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96th Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen - 1.HC

Belgium, April 16, 2008

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Cavendish sneaks by celebrating Boonen

Overconfident Paris-Roubaix winner finishes second

By Bjorn Haake in Schoten with additional reporting from Gregor Brown

Mark Cavendish sneaks past
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mark Cavendish, 22 year-old from the Isle of Man, returned to Schoten (Antwerp) to repeat in the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, the site of his first professional win last year. The young High Road rider came flying by like a rocket on the finishing straight in Schoten, invisible to Tom Boonen and the crowd, which was cheering excitedly to see the Paris-Roubaix champion take another win.

As Boonen lifted his arms in a victory salute, Cavendish made a last, desperate lunge to the line, and managed to come by under the Belgians left arm to win by the closest of margins.

Last year's runner-up, Robbie McEwen of Silence-Lotto, stayed winless for the year, taking third place, but is inching closer to his first season victory, while Erik Zabel (Milram) repeated his fourth place finish from Gent-Wevelgem.

Boonen looked dejected when he realised his error and the crowd went silent, while a jubilant Cavendish stepped off his bike and hugged each member of his team. "The win is special for me because a year ago I won my first professional bike race here," the beaming Brit said after the finish. He admitted that "if he [Boonen] didn't put his hands up, I don't know if I would have won." Cavendish was on Wouter Weylandt's wheel and decided to pass on the left. "In De Panne, I passed on the right and I won by three bike lengths. Today, it didn't go so right," Cavendish described how he almost lost the race.

"I sprinted and I thought I had won," noted Boonen. "I didn't see anybody. ... He [Cavendish] is very fast and is like McEwen with a great acceleration in the last 50 metres. I have won here two times and we did our best, but it didn't work out this time." Cavendish concurred, stating that "I am not the strongest, but I think I am the fastest. You could see my speed at the end."

Robbie McEwen (Silence Lotto)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

McEwen came close, but got no cigars. "It was very hard and Quick Step pulled [in the sprint]. It cost me too much energy to get on Boonen's wheel with 200 metres to go. I was a bloc and realised that the win wouldn't be for me. I could only manage a podium spot." The Aussie wasn't really that unhappy. "This was an intermediate stop on the road to the Giro ... The top form still has to come."

He was close enough to observe the finale, adding, "I saw Boonen lift his arms and thought 'don't do it', because I saw that Cav was coming." The finale was dominated by Quick Step and the Australian added, "Wouter Weylandt shouldn't have closed the door for Cavendish. Nevertheless, he was the fastest man and he deserves the victory."


Cavendish realizes he's won
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Cavendish had similar thoughts on the sprint, musing that "some people sprint until 300 metres to go ... I had to get around them; it was like dodging traffic islands out there." The biggest problem for the Brit was to stay upright on the podium. The floor had gotten wet due to the usual champagne showers and Cavendish slipped while still wearing his cleats. He hit the ground pretty hard, but got up immediately and seemed to be OK. Nothing could stop the High Road sprinter today.

Zabel couldn't get onto the podium, but was once again up in the mix. His directeur sportif, Raoul Liebregts, was satisfied. "We controlled the race pretty well and prepared the finish well," Liegbregts said. "Erik tried to stay on Tom Boonen's wheel in order to be prepared to be able to strike at the right time. Unfortunately the others were a bit stronger today. But already tomorrow we're getting another chance to do better," making clear that Zabel will be highly motivated at the GP de Denain Porte du Hainaut.

The day was dominated by a break from Koen Barbe (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano), but once the sprinters' teams took control in the three finishing circuits of 16 kilometres each, it was the usual suspects at the front. There were High Road and Silence-Lotto jerseys, but first Milram took charge of things on the front. However, in the final three kilometres they were replaced by Quick Step, amidst the cheers of the crowd at the finish line. It all seemed to work out for the Belgian squad, which didn't allow anybody to sneak off the front in the final kilometres.

The Quick Step train passed the flamme rouge on the front and dropped their captain off in a nice position. But unfortunately for them and the crowd, Boonen didn't see a fast-emerging Cavendish which spoiled the day for local favourites.

How it unfolded

The 96th Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen started under sunny skies and crisp temperatures in Antwerp at 12:15.

After attempts from various riders to escape, one group finally got free. Belgian Koen Barbé (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Dutchman Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) took off and quickly built up a 13'20" advantage. However, with 100 kilometres remaining the gap was below eight minutes.

Past the town of Lichtaart, the peloton was briefly held up by a train crossing while Barbé and Timmer kept an advantage at just over seven minutes. There was no panic in the peloton, which had a bit of lunch and then resumed the chase with the Volksbank and Landbouwkrediet teams doing much of the work..

The gap was below five minutes with 75 kilometres to go thanks to the continued efforts of Teams Volksbank and Landbouwkrediet. Even past winner Servais Knaven was in the mix to help control the gap for his High Road team captain, Cavendish.

The sprinters' teams realised they did too much too soon and let off the gas at 65 kilometres to go. The race was en bloc with a gap at 2'45", while the sprinters were waiting to devour the escapees. Five kilometres later, the gap was at three minutes to Barbé and Timmer.

The chase group, under the pressure of attacks, stretched out and moved closer to the escape duo, making the gap at 2'00" with 55 kilometres to race.

After three hours and 56 minutes of racing, a tired-looking Barbé led Timmer over the finish line in Schoten to start the three closing circuits of 16 kilometres. The peloton was not far behind, at 1'18".

Rabobank and Quickstep came to the fore and saw that the gap was controlled in the first of three closing circuits. With 41 kilometres to go, over the 1700-metre Broekstraat cobble sector, the gap was down to 39".

Barbé and Timmer were brought under control with 30 kilometres to go and this opened the door for opportunists to try their luck.

Ian Stannard (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) put in his move at 19 kilometres remaining, after the peloton turned away from the Albert canal. The Brit never got far, only holding a three-second advantage over the finish line that signaled one circuit to go. When Stannard was caught, it was the turn of his team-mate David Boucher.

As the sprinter's trains fought for position through the many twists and turns, there was a little bit of chaos in the middle of the group when Dennis Haueisen (Team Milram) took a tumble with 12 kilometres to go. He quickly got up and appeared to be fine.

Broucher held a small and undefendable advantage that ended as the race entered the final 10 kilometres. He was swamped by the peloton, which was led by Milram and High Road with the Quick Step train tucked in behind. As the race plowed into the final kilometres, Cavendish's High Road train lost its young charge, and had to pull off the front and re-form. The Quick Step train then took over with five strong men leading the fresh Paris-Roubaix winner Boonen.

That the Belgian would win seemed inevitable, and his lead-out dropped him off at the perfect moment and he seemingly sprinted to victory, never realising that the speedy High Road rider was fast approaching on his left. Cavendish nipped past as Boonen began his victory salute to take his second consecutive Scheldeprijs.

Full report to follow.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net

Images by AFP Photo

Images by Bjorn Haake/Cyclingnews.com

Images by Stephen McMahon


1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team High Road                                    4.59.15 (41.503 km/h)
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step                                                   
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence - Lotto                                           
4 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram                                                  
5 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                                      
6 Fabien Bacquet (Fra) Skil-Shimano                                             
7 Gregory Henderson (NZl) Team High Road                                        
8 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step                                              
9 Daniel Musiol (Ger) Team Volksbank                                            
10 Borut Bozic (Slo) Cycle Collstrop                                            
11 Mattia Gavazzi (Ita) Preti Mangimi                                           
12 Kristof Goddaert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                                   
13 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Silence - Lotto                                           
14 Bjorn Thurau (Ger) Team Volksbank                                            
15 Matthé Pronk (Ned) Cycle Collstrop                                           
16 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank                                                  
17 Sebastian Siedler (Ger) Skil-Shimano                                         
18 Raynold Smith (RSA) Cycle Collstrop                                          
19 Sjef De Wilde (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team                       
20 Eduard Bogaert (Bel) Profel Prorace Continental Team                         
21 Jurgen Van Loocke (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team                   
22 Christopher Froome (Ken) Barloworld                                          
23 Kenny De Haes (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                                      
24 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Barloworld                                              
25 René Weissinger (Ger) Team Volksbank                                         
26 Christoph Sokoll (Aut) Team Volksbank                                        
27 Niko Eeckhout (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                                      
28 Jarno Van Mingeroet (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                                 
29 Harald Starzengruber (Aut) Elk Haus - Simplon                                
30 Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                                     
31 Ian Stannard (GBr) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner                            
32 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                                     
33 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Elk Haus - Simplon                                    
34 Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence - Lotto                                       
35 Luca Barla (Ita) Team Milram                                                 
36 David Boucher (Fra) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner                           
37 Jonathan Bertrand (Bel) Bodysol - Euro Millions - Pôle Continental Wallon    
38 Marco Corti (Ita) Barloworld                                                 
39 Daniel Schorn (Aut) Team Volksbank                                           
40 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Willems Veranda's Continental Team                    
41 Sven Nevens (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                                         
42 Gil Suray (Bel) Cycle Collstrop                                              
43 Steve Schets (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                                       
44 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quick Step                                             
45 Tom Leezer (Ned) Rabobank                                                    
46 Jens Mouris (Ned) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                                         
47 Damien Timmermans (Bel) Bodysol - Euro Millions - Pôle Continental Wallon    
48 Boris Shpilevsky (Rus) Preti Mangimi                                         
49 Kristof De Zutter (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team                   
50 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team High Road                                          
51 Maarten Neyens (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                                     
52 Paul Manning (GBr) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner                            
53 David Reyniers (Bel) Profel Prorace Continental Team                         
54 Tom Criel (Bel) Cycle Collstrop                                              
55 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team High Road                                    
56 Philipp Ludescher (Aut) Team Volksbank                                       
57 Michiel Elijzen (Ned) Rabobank                                               
58 Jean-Paul Simon (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT                           
59 Michael Van Poucke (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT                        
60 Tim Meeusen (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team                         
61 Jan Bluekens (Bel) Profel Prorace Continental Team                           
62 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner                              
63 David Deroo (Fra) Skil-Shimano                                               
64 Hugo Sabido (Por) Barloworld                                                 
65 Yusuke Hatanaka (Jpn) Skil-Shimano                                           
66 Stefan Rucker (Aut) Elk Haus - Simplon                                       
67 André Korff (Ger) Team Volksbank                                             
68 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld                                        
69 Steven Cummings (GBr) Barloworld                                             
70 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team High Road                                           
71 Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Skil-Shimano                                              
72 Rudy Rouet (Bel) Bodysol - Euro Millions - Pôle Continental Wallon           
73 Koen Barbé (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                                         
74 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                                      
75 Matthias Vanhie (Bel) Profel Prorace Continental Team                        
76 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick Step                                          
77 Kevin Neirynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner                          
78 Jochen Summer (Aut) Elk Haus - Simplon                                       
79 Kenny Van Der Schueren (Bel) Cycle Collstrop                                 
80 Igor Abakoumov (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                                      
81 Enrico Poitschke (Ger) Team Milram                                           
82 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team High Road                                         
83 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Team Volksbank                                          
84 Yoshimasa Hirose (Jpn) Skil-Shimano                                          
85 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank                                                 
86 Martin Velits (Svk) Team Milram                                              
87 Bert Roesems (Bel) Silence - Lotto                                           
88 Stève Fogen (Lux) Preti Mangimi                                              
89 Theo Eltink (Ned) Rabobank                                                   
90 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence - Lotto                                             
91 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank                                                     
92 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank                                                 
93 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick Step                                      0.20
94 Lucas Persson (Swe) Cycle Collstrop                                      0.23
95 Sergey Kolesnikov (Rus) Cycle Collstrop                                      
96 Massimo Mazzanti (Ita) Preti Mangimi                                         
97 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Preti Mangimi                                            
98 Davide Viganò (Ita) Quick Step                                               
99 Servais Knaven (Ned) Team High Road                                      0.25
100 Michael Polazzi (Bel) Bodysol - Euro Millions - Pôle Continental Wallon     
101 Stijn Ennekens (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team                 0.32
102 Steven De Decker (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT                     0.40
103 Edward Clancy (GBr) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner                          
104 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick Step                                         0.43
105 Tony Martin (Ger) Team High Road                                        0.44
106 Jorn Van Der Veken (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT                   0.53
107 Rick Flens (Ned) Rabobank                                               1.05
108 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quick Step                                         1.18
109 Michael Vanderaerden (Bel) Profel Prorace Continental Team                  
110 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Silence - Lotto                                          
111 Albert Timmer (Ned) Skil-Shimano                                        1.22
112 Mario Ickx (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT                           1.45
113 Jeremy Devaux (Bel) Bodysol - Euro Millions - Pôle Continental Wallon       
114 Martin Müller (Ger) Team Milram                                         1.53
115 Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram                                        1.55
116 Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Preti Mangimi                                      
DNF Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Silence - Lotto                                       
DNF Glenn d'Hollander (Bel) Silence - Lotto                                     
DNF Dennis Haueisen (Ger) Team Milram                                           
DNF Brett Lancaster (Aus) Team Milram                                           
DNF Josef Benetseder (Aut) Team Volksbank                                       
DNF Alexander Gufler (Ita) Team Volksbank                                       
DNF Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner                            
DNF Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                                 
DNF Geoffrey Coupé (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                                     
DNF Vincenzo Centrone (Lux) Preti Mangimi                                       
DNF Gianluca Geremia (Ita) Preti Mangimi                                        
DNF Davy Tuytens (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT                             
DNF Stijn Bastens (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT                            
DNF Michael Blanchy (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT                          
DNF Jérémy Burton (Bel) Bodysol - Euro Millions - Pôle Continental Wallon       
DNF Jeremy Honorez (Bel) Bodysol - Euro Millions - Pôle Continental Wallon      
DNF Laurent Fontaine (Bel) Bodysol - Euro Millions - Pôle Continental Wallon    
DNF Sven Wielandt (Bel) Profel Prorace Continental Team                         
DNF Stijn Hoornaert (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team                    
DNF Kenny Van Braeckel (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team