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62nd Omloop Het Volk - 1.HC

Belgium, March 3, 2007

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Pozzato wins with grinta

Boonen and Nuyens hammered while O'Grady-Flecha duo faded

By Gregor Brown in Gent and Brecht Decaluwé in Lokeren

Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

"I used a little bit of grinta," said race winner, Italian Filippo Pozzato. The Liquigas rider proved his early season form and his rising Classics rider status by taking out the 62nd Omloop Het Volk. The 25 year-old rider from Veneto, 2006 winner of the Milano-Sanremo, played the finale of the Belgian semi-classic to perfection by playing off Belgian in-fighting.

Pippo started his 2007 season in style as one week after winning the Tour du Haut Var the blond Italian won the Belgian season opener after a very tense final between some of the best one-day specialists of the moment. When Pippo's group of four, with Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) and Aussie Baden Cooke (Unibet.com), closed in on the front duo of Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) he waited for the Belgian rivalry to play out. Into the final kilometre, 2005 winner Nuyens attacked, Pippo sat on the front and gestured back to 2005 World Champion Boonen that he had better chase his compatriot or all of Belgium would be furious. It worked.

Nuyens was closing in on the front duo when Boonen was forced to react. As Boonen went, Pippo countered and nailed the two Belgians and the Aussie-Spanish duo in one fatal swoop. He soloed home in the final 300 metres to take his biggest win since last year's Sanremo, and it is perhaps this win that will throw his hat into the ring of serious Tour of Flanders contenders (April 8 - ed.).

25 year-old Pozzato was thrilled after the race and noted, "It was an important win for me. The final was difficult with riders like Tom Boonen, Nuyens and O'Grady; all of them are good riders. While chasing O'Grady and Flecha I believed in our chances in the finale and apparently I did that with good reason," Pozzato said. "My team who did a lot of the work, and it was not just the last kilometre, but they did lots of work beforehand.

"It was ironic that Quick-Step did not win after racing so strong today. But also the other teams worked hard, like Rabobank. The final sections of pavé really made the difference." Then regarding the finale he added, "Cooke did not pull in the final. And maybe Boonen was a little tired. I used a little bit of grinta (force) and it worked out." How did the sprint go for you? "I went long," he quipped. And now do you consider yourself a contender for the Tour of Flanders? "I hope so, I don't know. It will surely be a difficult course but I will do what I can to win, but it will be hard.

Tom Boonen
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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Belgian favourite Tom Boonen has never won the Omloop – a rarity for the former world champion - and before the race he predicted that it would be a hard race for him to win. "It was a tense finale and I think everybody saw a beautiful race," Boonen laughed. "I was out of fuel at the end of the race; I really had to re-launch myself a few times to get back to the front. I had cramps so maybe I didn't drink enough during the race," Boonen explained.

Boonen's former team mate Nick Nuyens came close to the win but his jump was countered by Boonen and then Pozzato. "We wanted to have someone in the break and we had two guys so that's great, we've got a really strong team," Nuyens commented of his Cofidis team. "I didn't have much left in the legs when I attacked but I had to try something because I'm useless in a sprint. When I saw Pozzato go I knew he would win it like nobody else," Nuyens said.

Another Belgian launched the finale with an impossible looking solo. It was tall time trialist Bert Roesems (Predictor-Lotto) who tried his luck on the final cobbled sections, he was able to hold on to his small lead for a while but then he was overtaken by a group of favourites. "It could've seemed impossible for some but if you don't try then you'll never know if it's possible", Roesems noted.

Tomorrow the second part of the Belgian opening weekend is held between Kuurne and Brussels with the re-match for some favourites in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. We wonder if last year's winner Nick Nuyens will be able to recover in time from today's efforts to repeat his success.

How it unfolded

A large mass of 195 riders of 25 teams rolled away from the St-Peters square in Gent where big crowds were unimpressed by the stormy weather conditions that would torture the riders during the first hours of the race. Ludovic Auger (Française Des Jeux) was the first to try his luck with an attack but the peloton didn't let him go. Another French rider Laurent Mangel (Ag2r Prévoyance) tried to get away soon after but he was brought back after 26km. There were some crashes on the slippery roads and Christoph Roodhooft (Palmans Collstrop) ended up being the first one to abandon the race after a serious crash in which Gorik Gardeyn (Unibet.com) was involved as well.

Nico Mattan
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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After one hour of racing the peloton hit the first climb of the day, the Kluisberg, which was 40km away from the start. After 45km the peloton climbed the second berg of the day, the Cote de Trieu; by then Cameron Jennings (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed) decided to call it a day.

The Oude Kwaremont, which the classic selective climb during the Tour of Flanders, did same in the Omloop as the peloton was split into three groups. By the end of the 2.2km long climb, eight riders were away and they had twenty seconds on the first part of the peloton – 70 riders - with all the big guns still there.

The group of eight consisted of outsider Gert Steegmans (Quickstep-Innergetic) and teammate Sébastien Rosseler, Johan Van Summeren (Predictor-Lotto), Sébastien Minard and teammate Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis), Lorenzo Bernucci (T-Mobile), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com). This group quickly managed to develop their advantage on the front peloton; Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner) was the only rider who managed to bridge up to the first part of the peloton coming from the back.

With 118km to go the riders passed the Muur from Geraardsbergen, on that famous climb it was Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) who attacked the peloton. Last year's winner Gilbert created a gap of about fifteen seconds on the peloton when Kevin De Weert (Cofidis) crashed and broke his collarbone; he will undergo surgery this evening.

The group of eight had a minute and a half on the peloton before starting the climb of Eikenberg, with 90km to go. Behind them Steffen Wesemann (Wiesenhof-Felt) and Jimmy Casper (Unibet.com) attacked the peloton on the climb trying to bridge up towards the breakaway, which was then only 47" ahead. Jan Kuyckx joined Casper in the counter-attack on the Berendries climb while Wesemann decided not to continue his efforts. Meanwhile the peloton allowed the leaders to gain advantage of more than two minutes.

Greg Van Avermaet
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Although Quickstep had Steegmans and Rosseler up front they worked hard in the peloton; this effort resulted in Casper and Kuyckx getting caught by the peloton.

Just before entering the cobbled sectors at 60 km to the finish, the situation was eight men in the lead with 2'20" on the peloton, which was led by Rabobank. Thanks to the work of the orange Dutch squad going into a long headwind section the advantage of the leaders was cut in two. Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) crashed in this tough section but was brought back to the front by no less than four teammates.

Rabobank's continued work in the peloton resulted in a regrouping with 40km to go. Just before the group got caught there was a French attack by Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis), who grabbed some extra media attention while riding ahead of the peloton for some kilometres.

Bas Giling (Wiesenhof-Felt) attacked on the following cobbled section but behind him Predictor's Bert Roesems accelerated with only Marco Zanotti (Unibet.com) able to follow. Roesems and Zanotti joined Giling up front, and before long the tall Belgian time trialist was off on his own. Behind these three men Gilbert accelerated and his efforts resulted in the formation of another breakaway group. Behind Roesems, Six men followed with Gilbert, Steven De Jongh (Quickstep-Innergetic), Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), Gorik Gardeyn and teammate Laurens Ten Dam (Unibet.com), and again Giling.

While Gilbert slipped on the cobbles of Heistraat, Tom Boonen unleashed his forces for the first time, with Flecha being the only rider who could follow his wheel. There was yet another crash from this group, with Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) and Sébastien Chavanel (Française Des Jeux) as casualties.

Stuart O'Grady
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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Boonen and Flecha were joined by Nuyens and a handful others but Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel) was unable to keep up with the group of Boonen. On the cobbles of the Vogelzangstraat – the ultimate sector of the day - Roesems kept going hard, but with fourteen kilometres to go the time trial specialist was caught by a group with Stuart O'Grady, who attacked immediately with only Flecha following.

In a tense finale Boonen unleashed his power once more, trying to bridge up to O'Grady and Flecha. The former world champion couldn't do it on his own as he seemed to suffer, resulting in Pozzato, Cooke and Nuyens joining the Belgian. Flecha and O'Grady seemed to be the strongest men up front as they powered towards the finish, building a lead of 12 seconds with only five kilometres to go. The pursuers were looking at each other but with two kilometres to go, O'Grady and Flecha suddenly found the wind that was at their backs was in their faces, as the parcours did a 180 degree turn with one two kilometres remaining. Not only a headwind, but also a wide open, straight road, giving the chasers a good view of the duo. Meanwhile, Cooke suffered at the back of the group of four.

Amazingly, O'Grady and Flecha began to slow as they approached the line, weaving over the road and playing cat-and-mouse, while behind them, the chasing trio began to close. The gap was all but eliminated by an attack from Nuyens. Pozzato gestured for Boonen to counter and he obliged and as one Belgian caught the other, the Italian attacked from behind and with 300 metres to go, he put his head down and no other rider could follow. Flecha tried but couldn't hold his wheel, and Boonen came around Nuyens and powered home for third, leaving Nuyens off the podium. Cooke stayed ahead of the peloton, where Gorik Gardeyn won the sprint in front of Stefan Van Dijck (Wiesenhof-Felt) and Robbie McEwen.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

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

  • Greg Van Avermaet (Predictor Lotto) on the cobbles
  • Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com) got himself involved in early moves
  • Julian Dean (Credit Agricole)
  • Nico Mattan (DFL/Cyclingnews) worked near the front of the main group to give some of his younger teammates a chance to launch attacks.
  • Johan Van Summeren (Predictor Lotto) takes a pull
  • Phillipe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) got away with 40k to go but was brought back.
  • Tom Boonen said he gave it all he had but came up short in the finish at the 62nd running of Omloop Het Volk on Saturday.
  • Stuart O'Grady (CSC) and Juan Antonio Fleche (Rabobank) made a late-race move to get away that was thwarted by a chase group including Boonen (Quick Step) and eventual winner Filippo Pozzato (Liguigas).
  • Pozatto takes the season's first semi-classic
  • The remainder of the lead group fight for podium spots behind Pizatto
  • Boonen, Pozatto and Fleche receive accolades from the crowds in Lokeren
  • Pozatto gets to kiss the first trophy of the classics season
  • Pozatto put in a hard day at the office on Saturday

Images by Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com

Images by AFP Photo

Images by Stijn Vercamer

Results - 210 km

1 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas                              5.04.38 (41.361 km/h)
2 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank                             0.02
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic                              
4 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis                                          
5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC                                      
6 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com                                   0.30
7 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Unibet.com                                 0.39
8 Stefan Van Dijck (Ned) Wiesenhof-Felt                              
9 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor-Lotto                                
10 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic                        
11 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française Des Jeux                         
12 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile                                      
13 Niko Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen         
14 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Liquigas                                     
15 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank                                      
16 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile                                   
17 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo              
18 Jukka Vastaranta (Fin) Jartazi Promo Fashion                      
19 Bas Giling (Ned) Wiesenhof-Felt                                   
20 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Discovery Channel                             
21 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Unibet.com                              0.45
22 Bert Roesems (Bel) Predictor-Lotto                            0.49
23 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic                     0.50
24 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Predictor-Lotto                      1.02
25 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Predictor-Lotto                            1.20
26 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner           3.13
27 Eric Baumann (Ger) T-Mobile                                       
28 Christophe Laurent (Fra) Crédit Agricole                      4.26
29 Lars Bak (Den) Team CSC                                           
30 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) Ag2r Prévoyance                              
31 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues Telecom                             
32 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Milram                                         
33 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis                                   
34 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Milram                                       
35 Kevin Neirynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner                 
36 Mathieu Heijboer (Ned) Cofidis                                    
37 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen    
38 Gregory Rast (Swi) Astana                                         
39 Michiel Elijzen (Ned) Cofidis                                     
40 Martin Müller (Swi) Milram                                        
41 Sebastian Siedler (Ger) Milram                                    
42 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux                         
43 Roger Hammond (GBr) T-Mobile                                      
44 Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo              
45 Steve Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel                            
46 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor-Lotto                                  
47 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                           
48 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Rabobank                                   
49 William Bonnet (Fra) Crédit Agricole                              
50 Renaud Dion (Fra) Ag2r Prévoyance                                 
51 Roberto Petito (Ita) Liquigas                                     
52 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas                                   
53 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française Des Jeux                       
54 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Unibet.com                                     
55 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC                                     
56 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic                        
57 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Unibet.com                                     
58 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic                      
59 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Astana                                     
60 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Astana                                       
61 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Astana                                   
62 Gerben Löwik (Ned) Rabobank                                       
63 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank                                    
64 Nico Mattan (Bel) DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed                   6.00
65 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Milram                                
66 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Discovery Channel                           
67 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic                     
68 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Astana                                          
69 Anders Lund (Den) Team CSC                                        
70 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Skil-Shimano                             
71 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Predictor-Lotto                             
72 Servais Knaven (Ned) T-Mobile                                     
73 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Unibet.com                                    
74 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) T-Mobile                                   
75 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Milram                                       
76 Antonio Cruz (USA) Discovery Channel                              
77 Matthew White (Aus) Discovery Channel                             
78 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole                              
79 Matthew Wilson (Aus) Unibet.com                                   
80 Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Liquigas                                 
81 Allan Davis (Aus) Discovery Channel                               
82 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Unibet.com                                      
83 Julian Dean (NZl) Crédit Agricole                                 
84 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Predictor-Lotto                           
85 Michael Schär (Swi) Astana                                    6.25

Starters: 195
Finishers: 85
Abandons: 110