 meters long, averaging 7 percent with a maximum
gradient of 14.2. Boonen is in the front, as positioning is now crucial.
13:31 CEST 145km/111km to go
Roger Hammond (Discovery
gets a front wheel change.
The front group hits the Molenberg - it's
absolutely packed with cycling fans!! Yellow "Lion of Flanders" flags are everywhere...
Boonen is the first to take on the
Molenberg from the bunch, with Van Petegem, Gilbert and T-Mobuile riders in
his wheel. He gets huge cheers!
The rest of the pack was delayed
in the first curve onto the Berg, but they're now all coming back, as there
some tarmac again on top of the climb.
Boucher and Reinerink couldn't hold
the pace in the lead group, so there are only four riders left in front now:
Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Ludovic Auger (FdJeux), Michael Albasini (Liquigas),
Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), still at about 3 minutes.
13:41 CEST 148km/108km to go
The lead group arrives
in the Kerkgate cobbled section, 3000 metres long, while Dutch champion Leon
Van Bon is off the back of the bunch... race radio says he's abandoned.
Beat Zberg (Gerolsteiner) is doing
a good job in front of the pack, leading over the cobbles for several kilometres
now. In the back, two AG2R riders have lost contact.
The next climb
is the Wolvenberg, 17 percent at the steepest bit...
13:51 CEST 155km/101km to go
Henk Vogels (Davitamon)
has a mechanical and waits at the side of the road for his team car. Will he
be able to get back to the main group of about 60 riders? They're at the Wolvenberg
Quick.Step leads out, with a Liquigas rider to the side. Boonen
is right there, so are the T-Mobile riders.
The gap to the four leaders is about
3.30 to 3.45 now, as the Wolvenberg is passed. Boucher is still hanging between
the peloton and the breakaway, but Reinerink has been caught. All under control
yet - Boonen has a pokerface.
On a flat, wide road again: some
riders are taking the time to eat and drink, as Discovery's Leif Hoste leads
the pack, with Hincapie and Ekimov placed in second and third position.
Hoste, although very strong in the 3-Days of De Panne-Koksijde, knows he won't
lead his team today. "Though I
feel very strong, I'm not the leader of
team Discovery Channel," Hoste told Cyclingnews at the start. "Hincapie
our man today, I'm just underneath that. Two years ago, when I finished
second, I got into a break early on in the race."
14:02 CEST 161km/95km to go
crashed, but he's back on his bike now.
The next climb is the Oude
Kwaremont, 2.2 kms long and cobbled, once more. Average gradient is 4.2 percent,
with a maximum steepness of 11 percent.
The bunch is driving through
the streets of Oudenaarde now; the sun is still shining! Doesn't look like any
more rain today... The bunch is taking it easy now, the gap to the leaders has
reached more than 4.40.
Rabobank's Posthuma gets some bottles
from his DS in the car. His right arm looks pretty scratched.
team seems to take its turn in the wind. Now it's Skil-Shimano, then Discovery'
Matthew White takes over.
14:11 CEST 166km/90km to go
Finally David Boucher
(Unibet) is caught.
As the bunch is nearing the next
wall, the Kwaremont, more favourites come to the front. Even Alessandro Petacchi,
as well as Erik Dekker.
Hammond has crashed! He holds his right knee
and doesn't get up. The race doctor is there. Doesn't look like he'll continue,
he's in a lot of pain.
Some spectators are on the side of
the road, but as there is enough space to the sides the riders pass them on
each side. It's pretty dangerous. There are also parked cars and lorries on
The pace has picked up again in expectation of the Kwaremont;
the bunch is stretched.
Erik Zabel (Milram) leads the bunch
with Klier (T-Mobile), Van Petegem, Hushovd etc. as they hit the cobbles. Boonen
is in tenth position, Bettini is there, too.
The bunch is exploding.
Right after the Kwaremont comes the Paterberg. If you can't follow now or have
a mechanical, you're in trouble.
14:29 CEST 178km/78km to go
Bettini leads in
the cobbled descent; there are still about 30-40 riders in front. Boonen grabs
an energy bar.
Marichal and Schmitz, in front, have dropped Auger
and Albasini. They're in the Paterberg now. Still huge amounts of fans!
It's a very narrow road up this 400
m-long climb (average gradient 14 percent, max. 20 percent). Bettini, Nuyens,
Zabel, Boone, Klier, Van Petegem, they're all in the main group, driving it
off the front.
Serge Baguet, the Belgian champion,
is also in his teammate's service, so Boonen is well-protected. It's rather
windy now, the spectators' flags are flying. The group now counts about 30 riders,
as the Kwaremont and Paterberg made a first selection.
The two leaders,
Marichal and Schmitz, are still 2.25 minutes away, now at the foot of the Koppenberg,
the famous cobbled climb with up to 22 percent gradient.
14:42 CEST 185km/71km to go
Ouch - this must
hurt so much. Both of them ride up the climb like snakes, not in a straight
And the World Champion shows his class! He takes off the chase
group right in the beginning of the Koppenberg, while many other riders get
off their bikes...
What a demonstration of superiority!
Boonen dropped most of the group except Bettini, Klier, Van Petegem, Cancellara
and a few others - information is not complete.
Now: Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini, Peter
Van Petegem, Fabian Cancellara, José Julia Cegarra, Michael Albasini, George
Hincapie and Roberto Petito make up the first group, 1.12 behind the two leaders.
Alessandro Ballan, Leif Hoste and Juan Antonio Flecha are chasing. They hit
the Steenbeekdries now.
14:58 CEST 193km/63km to go
Ballan, Hoste and
Flecha have made contact with the group around Boonen. That makes two Discovery
riders and two Quick.Steppers in the group, which now catches the two leaders.
Erratum: Andreas Klier is also in
the lead group. Sorry about that!
Hushovd couldn't follow and had let
go of the group. Baguet and Pozzato try to bridge the gap to the front. Zabel,
too, gets dropped. Jeez, Quick.Step is strong!
15:10 CEST 198km/58km to go
First Baguet and
Pozzato, then Hushovd and Zabel get onto the lead group at the foot of the Boigneberg.
Sergei Ivanov is on his way up too, and takes advantage of Schmitz going off
the back to try and close the gap.
Bettini and Baguet do the work
in front for Boonen. Klier is there.
Ivanov is no alone chasing.
He turns right and gets a tailwind on top of the hill. But it's tough.
Ivanov has closed most of a minute's
gap, but can he do the rest?
15:11 CEST 196km/60km to go
60 km before the
finish, the situation is a follows: Boonen, Bettini (both Quick.Step), Van Petegem
(Davitamon), Klier (T-Mobile), Cancellara (CSC), Cegarra (Caisse d'Epargne),
Albasini (Liquigas), Hincapie, Hoste (both Discovery), Petito (Tenax), Ballan
(Lampre), Flecha (Rabobank) make up the front group, while Pozzato and Baguet
(both Quick.Step) try to bridge the gap.
15:12 CEST 201km/55km to go
Ivanov sits on 45
km/h as he goes up the false flat to the Roman brewery. Meanwhile, Baguet is
hammering the lead group with Boonen on his wheel. Flecha in third.
15:15 CEST 203km/53km to go
The leaders: Boonen,
Bettini, Pozzato , Baguet (Quick.Step), Van Petegem (Davitamon), Klier (T-Mobile),
Cancellara (CSC), Cegarra (Caisse d'Epargne), Albasini (Liquigas), Hincapie,
Hoste (both Discovery), Petito (Tenax), Ballan (Lampre), Flecha (Rabobank),
Zabel (Milram), Hushovd (Crédit Agricole).
Fred Guesdon (FDJ) is
chasing them now, with the rather knackered looking Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile).
Ivanov is ahead of them, but the Russian hasn't made contact with the leaders,
who are at the bottom of the hill again in Schorisse, ready for the Foreest
15:18 CEST 205km/51km to go
Pozzato does a strong
turn now - it's all for Boonen today. But what can the others do?
Ivanov has blown a gasket, and is being caught by a rather muddy Francisco Ventoso
(Saunier Duval), who was dropped from the leaders. Kroon is also up there.
Zabel, Marichal are dropped on Foreest when Zabel rides into a ditch. Hushovd
has to chase too.
15:20 CEST 204km/52km to go
Zabel has recovered
and is in the lead bunch again. The pace isn't savage yet, as Pozzato and Baguet
work. Boonen chats to his DS on the batphone. They reach the top of Foreest.
15:22 CEST 208km/48km to go
The women's Ronde
van Vlaanderen has been won by Mirjam Melchers (Buitenpoor-Flexpoint) for the
second time in a row. She attacked a break on the Tenbosse, built a gap of 40
seconds, but was caught by Christiane Soeder (Univega) with 2 km to go. Loes
Gunnewijk (Buitenpoort) won the sprint for third.
Marichal on the Foreest descent, but the leaders are already on the Steenberg,
with Pozzato still in front. Six climbs after this one. The steepest part is
at the bottom.
15:27 CEST 210km/46km to go
The leaders are over
the top of the Steenberg and are fighting their way back towards the Trap Op
cafe, where they turn right and head towards the Haaghoek. They're almost there
now. Most riders are taking on board food and drink.
is in this group for CSC too, along with Cancellara.
Ivanov is 52
seconds behind the leaders.
15:29 CEST 212km/44km to go
The correct lead
group: Boonen, Bettini, Pozzato , Baguet (Quick.Step), Van Petegem (Davitamon),
Klier (T-Mobile), Cancellara, Kroon (CSC), Hincapie, Hoste (both Discovery),
Petito (Tenax), Ballan (Lampre), Flecha (Rabobank), Zabel (Milram), Hushovd
Baguet leads on the Haaghoek. This is a very fast
cobbled section, as it's a tailwind. It's also the last long section that the
riders do. No-one looks like trying anything just yet.
15:32 CEST 214km/42km to go
Pozzato takes over
from Baguet at the end of the Haaghoek. Boonen and Bettini in third or fourth.
One rider at the back - looks like Hushovd - tries the muddy side of the road,
but doesn't find it to his liking.
They're now on the Leberg, and
are riding up it a lot faster than Jeff did yesterday, before he snapped his
chain. You can find links of it there now.
Baguet is suffering, and
is now gapped.
15:34 CEST 215km/41km to go
Baguet claws his
way back on, but he's not long for this group. He's done a great job, but might
find himself back with Sergei Ivanov again soon. The Russian champion is also
at the top of the Leberg.
15:36 CEST 217km/39km to go
Pozzato takes the
lead through the steady descent into Michelbeke, the lead up to the Berendries.
Will Boonen make a move here?
The Berendries will be fast, as there's
still a tailwind. They hit the 900m / 7.1% climb with Pozzato in front. Hincapie
moves up next to Boonen and Bettini.
15:38 CEST 218km/38km to go
Pozzato is setting
a hard, but not too savage tempo on the Berendries, as the riders carve through
the many flag-waving fans on the sides of the hill. Quick.Step 1-2-3 at the
15:39 CEST 218km/38km to go
Boonen and Bettini
have a chat. "I have a cunning plan...."
They're over the top in
2'20. That is not actually very fast.
15:41 CEST 220km/36km to go
Ivanov makes his
way to the top, 1'26 behind the leaders, now coming over the VDB VDB VDB VDB
VDB paint on the road. Unfortunately, VDB was dropped very early on in the piece.
15:42 CEST 221km/35km to go
Baguet has now been
dropped as the leaders go up the small climb into Brakel. They'll do the Valkenberg
next, then Tenbosse. It's a fairly steady pace at the moment, courtesy of Quick.Step's
Pozzato. All the other riders have had a free ride though, which could be telling.
Bettini now has a chat to Pozzato,
maybe to inform him of the cunning plan. The group strings out a bit.
15:45 CEST 223km/33km to go
Right turn and the
group hits the Valkenberg. Pozzato sets a pretty hard tempo, and puts Ballan
in trouble. Petito is last wheel though, looking for his team car for some food.
The climb steepens soon.
Pozzato sits in the middle of the
road while others battle to stay out of the wind. Boonen looks left and right.
Will there be a mini selection here? Do Quick.Step really have a cunning plan?
15:47 CEST 224km/32km to go
Boonen looks as though
he's on a Sunday ride. So that's the cue for Leif Hoste to attack. Boonen takes
his wheel, Pozzato is dropped of course. PVP and Klier lead the chase. Let's
get it on!!
15:49 CEST 224km/32km to go
Kroon tries get back
to Bettini and Hoste, but does an Ivanov and blows when he's within 20 m. Two
leaders, then 5 seconds to the rest.
15:50 CEST 226km/30km to go
Boonen and Hoste
drive it on the descent into Brakel, trying to keep their tiny advantage. Bettini
performs stopping work, in second wheel. It works, because Cancellara swings
off after a turn, then realises who is in second.
as the others start looking at each other. Now they're going again.
15:52 CEST 228km/28km to go
Boonen and Hoste
drive, nearly getting taken out by a Shimano neutral moto. They have
13 seconds as they enjoy a speed of 70km/h in the tailwind. The bunch is trying
to get to them, but only one at a time. Bettini is doing a superb job blocking,
while Hincapie doesn't bother, preferring to sit in third last wheel. Petito
is trying to get across next.
The two leaders are nearly at Tenbosse,
as Petito nearly rides into the back of a motorbike.
15:54 CEST 229km/27km to go
Hoste is going to
have a hard time getting rid of Boonen, but he'll have to if he's to win the
Ronde. On the other hand, he's no mean sprinter, as he proved last week. He
leads on Tenbossestraat, then Boonen takes over, suffering. The roar of the
crowd, with two Flemish riders in the lead, is huuuuuuuge.
The attacks go on Tenbosse, and Hushovd,
Flecha and Cancellara all suffer. Petito is caught at the top as Klier and PVP
lead. But they're 38 seconds behind Boonen and Hoste...
15:57 CEST 231km/25km to go
Flecha and Hushovd
find Zabel as the chase group thins down to eight. Bettini on the front, slowing
it down again. The eight chasers: Bettini (Quick.Step), Van Petegem (Davitamon),
Klier (T-Mobile), Cancellara, Kroon (CSC), Hincapie, Hoste (both Discovery),
16:00 CEST 233km/23km to go
Hoste and Boonen
are now riding through Parike, but aren't stopping for mattetaartjes. They take
the 'Parikeberg' at full gas, with Boonen really powering. Hoste looks good
today. But will he be first or second?
Boonen gets a drink from
the team car. They are at the top of the climb, which wasn't that tough with
56 seconds to the eight chasers, and 1'13 to Hushovd,
Zabel and Flecha.
16:01 CEST 234km/22km to go
It looks like a race
for third place in this chase group, with Bettini and Hincapie performing good
work for their leaders. No-one can get away under their watchful eyes, and a
minute gap with a tailwind is very very difficult to close.
16:03 CEST 236km/20km to go
Hoste and Boonen
unload some food en route to Geraardsbergen. See, you don't need to take all
that stuff. This descent is rather pleasant with a tailwind. It's 1'02 and growing.
These two out in front are the strongest
in the race, no question. Like Boonen and Ballan last week. Kroon almost - almost
- got across to them over the top of the Valkenberg, but failed.
Hoste is obviously not in the chase
group I mentioned earlier :-) You must watch these things, you know?
16:07 CEST 239km/17km to go
Boonen leads through
Geraardsbergen, and onto the Muur. He'll want to do some damage to Hoste here.
They on the light cobbles, nearly at the steeper part. Hoste looks good though.
16:08 CEST 240km/16km to go
We might have two
evenly matched riders here on the climbs, but Boonen is obviously the better
sprinter. Hoste looks more comfy, actually, as he follows the world champ onto
the steep part. They have 1'23 to the eight chasers, who are definitely going
for third today.
16:10 CEST 241km/15km to go
Boonen leads all
the way, looking a bit tired, but Hoste can't attack. He gets out of the saddle
on the steep bit but it's no an acceleration. Hoste takes over at the top, pedalling
a low gear over. They now have 1'40!
Klier leads the chase group with
Bettini and Hincapie in tow. Petito is at the back, hanging on. Hincapie lifts
the pace on the steep bit in a bid for third. Petito is goooone. Ballan is suffering
too, and the two CSCs.
16:13 CEST 243km/13km to go
Over the top, it's
Hincapie, Bettini, PVP, Klier and Ballan, then the two CSCs, Kroon and Cancellara,
Meanwhile, Boonen and Hoste are speeding towards the
Bosberg, the final climb of the day. A mass of motorbikes goes past them.
Boonen now leading as they hit the
final cobbled climb. 400m of cobbles. Boonen switches his line, but Hoste can
follow easily. He's still pedalling a smaller gear as Boonen drives the tempo
up. After this, they'll be doing 60km/h for a while with the tailwind and false
16:16 CEST 244km/12km to go
Over top of the Bosberg,
and no attempt to attack by either of these riders. It could well be a two up
sprint, but we'll see.
1'43 to the now eight chasers, with Petito
rejoining them again. They're all together on the Bosberg.
16:17 CEST 246km/10km to go
Bettini suffers in
the chase group and leaves a gap over the top of the Bosberg, but should get
back on with Ballan.
16:19 CEST 247.5km/8.5km to go
The lead pair
are working well together. 1'40 lead, so they can even relax a bit. No way will
they get caught now. Boonen is still a 90 percent favourite, but you never know
with Hoste. They're at 65 km/h now with the wind at their backs, going down
a slight decline. This is a good bit of the parcours.
16:21 CEST 250km/6km to go
The kilometres tick
down rapidly, as Boonen and Hoste continue to ride away from the chasing group.
It's close to two minutes now. Klier attacks behind, but can't get clear. Ho
ho, I kill me.
16:24 CEST 252km/4km to go
The chasers are strung
out, with no-one really being able to get a gap. You have to be so strong to
Boonen and Hoste reach Denderwindeke and take the left
hander. Now it's a cross/tailwind, with a small climb and then a nice descent
into Ninove-Meerbeke. They stick together.
16:26 CEST 253km/3km to go
They go under 4 km
to go as Hoste tries to leave Boonen out there for longer. Surprisingly, they're
still taking fairly even turns. That's generous from Hoste.
encourages Boonen from the team car. Can he win the Ronde twice in a row?
3km to go now. Nowhere to attack, really.
16:27 CEST 254km/2km to go
Tom Boonen is in a
smaller gear now has he takes it a bit easier, sitting up and spinning the legs.
He could be cramping a bit, but you'll not know until the end.
Hoste comes through again with 1.5
km to go. Will Boonen take another pull?
The chasers have narrow
down to Hincapie, Cancellara, Ballan, and Van Petegem.
16:28 CEST 255km/1km to go
Last kilometre for
the leaders, with Boonen now in front. It's a crosswind sprint. He talks to
Hoste, who of course won't take a turn.
The discussion is quite intense and
goes on for 200m or so. But now they're just looking at each other, slowing
down like track sprinters. They near the final corner...
16:30 CEST 256km/0km to go
Boonen takes the corner
first and hugs the right hand side. Hoste jumps first, and surprises Boonen,
but Boonen is way too strong and Hoste is beaten. Boonen wins the Ronde twice
in a row!!!
In third place, Ballan winds up and
leads out from a long way, but Hincapie wins it easily. PVP fourth, then Ballan
Well, the favourite won, but Tom
Boonen rode a perfect race to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen. He's not the world
champion for nothing. Full credit to Leif Hoste for trying to take the race
to him - it was Hoste who made the attack on the Valkenberg, with only Boonen
able to follow. Hoste has been in great form all week (three wins, one second,
one fifth), so he can't be too disappointed with himself.
bid you goodbye from Ninove, but be sure to check back in next Wednesday for
Gent-Wevelgem. Tot volgende keer!
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step 6.30.14
2 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel 0.01
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery
4 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon
5 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC
7 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step
8 Karsten Kroon (Ned) CSC
9 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile
10 Roberto Petito (Ita) Tenax
11 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
12 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank