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61st Omloop Het Volk - 1.HC

Belgium, February 25, 2006

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Superb Gilbert solo

By Jeff Jones in Gent, with additional reporting from Brecht Decaluwé

Philippe Gilbert
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) has upstaged some of the more fancied riders and teams by winning the 61st Omloop Het Volk with an incredibly powerful ride in the last 20 km. After bridging up to the leading group (twice), Gilbert attacked repeatedly until he got away alone with 7 km to go. His gap at the finish was nearly 40 seconds to Bert de Waele (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), while Leon van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto) won a three man sprint for third.

"This was the nicest win of my young career," Gilbert explained after the finish. "The last five or six kilometres were very tough. I didn't look behind."

Gilbert seemed to spend himself bridging up to Pozzato, De Waele and De Vocht between km 20 and 14: " I was protected by my team mates right from the start. That way, I spared some energy to ride the finale. But, at first, it was very difficult to come back to the four man breakaway group. When I got into that group, I immediately worked together with them so I wasn't able to recuperate. I didn't want to bet on a sprint with Pozzato in the group. I tried to escape and as you probably noticed, it worked out well. [DS] Marc Madiot informed me about my advantage. I kept on pushing hard because I didn't want to lose it all in the last few meters."

After the finish, Gilbert commented that it was possible for him to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen as well. "It's similar race, 70 kilometres more. It's will be my first Ronde van Vlaanderen and will be a bit tougher."

Second place went to a solid Bert de Waele, who was even off the back of the peloton with 50 km to go when Davitamon had put the pressure on. "I think the strongest won," said De Waele. "If you saw [Gilbert] come back on the Vogelzangstraat; I think he was the deserving winner. I'm very satisfied with second place.

The podium
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Leon van Bon was not so happy with third, given that Davitamon-Lotto had three men in the final big selection. "During the finale it was very tactical," he said. "We tried to play the game into our hands, but it didn't work."

Koen Barbé was the biggest surprise of the day, finishing fourth. The former Belgian U23 champion wasn't expected to ride the race, being a reserve. "Last year, I had only one big win in the GP Dhaenens," he told Cyclingnews. "With this performance I also surprised myself. I wanted to help Niko Eeckhout by getting into the escape of the day. My legs were not feeling good whole race long. I never felt that I was good enough to stay in front. Apparently, the other riders were also suffering."

Pre-race favourite Tom Boonen looked good all day, and got into the big selection with 20 km to go, but was forced to wait when Pozzato attacked. Unfortunately, his teammate could only manage fifth place. "I was good today," Boonen said. "But for me it's difficult to win the Omloop Het Volk. With the flat finale the race is hard to control. I'm happy that Gilbert won and not Steegmans or Van Bon. They just rode to tire me out and so there was no cooperation. Gilbert is the deserving winner: he rode solo to the lead group and still did it."

How it unfolded

Thierry Marichal
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Saturday dawned clear but chilly for the 184 riders who took the start of the 61st Omloop Het Volk in front of Gent's S.M.A.K. (museum for contemporary art). Although the conditions were quite dry, a bitingly cold northeast wind would make life difficult for all in the finale. The non-starters were Steven De Jongh (Quick.Step), replaced at the last minute by Bram Tankink, and Jaan Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole) and Allan Johansen (CSC).

Tankink wasted little time getting warm, and after 14 km, set off together with three others in pursuit of the eight man break that had formed in front. After 21 km, the groups came together and there were a dozen leaders: Bram Tankink and Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step), Ludovic Auger (Française Des Jeux), Gregory Habeaux (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Geert Omloop (Unibet.Com), Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Michele Maccanti (LPR), Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile), Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r), Walter Beneteau (Bouygues), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), and Cedric Coutouly (Agritubel). It was reduced to 11 on the second climb of the day, the Oude Kwaremont, when Habeaux was dropped.

Bodrogi (CA) and Joachim (Discovery) tried to close the gap on their own, but it was too great and they were reabsorbed by the peloton, which was 3'10 behind on the Kwaremont. The lead increased to 6'12 after 48 km, before some steady work by Discovery, Liquigas and later, Chocolade Jacques, brought it down. Pre-race favourite Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) was very visible near the front of the peloton, crossing the Muur van Geraardsbergen (km 81) in second position, with the break now 2'38 ahead.

Leon van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The gap hovered at around two minutes as Mondory was dropped from the front group on the Valkenberg (km 100), leaving 10 in front. After the Berendries (km 125), the pace increased behind and a minute was carved off the break's advantage. The final climb, the Molenberg (km 138) was more dangerous, and the break cut itself down to seven riders over the top, with Auger, Schreck and Tankink all dropped. In the bunch, the race for the right hand corner was won by Leon van Bon, who led Tom Boonen over the top of the steep, cobbled climb, with the bunch distanced by 10 seconds.

Van Bon and Boonen knew it was too early, and waited for the front part of the bunch, which was starting to reduce as well. Davitamon-Lotto then put its men on the front on the Paddestraat, with Glenn d'Hollander (Chocolade Jacques) peppering them with fairly futile attacks. The gap was still a minute between the front seven and the bunch, but when Davitamon accelerated in the crosswind en route to Wetteren, it was all over for the break at 50 km to go.

The acceleration in front had caught a few riders off guard, and Bert de Waele (Landbouwkrediet), Matt Hayman (Rabobank), Nico Eeckhout (Jacques), Andreas Klier (T-Mobile) and Lars Michaelsen (CSC) had to close a 25 second gap in order to stay in contention. They did, and it didn't take long before De Waele and Hayman found themselves in a wholly different position: off the front, with another 11 riders.

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The new break contained Pozzato (Quick.Step), Hayman, De Maar (Rabobank), Barbe (Jacques), De Vocht (Davitamon), De Waele (Landbouwkrediet), Maccanti (LPR), Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Mikhailov (Discovery), Flickinger, Renier (Bouygues), Scanlon (Ag2r), and Serpellini (Unibet), and they were able to gain 45 seconds over the peloton, where T-Mobile had to chase. Of the 13, Maccanti was the surprise, having also been in the early break since km 14.

At 30 km to go, the first of the cobbled sections in the finale started: the Krimineelstraat. The reaction finally came in the peloton as Steegmans (Davitamon) powered away with Boonen on his wheel. The pair quickly closed the gap to the front group, taking four kilometres to do so. Behind them, Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Posthuma (Rabobank), Van Bon (Davitamon), Hammond (Discovery), Wesemann (T-Mobile), and Hushovd (Credit Agricole) were also closing the gap, with the rest of the bunch giving up.

Quick.Step were a little outnumbered in front with just two riders, while Davitamon-Lotto and Rabobank had three. Discovery also had a couple, as did Bouygues, while the rest had to work as individuals. With 24 km to go, Pozzato, De Waele, De Vocht and Scanlon created a small gap over the rest, and the final break started to form.

With 20 km left, Philippe Gilbert jumped out of the chasing group and clawed his way across the 15 second gap to the leaders, taking an agonising 6 kilometres to do so. Scanlon was temporarily dropped, but came back when Leon van Bon (Davitamon), and Koen Barbe (Jacques) jumped out of the Boonen group and joined the leaders. Boonen was being heavily marked, and with Pozzato up front, he wasn't about to chase.

Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Gilbert recovered his strength and started attacking again at 10 km to go. De Vocht and Scanlon were quickly dropped, and when Gilbert went again at 7 km to go, he had placed the winning move. The other four couldn't do a thing to pull back the FDJ rider, and the gap grew to 10, then 20, then 30 seconds. The young Walloon didn't look back and gave it everything to get to the finish in Lokeren. He finished with nearly 40 seconds on an impressive Bert de Waele, who was able to attack the chase group to finish second, while Leon van Bon won the sprint for third.

The Quick.Step domination of the last few years was finally broken, but not by its main rival Davitamon. Instead, it was another very talented young Belgian who won the biggest race of his "young career", as he termed it.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Luc Claessen/www.ctm-images.com

Images by Ulrik Møberg/Procycling.dk/CyclingPictures.dk

Results - 202 km

1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française Des Jeux                   4.56.18 (40.904 km/h)
2 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                    0.38
3 Leon van Bon (Ned) Davitamon-Lotto                             0.54
4 Koen Barbe (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen             
5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick.Step-Innergetic                        
6 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                           1.45
7 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank                                      
8 Franck Renier (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                               
9 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                                 
10 Michele Maccanti (Ita) Team LPR                                   
11 Steffen Wesemann (Swi) T-Mobile                                   
12 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole                            2.01
13 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Innergetic                            
14 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis                                   
15 Marc de Maar (Ned) Rabobank                                       
16 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel                             
17 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Unibet.com                                 
18 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                            
19 Mark Scanlon (Irl) Ag2r-Prevoyance                                
20 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Unibet.com                                4.37
21 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen        
22 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank                                      
23 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Discovery Channel                        
24 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                5.17
25 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Skil-Shimano                             
26 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Team Milram                                    
27 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC                                 7.40
28 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Team Wiesenhof Akud                        
29 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole                           
30 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile                                   
31 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC                                    
32 Maarten den Bakker (Ned) Team Milram                              
33 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Skil-Shimano                                
34 James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                 
35 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux                         
36 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Credit Agricole                            
37 Robby Meul (Bel) Jartazi-7Mobile                                  
38 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC                                  
39 Nicola Loda (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                                
40 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                           
41 Pedro Horrillo (Spa) Rabobank                                     
42 Cedric Coutouly (Fra) Agritubel                                   
43 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Credit Agricole                              
44 Ronny Poelvoorde (Bel) Flanders                                   
45 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Jartazi-7Mobile                           
46 Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                           
47 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick.Step-Innergetic                    
48 Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems                         
49 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile                                     
50 Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Française Des Jeux                            
51 Benoît Joachim (Lux) Discovery Channel                            
52 Didier Rous (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                                
53 Walter Beneteau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                            
54 Ludovic Auger (Fra) Française Des Jeux                            
55 Marco Milesi (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                               
56 Johan Coenen (Bel) Unibet.com                                     
57 Niko Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen         
58 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Unibet.com                                    
59 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank                                       
60 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com                                      
61 Maarten Wijnants (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen      
62 Michael Albasini (Swi) Liquigas-Bianchi                           
63 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                               
64 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                                 
65 Glenn D'Hollander (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen     
66 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel                                
67 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile                                      
68 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française Des Jeux                        
69 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Team Milram                                 
70 Aivaras Baranauskas (Ltu) Agritubel                               
71 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis                                        
72 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                             
73 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis                                    
74 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen      
75 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Cofidis                                        
76 Cyrille Monnerais (Fra) Française Des Jeux                        
77 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Credit Agricole                          
78 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen    
79 Paul Martens (Ger) Skil-Shimano                                   
80 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                                  
81 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) T-Mobile Team                              
82 Geert Omloop (Bel) Unibet.com                                     
83 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Cofidis                                    
84 Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr) Team LPR                                  
85 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel                            
86 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Unibet.com                                      
87 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems                            
88 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick.Step-Innergetic                        
89 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quick.Step-Innergetic                        
90 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick.Step-Innergetic                           
91 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                           
92 Francis Mourey (Fra) Française Des Jeux