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61st Omloop Het Volk - 1.HC
Belgium, February 25, 2006
Superb Gilbert solo
By Jeff Jones in Gent, with additional reporting from Brecht Decaluwé
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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