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47th Brabantse Pijl - 1.1
Belgium, April 1, 2007
Clear hat-trick for Freire on the Alsemberg
Leukemans smells victory flowers but Rabobank spoils his party
By Brecht Decaluwé
Triple world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) made it three-in-a-row at the Brabantse Pijl after teammate Michael Boogerd led out the sprint from a select group of six riders and with 100 metres to go Freire unleashed his forces to easily beat local favourite Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) and Luxembourg champion Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile). "It was a difficult sprint because there's a climb just before the finish and because I was a little bit tired from yesterday [E3-prijs Harelbeke]," Freire said. "Boogerd controlled and pulled the last ten kilometres making it a sprint. Gasparotto started the sprint with 300 metres to go and I stayed in the wheels until the final kilometre.
"This course suits me perfectly and I'm very happy with this win as a hat-trick isn't bad," the man from Torrelavega added in fluent English.
Local favourite Nick Nuyens skipped yesterday's race and publicly expressed his desire to win the Brabantse Pijl. The Belgian was always attentive following in the wheels but never attacked himself. "It's just like last year," Nuyens explained about the 2006 sprint with Freire, Kroon and Flecha. "We couldn't drop him [Freire] on the climbs and in the sprint I sat a bit too far. I'm disappointed although I was there in the finale."
One man tried to avoid the sprint by attacking the breakaway with only four kilometres to go: Bjorn Leukemans (Predictor) jumped away on the Lindenberg. The injury-plagued Belgian never had more than ten seconds as Boogerd kept pulling hard in front of the pursuing group. Leukemans' brave attack was undone in the final kilometre on the climb leading up to the finish line.
"It's not a good idea to wait for a sprint against Freire, so I gambled but lost," Leukemans said. "Jurgen Van Den Broeck was in every escape putting the team into a relaxed position. The team said I had to anticipate before the climbs as they expected me to drop back when the big guns attacked. I knew I could follow everybody on the Bruine Put climb and you saw I was there in the finale. Right now I will ride some more kilometres to get stronger for the Tour of Flanders."
How it unfolded
At the start in sun-drenched Zaventem, near Brussels, last year's winner Oscar Freire handed world champion Paolo Bettini birthday flowers; the organisers offered him an Easter egg made from famous Belgian chocolate while the local brass band played 'Happy Birthday'. Negotiations are currently being held to host the start of the 2008 race, with Zaventem getting competition mainly from Leuven but also Haacht and Tervuren.
Jan Kuyckx (Tönisteiner) managed the first real attack of the day, nothing serious although it was strange to see Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) in the counter-attack. A compact peloton surged towards the local circuit through the historical market of the university city, Leuven. Finally, after eighty kilometres three riders managed to sneak away from the peloton: experienced Roberto Petito (Liquigas), Finnish champion Jussi Veikkanen (Française Des Jeux) and promising young Russian Sergey Kolesnikov (Unibet). The three had a maximum advantage of four minutes while world champion Paolo Bettini (Quickstep) decided to abandon the race, most probably to continue his birthday celebrations in Italy.
After 117 kilometres the peloton hit the local circuit - five laps of 17 kilometres each with Rabobank and Cofidis taking command. The local circuit featured three climbs: first the Bruine Put (800m, maxium gradient 14 percent), then the Lindenberg (600m, maximum gradient 7 percent) and finally the Alsemberg (400m, maximum gradient 10 percent) where the finish line was marked. The last hill is also known as Jacques' hill with Jacques being the former owner of the café on top of the hill.
The advantage of the leaders dropped quickly and with 56 kilometres to go they were brought back by six men: Elio Aggiano (Tinkoff), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Predictor), Adam Hansen (T-Mobile), Nicholas Roche (Cofidis), Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank) and Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole). Veikkanen and Petito dropped back when Van Den Broeck led the group on the Alsemberg. In the peloton, there were some half-hearted attacks by Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quickstep) and Luca Paolini (Liquigas) while favourites Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) rode attentively near the front on the climbs.
From then on in, the bunch was torn apart on every climb and each time the peloton passed the finish line many riders abandoned. With 38 kilometres to go, Gilbert and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) joined the early finishers. At the same time Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom), Giovanni Visconti (Quickstep) and Jean-Marc Marino (Crédit Agricole) bridged up towards the leaders who were no more than 30" ahead of the peloton.
Just before the leaders hit the penultimate lap, they were brought back by the peloton that then totalled no more than 50 riders. Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Matteo Tossato (Quickstep), Marcus Ljunqvist (CSC) and Bart Dockx (Predictor) sneaked away just before the Bruine Put and quickly gathered 20 seconds. Young Belgian Dockx was quickly left behind on that climb and thanks to the efforts from Rabobank's Moerenhout and William Walker - who worked for Michael Boogerd and Freire - the gap never grew bigger than 35".
With assistance from T-Mobile - for Kim Kirchen - the leaders were brought back on the final climb of the Bruine Put. Kirchen showed his teammates that their efforts were well appreciated as he immediately attacked with only Boogerd, Nuyens, Freire, Bjorn Leukemans (Predictor), Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas) and Karsten Kroon (CSC) following in his wheels.
With four kilometres to go Leukemans - returning from injury - attacked the group from the front on the Lindenberg; behind him Boogerd worked hard for Freire and the gap never grew bigger than 10". Hitting the ascending last kilometre of the Alsemberg, Leukemans was brought back and left behind by the group of six. In the sprint, former world champion Freire proved to be far stronger than Nuyens, Kirchen and Gasparotto.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by DCP/Bert Geerts
1 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 4.45.00 (40.650 km/h) 2 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 3 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team 4 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Liquigas 5 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 6 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 0.08 7 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Predictor - Lotto 0.25 8 Christian Murro (Ita) Tenax - Menikini 0.28 9 Mario Aerts (Bel) Predictor - Lotto 10 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.35 11 Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Tinkoff Credit Systems 12 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 13 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Crédit Agricole 14 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Predictor - Lotto 15 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep - Innergetic 16 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC 17 Simone Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 18 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 19 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Unibet.com 20 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quickstep - Innergetic 21 Axel Merckx (Bel) T-Mobile Team 1.47 22 Sven Renders (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen 2.33 23 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Unibet.com 24 Serge Pauwels (Ned) Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen 2.44 25 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen 3.40 26 Geert Steurs (Bel) Predictor - Lotto 27 Adam Hansen (Aus) T-Mobile Team 28 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Predictor - Lotto 29 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC 30 Thomas Ziegler (Ger) T-Mobile Team 31 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team Milram 32 Johan Coenen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen 33 Michael Barry (Can) T-Mobile Team 34 Benjamin Brooks (Aus) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team 35 Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Lampre - Fondital 36 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 37 Thomas Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner 38 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre - Fondital 39 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 40 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quickstep - Innergetic 41 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas 42 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas 43 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Tenax - Menikini 44 Aleksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Liquigas 45 Anthony Charteau (Fra) Crédit Agricole 46 Jean-Marc Marino (Fra) Crédit Agricole 47 Gil Suray (Bel) Unibet.com 4.35 48 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) Unibet.com 49 Sergey Kolesnikov (Rus) Unibet.com 50 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Bouygues Telecom 4.40 51 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 52 Ger Soepenberg (Ned) Fondas-P3Transfer Team 4.52 53 Stéphane Augé (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 54 Nicholas Roche (Irl) Crédit Agricole 55 Massimiliano Mori (Ita) Lampre - Fondital 5.37 56 Bart Dockx (Bel) Predictor - Lotto 6.47 57 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Unibet.com 58 William Walker (Aus) Rabobank 59 Roel Vanmuysen (Bel) Klaipeda - Splendid Cycling Team 10.05 60 Martin Pedersen (Den) Team CSC 61 Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Davitamon - Win for Life - Jong Vlaanderen 62 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 63 Glenn Bak (Den) Murphy & Gunn - Newlyn - M. Donnelly - Sean Kelly 64 Steffen Weigold (Ger) Tinkoff Credit Systems 65 Marco Cavallari (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 66 Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) Klaipeda - Splendid Cycling Team 67 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 68 Kristian House (GBr) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team 69 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 70 Paidi O'brien (Irl) Murphy & Gunn - Newlyn - M. Donnelly - Sean Kelly 71 Alessandro Bertuola (Ita) Tenax - Menikini 72 Francis De Greef (Bel) Davitamon - Win for Life - Jong Vlaanderen 73 Bingen Fernandez Bustinza (Spa) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 74 Carlos Dacruz (Fra) Française des Jeux 75 Kenny Van Braeckel (Bel) Jartazi Promo Fashion 76 Sven Nevens (Bel) Jartazi Promo Fashion 77 Reinier Honig (Ned) Fondas-P3Transfer Team 78 Martin Müller (Ger) Team Milram 79 Fabien Patanchon (Fra) Française des Jeux 80 Nicolas Crosbie (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 81 Erwin Thijs (Bel) Unibet.com 82 Yohan Cauquil (Fra) Jartazi Promo Fashion 83 Timothy Vangheel (Ned) Fondas-P3Transfer Team 84 Luke Roberts (Aus) Team CSC 85 Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 86 Tyler Farrar (USA) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 87 Sebastian Siedler (Ger) Team Milram 88 Rémy Di Grégorio (Fra) Française des Jeux 89 Matt Cooke (USA) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team 90 Alexander Khatuntsev (Rus) Unibet.com 91 Pieter Mertens (Bel) Predictor - Lotto 92 Claudio Cucinotta (Ita) Tenax - Menikini 93 Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Davitamon - Win for Life - Jong Vlaanderen 94 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Crédit Agricole 95 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 96 Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 97 Didier Rous (Fra) Bouygues Telecom Starters: 200 Classified: 97