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46th Brabantse Pijl - 1.1
Belgium, March 26, 2006
Double success for triple world champ
Oscarito is back in Belgium
By Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Brecht Decaluwé
Rabobank's trump card Oscar Freire has given the Dutch team a morale boosting victory by taking his second Brabantse Pijl in a row. Freire benefited from some solid teamwork from Juan Antonio Flecha when the pair escaped with Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step) and Karsten Kroon (CSC) with 7 km to go. Flecha gave it everything to keep it together for the final climb, where Freire could use his superior sprint to beat Kroon and Nuyens.
"This victory makes me very happy because it's never easy to get a win," Freire told Sporza in Spanish after the race. "The contenders were very strong but our team performed very well, particularly Flecha. I had a lot of physical problems last year, though I still could do some training in the winter."
Karsten Kroon was well beaten in the sprint by Freire "My sprint was alright," said the Dutchman. "Starting the sprint early made it possible to close down Nuyens on the left side of the road. So he was already out of contention. Freire proved to be a bit stronger than me in that sprint.
"Before that, Nuyens was alone in the front. I was able to get back to him but he was riding very fast. I couldn't help him increase our lead on the two Rabobank guys. They must have been very strong because they came back to us."
Nick Nuyens tried to pull away from his fellow escapees, but Karsten Kroon, and later on Freire and Flecha caught him. In the sprint he finished third, and was frustrated at the end. "I don't understand why Kroon was chasing me," Nuyens said. "He should have known it was up to Freire to lead the chase. Because you know he's the fastest at the finish. Freire wasn't the strongest man in the race. He was just faster than us in the sprint.
"Our team did very well, particularly Baguet and Vasseur. The atmosphere in our team is fantastic and we understand each other very well. Today, we proved that Quick.Step has two top quality teams. For me, this was the last test before the Tour of Flanders. My fitness is alright and I think that I'll be very important for Tom Boonen next week. Predicting what the result will be is difficult, but probably I'll be there in the finale."
How it unfolded
There were some tired legs at the start in Zaventem, with the riders who had done yesterday's E3 Prijs wishing they hadn't, when the first 20 km were covered at an average speed of 51 km/h. Before the race reached Leuven (km 24), a break of eight riders was already clear. The break contained Addy Engels (Quick.Step), Didier Rous (Bouygues), Tomas Vaitkus (AG2R), Martin Wijnants (Chocolade Jacques), Claudio Corioni (Lampre-Fondital), Felix Oderbrecht (Wiesenhof Akud), Norbert Poels (Fondas-P3Transfer Team) and Daniele Colli (Liquigas-Bianchi), and were able to gain three minutes before Davitamon-Lotto, which wasn't represented in the break, started to chase them. The gap steadily came back and at the end of the first of five 16 km finishing circuits, they were all but sucked up.
Several riders had already abandoned by this point, including yesterday's second place getter Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital), Fabian Cancellara (CSC), Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Fabio Baldato and Roberto Petito (Tenax), Dario Pieri, Dmitri Konyshev (LPR) and Niels Scheuneman (Rabobank). Rabobank's Jukka Vastaranta had also been taken to hospital after crashing, and the team was hoping for a good ride to save its pride.
Oscar Freire was up to the task today, and was marking many of the moves that went on the Bruineput climb each lap. But at 55 km to go, it was Bram Tankink (Quick.Step) who led a trio away from the peloton, with fellow Dutchmen Bram de Groot (Rabobank), and Stef Clement (Bouygues) in tow. The three persisted with the peloton always breathing down their necks, but Davitamon was again forced to chase as it had no-one in front. That used up valuable firepower before the finale.
Björn Leukemans commented to Sporza afterwards, "Right from the start, we didn't have anybody in the early escape. Our team had to chase them down and that's why some of us were tired in the finale. Suddenly, there were five guys from Quick.Step attacking. We had two guys who needed to gamble on which was the good escape. You need some luck to succeed in this."
The gap hovered between five and 20 seconds as the peloton closed to the break on the Bruineput on lap three, with 40 km to go. A group of 20 or so formed in front with De Groot, Flecha (Rabobank), Clement (Bouygues), Vansummeren, Dockx, Leukemans (Davitamon), Baguet, Nuyens, Tankink (Quick Step) and Arvesen (CSC), but it was too big and so the attacks continue. De Groot and Tankink followed a move by Davitamon's Bart Dockx, with Arvesen (CSC) bridging up quickly. But on the Lindenberg at 37 km to go, the peloton was back on their wheels.
The next interesting move went almost immediately, with Baguet (Quick.Step), Carrara (Lampre), Flecha (Rabobank), Kroon (CSC), Knees (Milram) and Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) escaping. Yet again, Davitamon wasn't represented, and at the end of lap three with 32 km to go, the break had 37 seconds to the Vansummeren led peloton. They hit the Bruineput for the fourth time with that lead intact, before Gerolsteiner, combined with Unibet and Davitamon to carve big chunks of time off the gap. Eventually, Dockx and Van Huffel buried themselves to bring back the six with 22 km to go.
Aart Vierhouten (Skil-Shimano) still had good legs after his third place yesterday, and attacked on the Lindenberg. It lasted a couple of kilometres only, before European Continental Tour leader Fredrik Willems (Chocolade Jacques) hammered off the front at the foot of the Alsemberg for the second last time. With him came De Groot (Rabobank), Kroon, Arvesen (CSC), Vasseur and Nuyens (Quick.Step) and Leukemans (Davitamon). Then over the top, with 15 clicks to travel, Oscar Freire got across to them with ease.
The main teams were all represented well, with three pairs of two in the breakaway. But the cooperation wasn't good enough to pull a lot of time out of the peloton as Gerolsteiner desperately tried to bring them back. On the Bruineput, it was back together yet again, and despite moves by Duque (Cofidis), Leukemans, Nuyens, Kroon, Baguet and Freire, the winning break just never seemed to click.
Davitamon burned its last match with Vansummeren chasing a seven man break with none of its riders in it, and then finally, five riders got clear at seven kilometres to go: Freire led his teammate Flecha, Nuyens, Kroon and Duque away and the bunch was broken. On the Lindenberg with 5 km to go, Nuyens attacked to shake Freire. He succeeded in dropping the triple world champion with only Kroon able to follow him. But Kroon couldn't or wouldn't work with Nuyens, and with Duque definitively dropped, Freire and Flecha were able to come back with 3 km left.
After that, it was all Juan Antonio Flecha, who set a fierce tempo up until the foot of the last climb to prevent any more attacks. Nuyens tried to surprise the others on the Alsemberg, but Kroon and Freire were easily able to follow him. Flecha came back in time to lead out Freire for the sprint to the top, and his teammate obliged with a comfortable win over Kroon and Nuyens. Rabobank tastes success in this race once more.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 4.23.00 (43.35 km/h) 2 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 3 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 4 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank 0.03 5 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC 0.34 6 Igor Abakoumov (Bel) Jartazi-7Mobile 7 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 8 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 9 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 10 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Crédit Agricole 11 Serge Baguet (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 12 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 13 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Quickstep-Innergetic 14 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 15 Marlon Alirio Perez Arango (Col) Team Tenax Salmilano 16 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Unibet.com 17 Johan Coenen (Bel) Unibet.com 18 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner 19 Paul Martens (Ger) Skil-Shimano 20 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Unibet.com 21 Angel Castresana Del Val (Spa) Unibet.com 22 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Crédit Agricole 23 Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Unibet.com 24 Michele Maccanti (Ita) Team LPR 25 Christian Murro (Ita) Team Tenax Salmilano 26 Serge Pauwels (Ned) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 27 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 28 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance 29 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Fondital 30 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 31 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole 32 Marc De Maar (Ned) Rabobank 33 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 34 Walter Beneteau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 35 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 36 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 37 Torsten Schmidt (Ger) Team Wiesenhof Akud 38 Erki Pütsep (Est) AG2R Prévoyance 39 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 40 Erwin Thijs (Bel) Unibet.com 41 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic 42 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Skil-Shimano 43 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank 44 Tim Klinger (Ger) Team Wiesenhof Akud 45 Mads Kaggestad (Nor) Crédit Agricole 46 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Bodysol- Win for Life-Jong Vlaanderen 47 Didier Rous (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 48 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 49 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 50 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Skil-Shimano 51 Cycril Lemoine (Fra) Crédit Agricole 52 Reinier Honig (Ned) Fondas-P3Transfer Team 53 Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 54 Renaud Dion (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance 1.01 55 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 56 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 57 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 1.14 58 Corey Sweet (Aus) Team Wiesenhof Akud 59 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Jartazi-7Mobile 1.22 60 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 61 Vincent Jérôme (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 62 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 1.39 63 Norbert Poels (Ned) Fondas-P3Transfer Team 1.52 64 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 2.23 65 David McPartland (Aus) Team Tenax Salmilano 66 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance 2.52 67 Hidenori Nodera (Jpn) Skil-Shimano 6.14 68 Stef Clement (Ned) Bouygues Telecom 8.30 69 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas