96th Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen - 1.HC
Belgium, April 16, 2008
Complete live report
Live commentary by Gregor Brown and Susan Westemeyer
Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:45 CEST
Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 96th Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen. This race is the last race for many of the Classics riders who built their season around the races like Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, and it favours the men who have a kick. Last year's winner Mark Cavendish (High Road) is again a man to watch in this 207-kilometre race around Antwerp.
Conditions are sunny but crisp here in Belgium.
Early reports have a small group of riders off the front of the peloton. We will get the names of that group and the advantage they have very shortly.
Bjorn Haake spoke with Salvatore Commesso (Preti Mangimi) at the start of the race. "I am hoping for no wind," said the Italian. "I think it will be a race for Boonen."
Tom Boonen is back to racing after winning Sunday's Paris-Roubaix for the second time in his career. The Belgian will be a favourite today.
Experienced Belgian, Tom Steels of Team Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner was unable to start the race today due to a stomach flu. The four-time Belgian Champion is racing his last season.
Koen Barbé (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) are off the front with a 13'20" advantage.
We will have an update for you soon regarding the position of the race.
Bjorn Haake spoke with René Weissinger of Team Volksbank at the start. The rider confirmed, "We have three sprinters, me, Daniel Musiol and André Korff. We will figure it out during the race, whoever is going the best.
"The team is improving after the races in Belgium," he continued. "I am enjoying the weather here; it is sunny and there are a lot of spectators."
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) is a two-time winner of this race, last winning in 2006. Of course, it was Mark Cavendish (High Road) who won in 2007. This year, the rider has shown well with two stage wins in the Three Days of De Panne.
Servais Knaven (High Road), Erik Zabel (Team Milram) and Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) – all racing today – are also past winners.
15:23 CEST 111km/96km to go
The gap is down to 7'40" for our two men out front.
15:29 CEST 114km/93km to go
Teams High Road and Mitsubishi were leading the peloton in the chance, but now Volksbank and Landbouwkrediet have taken over.
Bert Roesems (Silence-Lotto) is back at the team car having a chat with his directeur sportif.
The boys get a chance for a 'natural break' as they are held up at a train crossing. Meanwhile, our escape duo continues to pound away with an advantage of over seven minutes.
15:32 CEST 116km/91km to go
Erik Zabel is near the front of the peloton. The 37 year-old would love to take another win home this season.
15:35 CEST 117km/90km to go
With 90 kilometres remaining the gap is right at the seven minute mark.
15:38 CEST 120km/87km to go
Dutchman Timmer has no wins so far as a professional; however, he did finish sixth overall in the 2007 Tour of Qinghai Lake. Belgian Barbé won the 2005 GP Rudy Dhaenens and finished 79th in the recent Paris-Roubaix.
Barbé is enjoying a snack as he holds on to Timmer's wheel.
15:38 CEST 120km/87km to go
The ProTour teams are keeping an eye on things, but letting the smaller tams do the lead work for the moment. It does not look like they are going all out at the moment. Meanwhile the lead for the two up front is falling, down to 6.34 no.
15:39 CEST 121km/86km to go
Team Volksbank has three riders on the front. The team is communicating with a rider from High Road to organise the chase.
15:42 CEST 123km/84km to go
The peloton keeps grinding away, and the lead has dropped to under six minutes.
15:44 CEST 124km/83km to go
The race is approaching the three 16-kilometre closing circuits. Team Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT is adding its muscle to the chase.
15:46 CEST 125km/82km to go
The two leaders are riding through a forest section right now. It is a pretty section, with the fresh new green leaves of spring lending a beautiful colour to the scenery. We don't know if they have time to appreciate the natural beauty, though, as their lead continues to drop to 5:36.
15:49 CEST 126km/81km to go
Geoffrey Coupé (Mitsubishi-Jartazi) has to stop. After a left hand corner, his chain slipped off his bike and he is requiring some mechanical assistance.
15:51 CEST 128km/79km to go
Team Milram is sending a number of riders up to the front. Personally, we think it is a bit early to start preparing the sprint for Zabel...
Mark Cavendish (High Road) made a huge impression here last year when he won his first professional road race. Will we see some new rider rise to the occasion today or will one of the favourites win?
15:54 CEST 131km/76km to go
76 trombones, errr, make that kilometres, and the lead has shrunk to under five minutes.
15:54 CEST 131km/76km to go
The escape duo looks committed to this move, but it really stands no chance. Once the sprinters' teams get revving the two men will be swallowed and spit out the back.
The advantage has fallen under five minutes.
The skies are grey now, a contrast to the partly-cloudy start.
In Italy, Danilo Di Luca has been acquitted of charges that he doped in the 2007 Giro d'Italia. Cyclingnews will report more on this in our first edition news.
15:57 CEST 132km/75km to go
Tom Boonen just did a lovely bunny hop over a speed bump – we give him an artistic note of 9.9!
Servais Knaven (High Road), a past winner of this race, is at the front and working for his team captain, Mark Cavendish. He is the only High Road rider working on the front at the moment, but surely as the race nears the finale the head of the peloton will be white with the colours of the USA-based team.
16:02 CEST 136km/71km to go
The gap to the two escapees has dropped back yet another minute, to 3'50" with 71 kilometres to race.
16:04 CEST 138km/69km to go
At this rate, the peloton will have the duo in their hands before the start of the final circuits at 48 kilometres to go.
16:05 CEST 137km/70km to go
Those are some very easy looking cobblestones on the road, but most of the riders have opted to jump up and ride on the sidewalk.
3:16 now... will not be long!
16:07 CEST 139km/68km to go
We can see that the peloton has gotten serious again (even though they are on another mild cobblestone section), and the lead has dropped to 2:46.
16:08 CEST 140km/67km to go
Last year, there were three Australians in the top ten with Robbie McEwen, Graeme Brown and Baden Cooke. Cooke and his Barloworld team are not racing today, but McEwen and Brown are both here. Keep an eye out for the two Aussies in the sprint.
Gap is at 2'40"
16:13 CEST 142km/65km to go
Tom Boonen is back talking to the team directeur. The recent winner of Paris-Roubaix looks really relaxed today, and will surely be excited to do something special as he was born nearby, in Mol.
16:14 CEST 144km/63km to go
The peloton seems to be sitting up now. It is likely the boys realised they were too close to the duo; with 63 kilometres to race and the gap at 2'30". If they catch the duo now the sprinters risk further escapes forming.
16:18 CEST 147km/60km to go
The gap is going up as the main group is en bloc. The sprinters are waiting to devour their prey.
With 60 kilometres to go, the gap is three minutes.
A Volksbank rider tries his luck but is brought back under control by a Lotto rider. The peloton is lined out at the moment.
Mitsubishi, in its red colours, is active now.
A Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner rider is trying to get off the front of the main group.
16:22 CEST 150km/57km to go
That rider was David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner), but the peloton have seem to nailed him back.
Davide Viganň (Quick Step) has a rear wheel change. The Italian lives near Lecco, in the Lake Como area. Meanwhile, one of his team-mates leads the chase.
16:26 CEST 152km/55km to go
The chase group, under the pressure of attacks, is stretching out and moving closer to the escape duo, making the gap at 2'00" with 55 kilometres to race.
16:28 CEST 154km/53km to go
Jan Bluekens (Profel Prorace Continental Team) tries a little dig, but does not get far. Schoten is preparing itself for a sprint.
16:31 CEST 157km/50km to go
The race is nearing the closing circuits: three times around a 16-kilometre loop in Schoten.
16:33 CEST 159km/48km to go
After 3:56 of racing, the front duo is lead over the finish line by Barbé. He and Timmer have to make three more loops before they can call it a day.
The peloton crosses the finish line 1'18" back.
16:40 CEST 163km/44km to go
Quick Step and Rabobank are moving to the fore. The gap has plateaued again, holding at just above one minute. The sprinters' teams know how to time their catch to perfection.
The gap is 1'02"
The boys are racing over the 1700-metre Broekstraat cobble sector.
The race takes a right, now next to the Albert canal.
16:52 CEST 172km/35km to go
The gap is down to only 22". Look for these two boys to be into the fold soon.
16:53 CEST 173km/34km to go
Team Volksbank is still charging on the front of the peloton with 20". It is likely that they will not feature for the win, but this bit of hard work sure looks good for the teams and shows they have some strength.
Mark Cavendish (High Road) stops for a rear flat as the peloton approaches the start of the final two circuits. It is 14" behind the front duo.
Cavendish should be aided back into the group by his tea-mates.
16:57 CEST 174km/33km to go
Cavendish is having his brakes check by the team mechanic. Interesting timing as the rider is trying to rejoin the group; surely, the mechanic holding on to the rider helps with the chase-back.
16:58 CEST 176km/31km to go
And wah-la! The rider is back on the back on the tail-end of the peloton.
16:58 CEST 177km/30km to go
The escape duo is caught.
Other riders are now trying their luck. Another Skil rider and a Landbouwkrediet rider.
17:00 CEST 178km/29km to go
Kevin Neyrinck is there; the small group has about eight seconds.
Geert Verheyen (Mitsubishi-Jartazi) tries to bridge.
17:03 CEST 180km/27km to go
We have 'gruppo compatto' as the opportunists are brought back.
17:05 CEST 181km/26km to go
Rabobank is making its presence felt for Mister Brown. High Road is sending more men up...
17:06 CEST 182km/25km to go
Back on the Broekstraat. This 1700-metre section is rattling the helmets on the heads of the riders as they march towards the finish of this Flemish classic.
17:08 CEST 184km/23km to go
Soon we will be off this danger-zone and next to the Albert canal.
And Elkhaus rider tries his luck, and he is given some space.
17:10 CEST 186km/21km to go
The race is one long line now. Quick Step and Milram have their henchmen at the front sitting an infernal pace that won't allow any rider the chance to get clear.
17:11 CEST 187km/20km to go
Some local crazies are riding along next to the race, using the bike path adjacent to the road as a chance to 'ride with the professionals.'
17:13 CEST 188km/19km to go
Ian Stannard (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) blast off the front of the group. His face is a show of pain as he tries to hold some sort of advantage. The 21 year-old, neo-professional, making some headway...
17:15 CEST 189km/18km to go
He won a gold in the Euro Track Champs in 2006. You might remember him last summer doing an internship, or stagiaire, with T-Mobile.
He is coming close to the finish line. 4:39 of racing and Ian Stannard (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) has 3" gap over the line.
17:18 CEST 192km/15km to go
Ian Stannard (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) is pulled back.
Green means go... Another Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner makes his way off the front.
17:20 CEST 194km/13km to go
It is David Boucher. Hands on the hoods, head down, the 28 year-old Frenchman looks determined here.
He has 10", High Road has control.
A Milram rider hits the deck.
It is Dennis Haueisen (Team Milram) and he looks okay.
17:24 CEST 197km/10km to go
David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) humping down the road... legs are punching the pedals... he looks mean and fast.
10K to go!
The gap is only around three seconds.
17:25 CEST 198km/9km to go
Silence-Lotto is helping High Road and Milram in the race's control. David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) is done and dusted.
David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) is dropping off the back.
17:27 CEST 199km/8km to go
Silence-Lotto is in control of this race.
17:28 CEST 200km/7km to go
Broekstraat hits one last time. The riders cover the 1700-metre section and the dash along Albert's canal, signalling the end is near.
17:29 CEST 200km/7km to go
Knaven has shown his muscles all day and is STILL here doing the deed for Cavendish. Will we see the 'Manx Express' deliver?
He pulls off... It is now Team Milram working for Zabel (we think).
The blue Milram team has four of its men in the mix at the front.
17:31 CEST 202km/5km to go
Quick Step cue-up behind Milram. The Belgian team will be working for Tom Boonen. Boonen may throw down his hammer, smashing the competition in a re-play of Sunday's action.
17:31 CEST 203km/4km to go
Here we go. The final four kilometres...
A Mitsubishi rider hits out...
17:32 CEST 204km/3km to go
Quick Step has him and takes control.
The boys share the work with Milram.
Any sign of Rockin' Robbie McEwen?
Four Milram and five Quick Steps... we are feeling blue.
17:33 CEST 205km/2km to go
Quick Step takes over from Milram.
The race swings through a left-hander...
Five Quick Steps pulling along the race for Boonen.
17:34 CEST 206km/1km to go
The final kilometre...
The race is strung out.
It is all Quick Step.
There is a reshuffle.
High Road for a minute.
Then Quick step at 200 and 150m to go.
Tom Boonen takes the front at 100m to go...
He throws his arms in the air but it is too early... The race goes to Cavendish who was there on the Belgian's left.
Cavendish thanks his team-mates. Boonen is so professional and continues to smile nonetheless.
Boonen could of had that sprint but he let off the gas of his Specialized machine too early!
McEwen is third.
Thanks for joining us today. Please come back Sunday for the Amstel Gold.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) High Road
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence-Lotto