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68th Gent-Wevelgem - PT
Belgium, April 5, 2006
Mighty Thor hammers Kopp and Petacchi
Powerful sprint gives Hushovd first Norwegian victory in Gent-Wevelgem
By Jeff Jones and Brecht Decaluwé in Wevelgem
After a very tense finish to the 68th Gent-Wevelgem, Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) grabbed his second win of the season, beating David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) and Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) in a small bunch sprint. After a stage win in Tirreno-Adriatico, this is his second win in a ProTour event. "This is a big victory for me, my first classic," Hushovd said after the finish. "Winning green in the Tour de France is bigger. Still, winning a race like Gent-Wevelgem, a semi-classic, is big. I'm really happy."
Talking about the sprint, Hushovd admitted it was tight. "Yeah it was really close. He [Pozzato] did a really good attack. I choose to stay in the wheel of Petacchi. David Kopp started the sprint quite early and instinctively I decided to go with him. It proved to be the right decision as I passed him at the end."
The win in Gent gains in importance when you beat the likes of Petacchi. "First of all I'm really happy to win the race and for sure it's good to beat Petacchi in the sprint. I saved as much energy as possible and then I had enough power in the end to win the sprint."
Paris-Roubaix, the 'Hell of the North' is coming on Sunday, a race that suits the bear from Grimstad as well. "I'm in good form. It's my last race before my holiday so I want to do well." The powerful Norwegian sprinter added that he loves Belgium, "I do many races in Belgium so it's kind of my second home. Though I race here very often, it's not easy to win here. I'm 28 years old and considering that this is my first win in Belgium, it proves that you need a lot of experience. Hopefully I can go on with my progression and eventually the biggest classics like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Those races are tougher, but that should suit me well."
Second placed David Kopp wasn't far off a victory, falling short by just a few centimetres. The result is a surprise, although he has been riding very well this season, winning at the Trofeo Calvia in February. After this good start, Kopp finished 12th in Milano-Sanremo. Last Sunday he proved that he's a man for the classics with a 16th place in the Tour of Flanders. "I am overjoyed, the second place in this classic makes up for my bad luck last Sunday on Koppenberg," he said. "Today, we had four men in the first group. My compliments on Rene Haselbacher, Sebastian Lang, Frank Hoj and Heinrich Haussler, who worked their tails off for me. In the end I lost by 3 centimetres, but on the other hand, I outsprinted Petacchi - I can be satisfied with that!"
Alessandro Petacchi wasn't satisfied, however. "It was a sprint that I don't like," he said. "The speed was not very high and with the wind up front it was very hard. I'm very disappointed because my form is alright. Coming second in Milano-Sanremo and third over here is sad because you know the chance was there to win both races. Still, for me the most important thing is to gain experience in these races. I know I can win a big classic one day. My form is alright but I don't want to take any risks considering the Giro is coming up in a few weeks. That's why I won't compete at Paris-Roubaix."
How it unfolded
Dry, sunny but windy conditions greeted the riders as they lined up in Deinze's Grote Markt for the start of the 68th Gent-Wevelgem. John Gadret (AG2R) and Daniele Colli (Liquigas-Bianchi) were non-starters. With a chilly wind blowing from the north east, it was likely that the peloton would stay together for the most part of the race, with the often treacherous coastal section more tailwind than crosswind. Before the start, the UCI carried out blood tests on six teams: Rabobank, Quick.Step, Euskaltel, AG2R, Française des Jeux and Cofidis, with all riders declared fit to race.
The peloton covered 40 km in the first hour as it headed west through the many of the same towns that were visited last Sunday in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The first abandon came from Lorenzo Bernucci after just 4 km, reducing his T-Mobile team to only five riders. After 25 km, three riders attacked: Iker Flores (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Boucher (Unibet.com) and Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole)< but were brought back. After 40 km, Carlos Zarate (Saunier Duval) and Kenny van Hummel (Skil-Shimano) were able to get clear. They stayed away along most of the coastal section, where the peloton flew along at 60 km/h with the wind behind. But at 105 km, it was all back together again, save for an unlucky Bernard Van Ulden (Navigators), who crashed out of the race.
With 95 km to go, Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) and Bernhard Eisel (Française des Jeux) jumped away and built up a steady lead as they road towards the hill zone and the feared Kemmelberg. With 80 km left, the pair had 1'20 over the peloton, where Matt White (Discovery) and Sergei Ivanov (T-Mobile) were sharing the workload. The pace increased as the hills approached, and the leaders had only half a minute at the Scherpenberg (km 136), the first of the climbs.
On the Vidaigneberg, the gap was only 17 seconds and last year's winner Nico Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto) led a counter attack in pursuit of the leaders. He was joined by Allan Davis (Liberty), David Kopp (Gerolsteiner), Marco Milesi (Liquigas), Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Gert Steegmans (Davitamon), Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Andre Greipel and Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile) as they caught the leaders before the top. David Kopp and Allan Davis tried to continue the move, but the peloton came back together after the descent.
Eventual winner Thor Hushovd made a strong impression on the first ascent of the Kemmelberg (km 150), leading for much of the way before Fabian Cancellara (CSC), Leif Hoste (Discovery) and Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) took over. The cobbled climb strung out the peloton, but no real breaks occurred, and it was still together at the start of the second lap of the hill zone.
With 55 km to go, a group of five split off the front: Wim Vansevenant (Davitamon-Lotto), Steven De Jongh (Quick.Step), Anthony Geslin (Bouygues) Alessandro Cortinovis (Milram) and Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner). There were a few sprinters in this group, which got 48 seconds very quickly, before Discovery began to chase hard. Matt White buried himself to reduce the lead to around 30 seconds, then Rabobank came to the fore and carved more time out of the break.
On the second time up the Kemmelberg, Geslin had problems following the other four, but could rejoin them on the tricky descent. The quintet kept 24 seconds of their lead over the bunch, now led by Liberty's Allan Davis. Tom Boonen was sitting well down in the field, preferring to save his legs for Sunday while his teammates Pozzato and Nuyens kept themselves in front.
As the race hit the flatlands again and began to head back towards Wevelgem, the peloton finally split for good. A group of around 40 riders gapped the rest with 37 km to go, with Milram putting six riders in front, including Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi. Other sprinters such as Hushovd, Kopp, Davis, Eisel, Hincapie, Flecha, Dekker, Pozzato and Nuyens, all made the cut, while Boonen ended up in group two with Tom Steels, Nico Mattan and Leon van Bon. Mattan and Van Bon pulled their hardest to bridge the gap, but 16 seconds was as close as they got and they sat up. Their consolation was that Davitamon's Henk Vogels and Bert Roesems sat in front.
Milram and Rabobank kept the tempo up, and it was very difficult for anyone to escape. Former winner Lars Michaelsen (CSC) had a go with 15 km left, but lasted only 3 km before he came back. Then Bert Roesems (Davitamon) put in an enormous attack at 12 km to go, using his power into the wind to carve out a lead over the Milram train. Roesems stomped away in front as Milram used up all of its strength to try to bring him back. He gained 13 seconds with 9 km to go and the small peloton was stretched in pursuit.
Roesems reached the safety of Wevelgem with a diminished lead, and it seemed as though he would lose the battle to the sprinters. But it cost Milram so much strength to bring him back, that Erik Zabel ended up on the front with 1.5 km to go as Roesems was caught. Then it was the turn of Quick.Step's Filippo Pozzato, who had targeted this race after his disaster here last year, when he crashed. He powered away from the group with just over a kilometre to go, opening up a nice looking lead and anticipating the sprint.
Pozzato gave it everything, but the headwind finish proved to be too much for him and he was caught in the final 50 metres. In another small surprise, it was Thor Hushovd who proved stronger than David Kopp and Alessandro Petacchi, becoming the first Norwegian to win Gent-Wevelgem. Not only that, Belgians finished outside the top 10, which might also be some kind of a record in a Belgian classic.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Luc Claessen/www.ctm-images.com
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 4.53.15 (42.967 km/h) 2 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner 3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram 4 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quickstep-Innergetic 5 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française des Jeux 8 Erki Pütsep (Est) AG2R Prévoyance 9 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 10 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 11 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner 12 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 13 Alexei Markov (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 14 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com 15 Franck Renier (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 16 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 17 Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 18 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 19 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile Team 20 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Crédit Agricole 21 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 22 Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 23 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 24 Koen De Kort (Ned) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 25 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Skil-Shimano 26 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 27 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 28 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 29 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 30 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quickstep-Innergetic 31 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française des Jeux 32 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile Team 33 Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 0.07 34 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank 35 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux 0.09 36 José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 37 Bert Roesems (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.20 38 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 0.22 39 Marco Velo (Ita) Team Milram 40 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 41 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 42 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Team Milram 43 René Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner 0.33 44 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 45 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 0.42 46 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Team Milram 1.20 47 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC 1.35 48 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 2.55 49 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 5.55 50 Alexandre Usov (Blr) AG2R Prévoyance 51 Rony Martias (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 52 André Greipel (Ger) T-Mobile Team 53 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems 54 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Crédit Agricole 55 Vladimir Goussev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 56 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Team Milram 57 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa) Rabobank 58 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 59 Angel Castresana Del Val (Spa) Unibet.com 60 Hilton Clarke (Aus) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team 61 Florent Brard (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 62 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 63 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance 64 Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Bra) Saunier Duval-Prodir 65 Nick Ingels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 66 David Boucher (Fra) Unibet.com 67 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Skil-Shimano 68 Paul Martens (Ger) Skil-Shimano 69 Matthew Wilson (Aus) Unibet.com 70 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Phonak Hearing Systems 71 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crédit Agricole 72 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 73 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 74 Cycril Lemoine (Fra) Crédit Agricole 75 Rik Reinerink (Ned) Skil-Shimano 76 Matthew White (Aus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 77 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 78 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole 79 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 80 Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Fra) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 81 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner 82 Ludovic Auger (Fra) Française des Jeux 83 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 84 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 85 Benoît Joachim (Lux) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 86 Marco Righetto (Ita) Liquigas 87 Robert Hunter (RSA) Phonak Hearing Systems 88 Marco Milesi (Ita) Liquigas 89 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 90 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank 91 Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 92 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Unibet.com 93 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas 94 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 95 Ivan Mayoz (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 96 Matthé Pronk (Ned) Unibet.com 97 Stephan Schreck (Ger) T-Mobile Team 98 Enrico Poitschke (Ger) Team Milram 99 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic 100 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak Hearing Systems 101 Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 102 Lilian Jégou (Fra) Française des Jeux 103 Arnaud Gérard (Fra) Française des Jeux 104 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 105 Frank Hoj (Den) Gerolsteiner 106 Valery Kobzarenko (Ukr) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team 107 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team 108 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Fondital 109 Claudio Corioni (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 110 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 111 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 112 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 113 Iker Flores Galarza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 114 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 115 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems 116 Servais Knaven (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic 117 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 118 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 119 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Davitamon-Lotto 120 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 121 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Unibet.com Starters: 193 Classified: 121
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic 89 pts 2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram 72 3 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step - Innergetic 70 4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 70 5 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 60 6 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 52 7 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 51 8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 44 9 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital 43 10 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 42 11 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros - Würth Team 40 12 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas 35 13 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne-Illes Balears 35 14 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 34 15 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 31 16 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner 30 17 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 30 18 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 30 19 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 26 20 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 25 21 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 25 22 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 24 23 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 23 24 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step - Innergetic 21 25 José Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 20 26 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 15 27 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas 15 28 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 15 29 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 15 30 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 10 31 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros - Würth Team 9 32 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française Des Jeux 7 33 Erki Pütsep (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance 5 34 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 5 35 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5 36 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 5 37 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Liberty Seguros - Würth Team 5 38 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 4 39 Markus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 3 40 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne-Illes Balears 3 41 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 3 42 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 2 43 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 2 44 Christopher Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 2 45 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 2 46 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 2 47 Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval - Prodir 2 48 Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 2 49 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre-Fondital 2 50 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 1 51 Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir 1 52 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1 53 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 1 54 Bradley Mcgee (Aus) Française Des Jeux 1 55 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française Des Jeux 1 56 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Liberty Seguros - Würth Team 1 Teams 1 Gerolsteiner 79 pts 2 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 76 3 Team CSC 73 4 Quick Step - Innergetic 68 5 Phonak Hearing Systems 66 6 Rabobank 57 7 Davitamon-Lotto 55 8 Lampre-Fondital 54 9 Liberty Seguros - Würth Team 54 10 Credit Agricole 54 11 Caisse D'Epargne-Illes Balears 50 12 Française Des Jeux 47 13 T-Mobile Team 45 14 Team Milram 43 15 Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 38 16 Euskaltel - Euskadi 28 17 Bouygues Telecom 27 18 Saunier Duval - Prodir 24 19 Ag2R Prevoyance 20 20 Liquigas 19 Nations 1 Italy 277 pts 2 Belgium 161 3 Spain 138 4 United States Of America 119 5 Netherlands 108 6 Germany 80 7 Norway 45 8 Switzerland 42 9 Luxembourg 25 10 Portugal 20 11 Australia 12 12 Austria 7 13 Kazakhstan 5 14 Estonia 5 15 France 4 16 Russian Federation 2