50th E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - 1.HC
Belgium, March 31, 2007
Live commentary by Gregor Brown, with support from Brecht Decaluwé
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage
of the 50th E3 Prijs. We are here in lovely Harelbeke where the weather 15°C
The race starts and ends in this
town, Harelbeke. This morning there was a warm welcome for the riders as they
lined up for the start. Of course Tom Boonen received a huge round of applause
but also Nico Mattan (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed), who is from this area.
Tom Boonen wasn't easy to spot
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
To celebrate the fifty years there
was a massive party in Harelbeke on Thursday night. Belgian beer was being poured
for free all night.
Although this race lacks the depth of history
as the Ronde, next Sunday, it serves as an excellent indicator of who is in
form. The parcours are very similar to Ronde Van Vlaanderen. In fact, two-time
Ronde winner, Boonen, has won here the last three years.
In the first hour of racing the pace
was slow but then the attacks came. Many moves were attempted but none materialized.
Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) both experienced
flat tires during the early hours.
14:54 CEST 88km to go
We are at 88km to go and
still it is 'gruppo compatto' or all together. The first berg comes at km 111,
the La Houppe.
Note, in Flemish these bergs are known as Hellingen,
and in French, Côtes, but we are in Flanders so we can call them Hellingen.
There are 12 Hellingen on tap today.
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
The E3 Prijs Vlaanderen's distance
is roughly 50 kilometres shorter than next weekend's Ronde, but will feature
many of the same torturous hellingen, like the Oude Kwaremont. The climb,
with 1500 metres of cobbles at 4.2 per cent average gradient, leaves 34 kilometres
and two paved bergs to go, Knokteberg and Tiegemberg, and could provide a perfect
launch pad for a race winning attack.
15:01 CEST 119km/84km to go
David Rodriguez (Navigators
Insurance) has abandoned. After losing his contact lenses while racing he could
not see and crashed. He is reported as "fine."
15:04 CEST 126km/77km to go
Skil-Shimano is driving
the pace on the front of the peloton. The riders have covered the Houppe. The
Berg Stene is coming up next.
Steffen Wesemann (Wiesenhof-Felt)
15:05 CEST 128km/75km to go
The riders are on
the short cobbled section of 300 metres. Skil-Shimano is still powering on the
Mathieu Heijboer (Cofidis) stops
to change his rear wheel.
Stuart O'Grady is enjoying his good form
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
Before the start Brecht Decaluwé
of Cyclingnews spoke with Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) about his form. "I'm
in really good form and every race I'm trying things which could help me for
the Tour of Flanders. To me this is all mainly just a build up towards the real
Classics, but if I can win one of these Semi-Classics I'd be happy to claim
it. Fabian [Cancellara] is really coming up good as well."
15:13 CEST 132km/71km to go
What a lovely day
here. Last week it seemed as though winter moved into Europe but now the sun
is back and the riders are without knee-warmers or arm-warmers. Some do have
shoe covers, and all have helmets!
The peloton has slowed a bit.
It is fanned across the road. They have just entered the cobble section of Varent,
15:15 CEST 134km/69km to go
(Team CSC) takes the grassy path. The Swiss was bumped and had to go off-road
for a little while. He showed the bike handling skills that won him the Paris-Roubaix
one year ago.
15:18 CEST 136km/67km to go
On the Boigneberg
the back of the peloton is a mess. The riders who slow down cause the others
to put their feet down to keep from falling over. Up front the riders are five
abreast across the road.
"I'm the on-site DS for the Cyclingnews
team," noted Belgian Nico Mattan (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed) to Brecht Decaluwé
before the start. "I try to guide my teammates; explaining to them where to
"Sadly enough, I haven't been able to play my role in
a finale this year so I don't know how far I can go today. It's not easy to
fight against the Quick-Step supremacy. Tactics to win the race? Well, I'll
try not to wait until the finale begins because then I'll fall short against
the really big guns.
15:23 CEST 139km/64km to go
Jurgen Van Goolen
(Discovery Channel) just went off the left side of the road with three others.
He looks fine and has re-joined. But Bert Scheirlinckx (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner)
took a bad spill and will likely abandon. He was noted to be in good form before
the race start.
"Actually I tried to prepare myself
for the race of tomorrow, the Brabantse Pijl," said Nico Sijmens (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner)
to Brecht Decaluwé. "I'm doing alright with a win in the Beverbeek Classic earlier
15:26 CEST 141km/62km to go
O'Grady flats on
a cobbled section. He is chasing to get back on after a teammate stopped to
Quick-Step is hammering on the front, left-side. Michael
Boogard of Rabobank is off to the right, on his own!
Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas), Nico
Sijmens (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner) and Lars Michaelsen (Team CSC) at 96
kilometres to go. Gasparotto will target tomorrow's race.
15:29 CEST 142km/61km to go
Marcel Sieberg (Milram)
has a gap.
"I hope we can support Nico Mattan
for a while as he's going alright," noted Björn Cornelissen (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed).
"I hope to slip along with a breakaway before the hills section. If you do well
over here we get in the team for the 'Driedaagse De Panne' and by doing those
races you're just getting faster."
15:33 CEST 145km/58km to go
The peloton is on
a tough bit of cobbles. It is a slightly uphill run that is burning up the legs.
Discovery is on the front along with Quick-Step and Predictor.
The peloton is all strung out here.
Sieberg has been swallowed and spat out the back.
Devolder gives a dig off the front.
15:36 CEST 147km/56km to go
Stijn Devolder (Discovery
Channel) is joined by Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) and Manuel Quinziato
The two Belgians are leading the
way for the Italian. Quinziato showed great form in Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen.
He and Luca Paolini are leading the Liquigas squad today.
15:40 CEST 150km/53km to go
Boonen is charging
hard on the Taaienberg. Wow, what a turn of speed he is showing. He and a T-mobile
riders are bridging to the three up front.
15:40 CEST 150km/53km to go
(T-Mobile) is with Boonen and they join the three.
15:42 CEST 150km/53km to go
is one big German! He, along with Gasparotto, were charging hard in the Dwars
Cancellara is now chasing solo!
15:43 CEST 152km/51km to go
(Team CSC), the World TT Champ, is using his leg speed to motor to the five
up front. Folks, we have our race winning move!
What a massive move! That was very
impressive and Fabian will now need to sit on the back of this group, now at
6, and recover a bit.
Please write in and let us know what
you think of this race winning move. Will Lampre close the gap for Ballan? Baldato
is on the front now trying to do just that for the rider from Veneto.
15:47 CEST 155km/48km to go
The group of six
have 28 seconds. World Champ Bettini is tucked in the pack and will be happy
for his teammate, Boonen, up front.
15:50 CEST 158km/45km to go
The six are working
well. They are rotating in a counter-clockwise motion, which means the wind
is coming from their left side. The gap is at 25".
15:52 CEST 157km/46km to go
The riders are on
the Oude Kruiskens, which contains 900m of cobbles!
The riders are bobbing their heads,
really grinding up this climb.
At the top O'Grady charges off the
If Aussie O'Grady bridges then we
would have two CSC's up front. Not a good situation for the other teams.
Fabian Wegmann at the start noted
that "During Milano - Sanremo there was bad luck all around for our team and
I also crashed in the Tirreno-Adriatico, and it still hurts a fair bit.
"I'm trying to get in shape for the Flèche Wallonne and this year I choose to
race over here instead of the stage race in the Basque Country. It is the first
time I raced on cobbled roads as a professional so we'll have to see how it
goes," Wegmann doubted his chances for today. "But it's all mainly a build up
towards the Flèche Wallonne."
Predictor and Astana are chasing the
group up front. O'Grady is about ready to join the escape and it will make seven
men in the front.
Sorry, that was Cancellara! The big
Swiss is dropping back to help O'Grady bridge! CSC is taking control of this
16:00 CEST 163km/40km to go
The duo have bridged
with the five others; we now have seven and CSC dominance.
16:03 CEST 166km/37km to go
Tom Boonen is charging
up the Paterberg. While up front O'Grady was dropped!
Freire and Bettini are off the front
at the top! Boonen is leading up front.
16:06 CEST 168km/35km to go
Freire and Bettini
have joined O'Grady. Freire is forced to do more work as Rabobank does not have
a rider up front.
16:09 CEST 170km/33km to go
The riders are on
the famed and cobbled Oude Kwaremont. 2200m long with 1500m of pavé.
Freire is suffering here.
Freire's body is shaking. Bettini
leads and O'Grady is in between.
Boonen is looking so powerful up
front. He is doing large pulls. Boonen and Gilbert split the love amongst the
fans in Belgium. Boonen represents Flanders and Gilbert Wallonne.
Belgian Champ Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen) abandoned;
16:14 CEST 172km/31km to go
Freire has been caught.
His teammate Boogard moves up front
in his Dutch Champ jersey. The Dutch fans must be going mad over in Holland
as Michael Boogard is very popular.
16:16 CEST 173km/30km to go
Bettini is going
to join the group up front with O'Grady. In fact, it is Boonen who is dropping
back to pace up the World Champ.
Now Quick-step and CSC both have
16:18 CEST 175km/28km to go
Ballan is bridging
with a small group.
16:21 CEST 178km/25km to go
(Lampre-Fondital), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Roy
Sentjens (Predictor-Lotto), Baden Cooke (Unibet.com), Serguei Ivanov (Astana),
Allan Johansen (Team CSC) are chasing at 13". It is important for some of these
guys to give their teams representation in the move.
16:24 CEST 180km/23km to go
The front groups
are split by 11 seconds. They will soon join and then we can expect counter-attacks
The riders are firing up the Knokteberg.
Bettini has a gear problem and is dropped! He is out!
Tom Boonen and Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile)
Bettini's chain broke and it caused a traffic jam
on the Knokteberg.
There are now four up front. Fabian
Cancellara (Team CSC), Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile), Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic),
Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas)
16:32 CEST 185km/18km to go
Boonen looks to be
suffering a bit. They are going 35kph into a head-wind. The group of four has
16:35 CEST 188km/15km to go
This is a strong
group of men up front but with only 32" and a group of around 10 chasing it
is not likely to make it to the finish as four.
The riders are approaching
the final climb of the day, the Tiegemberg. It is 1400m at an average of 6.5%.
We can expect an attack soon; likely
from Cancellara or Boonen.
The four have 32" and are watching
each other closely. The tension is building on the Tiegemberg.
16:38 CEST 189km/14km to go
The four have topped
the climb without any warfare. What will happen next? We now have 14km, of mostly
16:40 CEST 191km/12km to go
Rabo leads the charge
in the second group with Freire and Boogy. They need to close this gap (33")
16:41 CEST 192km/11km to go
The weather is 15°C
and cloudy. The wind is coming from the riders' right on this long stretch of
road that they are on.
16:43 CEST 193km/10km to go
Boonen appears to
be suffering from back problems. He keeps getting out of the saddle and looks
The second group is at 1'50"
16:49 CEST 197km/6km to go
The tension continues
to build. The four are working well but someone has to attack soon. Boonen is
the best sprinter here in this group but Quinziato also has a mean kick.
16:50 CEST 199km/4km to go
It is Quinziato followed
by Boonen, Cancellara and Burghardt; they are rotating in a counter-clockwise
There is a strong tail-wind at the
finish line here in Harelbeke.
Also, Gert Steegmans just passed,
he has abandoned.
16:54 CEST 201km/2km to go
The riders have entered
the city limits. The order is Cancellara, Burghardt, Quinziato and Boonen.
The city bells are ringing for the
riders' arrival... We are in the last Km. Burghardt attacks but is caught.
Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) tried
a dig, but he too was caught. They are really slowing down.
Quinziato starts the sprint.
But Boonen is building up speed on
the Swiss. Boonen is going to get this.
Boonen wins the sprint over Cancellara!
Burghardt gets third.
It was an historical win for 'Tommeke';
he became the first rider to win four times in-a-row! Cancellara showed strong
but was no match for the 2005 World Champion.
Thanks for joining
Cyclingnews for the 50th edition of the E3 Prijs.
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC
3 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile
4 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas
5 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC
6 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Predictor-Lotto
7 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française Des Jeux
8 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com
9 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC
10 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital