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51st E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - 1.HC
Belgium, March 29, 2008
Arvesen closes successful CSC day
Kopp left for second while Boonen and Cancellara test legs
By Gregor Brown and Brecht Decaluwé in Harelbeke
Kurt-Asle Arvesen capped off a successful day for Team CSC by darting free of a lead group of six in the final kilometre to catch David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop) and win the 51st E3 Prijs Vlaanderen. The German Kopp held on for second and Belgian Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto), who had tried on his own at 1,500 metres, finished third.
The 33 year-old Norwegian winner made the key escape of the day with CSC team-mate Lars Bak at kilometre 42. The lead group thinned down to six while their team-mate and recent Milano-Sanremo winner, Fabian Cancellara, and four-time E3 Prijs winner Tom Boonen (Quick Step) formed a two-man chase. As Bak dropped back to Cancellara, Arvesen marked escape companions Kopp, Van Avermaet, Bernhard Eisel (High Road), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Janek Tombak (Mitsubishi-Jartazi).
Kopp went solo at three kilometres remaining to Harelbeke. The German maintained a small but promising gap while the others were left looking at each other; however, Van Avermaet decided to make his final winning bid at 1,500 metres remaining. He was closing on Kopp while the remaining three Eisel dropped kept close behind. As Van Avermaet's legs faded, Arvesen accelerated out of the group to catch and pass Kopp in the final 200 metres.
"I was waiting," Arvesen said of the his tactics in the escape, which at one point numbered 14 men. "I thought other were playing with me in the finale. I thought Greg Van Avermaet and Voeckler were stronger." He kept his cool as Kopp rode free. "Voeckler went a little bit and then I tried to bridge to the Lotto guy [Van Avermaet - ed.], when I caught him Voeckler sat up and waited. It was only Kopp left, and he was really tired from his long attack."
"Second is good since I did not expect it before the race," Kopp stated of the day. "But of course, losing the race with 100 metres to go is very close. Nevertheless, I am happy the three strongest were on the podium. Aversen deserved it."
Eisel confirmed the five escapees' strength. "No chance at all, I was dead," the Austrian noted. "When they started attacking, it was over for me."
The win is the first of the year for Arvesen, who finished 10th in Milano-Sanremo and won a stage in the 2007 Giro d'Italia.
Aversen was kept updated of Cancellara's status as he chased with Boonen. CSC wanted its winner of Sanremo up with the leaders, but not if it meant bring across fast-finisher Boonen. "Maybe it looked stupid for a while, we were working in the escape and he was working behind. Fabian tried to drop Boonen, and then he came back. So after that point, we started working only for the escape."
"We were trying to attack the group in the end, and Kurt escaped," CSC's Bak stated. "I knew that Fabian [Cancellara] and Boonen were behind, so it was perfect. Fabian tried, but Boonen was strong; in the end, Kurt was up front winning for us."
Cancellara and Boonen were eventually joined by a chase group containing Belgian Champion Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis). Devolder, Boonen's Quick Step team-mate, did a lot of work to join the powerful duo. "I did not ride with Hoste and Scheirlinckx, but after the Tiegemberg, [DS] Wilfried Peeters told me to ride with them," Devolder confirmed. "We got to Boonen's group, but then it was too late to catch the front escape group. However, both Tom and I have showed that we have good shape, so this is important."
How it unfolded
Alexander Egger was the sole non-starting rider in Harelbeke. 193 other racers decided they would have a go for the win anyway. A lot of crashes coloured the first hour of the race. Main victims were Gerben Löwik, Carlo Westphal and Marc De Maar.
The first attack of the day was founded by Enrico Franzoi, together with Janek Tombak and Pascal Hungerbühler. After 21 kilometres another attack followed with Roger Hammond, David Boucher, Janek Tombak, Gert Steegmans, Mauro Da Dalto, Aaron Kemps, Sergey Lagutin, Thomas Fothen, Evert Verbist, Martin Velits and Matti Breschel. Eight kilometres further Wim De Vocht, Allan Johansen, Alexander Kuschynski, Alexandre Balin, Thomas Voeckler, Paolo Longo Borghini and Sébastien Hinault joined them, but all was brought back together.
After 35 kilometres Gert Steegmans attacked again, together with Maarten Tjallingii, Lars Bak, Thomas Voeckler, Bernhard Eisel, Jan Kuyckx, Maarten Nuyens, Janek Tombak and David Kopp. Seven kilometres further they were joined by Greg Van Avermaet, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Mauro Da Dalto, Michael Schär and Kristof Van De Walle.
In Ouwegem, after 47 kilometres, the leaders were held up for one minute at a railroad crossing. When the peloton arrived at the crossings they were allowed to keep riding. Somehow the leaders were granted some sort of compensation when the peloton was forced to stop 45" at the railroad crossings in Burst.
With 71 kilometres to go the breakaway group had 4'20" on the peloton.
The finale started with 66 kilometres to go on the Eikenberg where Flecha led the peloton in front of Boonen, Sebastian Langeveld, Matteo Tosatto, Steffen Wesemann and other specialists. Roger Hammond punctured but received a wheel from ProTour leader André Greipel. "I quickly managed to get back in the peloton, but apparently there had been a split in the peloton. I continued to move up in the second big group and tried to bridge up towards the main peloton; I came 100m short of making it," Hammond explained to Cyclingnews after the race.
The climbs followed each other in quick tempo now, that's why this race often is referred to as the mini Tour of Flanders, and the speed in the peloton remained high. On the Stationsberg Eisel led the leaders over the nasty cobbles and apparently his tempo wasn't really what the others had in mind; the Austrian created a gap on the rest of the group that was led by Steegmans. With 61 kilometres to go Eisel was smart enough to ease off and wait on the group.
"I just rode at a tempo that felt comfortably for me," Eisel reacted after the race. Nevertheless Rolf Aldag entrusted to Cyclingnews that director sportif Tristan Hoffman was shouting through the radio "Use your brain!" In the peloton Rabobank, with Bram Tankink and Joost Posthuma, was working to reduce the gap and make sure the team leaders were in front of the peloton before the important next couple of climbs.
On the Taaienberg, with 57 kilometres to go, things started to get really serious. In the breakaway group there was an acceleration from Steegmans, who was swiftly followed by Eisel while riders like Da Dalto and Kuyckx were in trouble. Four minutes later there was a fantastic spectacle to see. Right from the foot of the climb Tom Boonen accelerated, made sure he got into the channel on the right of the road and jumped away. While Boonen surged forward and left the peloton, with men who aren't really considered pancakes like Flecha, Vaitkus and Staf Scheirlinckx struggling in the background. That is, all but one. Out of the second row 'Spartacus' powered forward and left the peloton behind. The Swiss strong man bridged up to Boonen and at the top of the climb the duo worked together to develop a good lead on the other favourites. There was one other favourite who tried to bridge up after the Taaienberg, but Juan Antonio Flecha couldn't ride faster than the tandem Boonen/Cancellara and was forced to wait for assistance. The gap with the leaders was now reduced to less than three minutes, thus losing a minute in about three kilometres.
The gap between Cancellara/Boonen and the peloton quickly ran up to half a minute, as there was no real organisation possible in the peloton since most big teams had a rider up front, except for Cofidis, Lampre and Rabobank. As a result there were some individual efforts from men like Staf Scheirlinckx on the following climbs but that didn't change the race situation.
On the Kapelberg Thomas Voeckler anticipated on the toughness of the following climbs and he hammered away. After the Kapelberg the leaders had one and a half minute on Boonen & Cancellara, and 2'23" on the peloton.
Voeckler clearly had some course knowledge as he was dropping his chain back to the small ring just before cornering into the steep cobbled Patersberg at 40 kilometres from the finish. He had 14" on Eisel, Schär, Van Avermaet, Steegmans and Arvesen. Boonen and Cancellara were hammering up the climb past dropped riders from the leading group, and what was left from the peloton – led by Frederic Guesdon - followed at 2'27"; in that peloton Ballan and Hoste were still sitting pretty far back.
With 36 kilometres to go the Oude Kwaremont was ready to torture the riders' bodies. Arvesen set the tempo in the breakaway group and only Van Avermaet, Schär and Eisel were able to follow. Still, the latter was dropped halfway the 2200 meters long cobbled climb, and Schär was in trouble as well at the final stretches of the famous hill. Arvesen and Van Avermaet didn't continue their efforts and allowed Schär, Eisel, Bak and Voeckler to come back. Boonen and Cancellara were still working together in the background, while Hoste and Devolder were leading the pursuit in the peloton.
With 30 kilometres to go the six leaders had a small gap on four dropped riders, namely Tombak, Steegmans, Tjallingii and Kopp. At 1'05" were Boonen and Cancellara who had just caught up with young Kristof Van De Walle.
On the Knokteberg, with 26 kilometres to go, we had 10 leaders and it was very surprising to see that Quick Step's Steegmans almost immediately was parked on the climbed. Kopp accelerated, but was then overpowered by Arvesen, who was followed by Van Avermaet and Tombak. Further back Devolder and Hoste were working hard to get any closer to Cancellara and Boonen, with Matti Breschel, Steegmans and Van De Walle on their wheels.
"When Devolder was dropped we lost the race," Quick Step's director sportif Dirk De Mol said right after the race. "The gaps were too big to turn around things in our advantage."
With 20 kilometres to go the situation in the race still wasn't stable as Eisel, Kopp, Tjallingii and Voeckler managed to join the three leaders. Boonen and Cancellara bridged up with Schär and Bak 30" behind the leaders. The group Devolder was still in contention for the victory at only 1'06" from the leaders.
With three groups within one minute of each other everything was still possible and the last climb would be decisive to make a change. It didn't take too long before there was an attack on the 1400 metre-long Tiegemberg, at 16 kilometres from the finish in Harelbeke. Young Greg Van Avermaet tried to jump away, but his acceleration was countered by Arvesen, Kopp, Tombak and Voeckler while Eisel was counted out. Cancellara tried to jump away from Boonen at 34" from the leaders, but he didn't get away.
With 12 kilometres to go, on a very long macadam road, Eisel managed to join the leaders once again, making it a six-men leading group. On the same stretch Boonen tried to shift ballast as nobody was willing to cooperate with him any longer. The speed dropped away soon after that and the Boonen group was then caught by the group Devolder within 10 kilometres from the finish line. With 5 kilometres to go the chasers where Devolder did all the work were at 40" from the leaders. Voeckler was the first to try his luck in a solo attack with four kilometres to go, but when Kopp counter-attacked the French rider the finale was really on.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Sonja Csury/www.allaboutcycling.de
1 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 4.57.03 (41,003 km/h) 2 David Kopp (Ger) Cycle Collstrop 0.05 3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence - Lotto 4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 5 Janek Tombak (Est) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 6 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team High Road 0.26 7 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC 1.20 8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 9 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 10 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 11 Michael Schär (Swi) Astana 12 Lars Bak (Den) Team CSC 13 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence - Lotto 14 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Silence - Lotto 15 Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 16 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 3.38 17 Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre 18 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Astana 4.15 19 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team High Road 20 Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil-Shimano 21 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 22 Mickael Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux 23 Arnaud Gérard (Fra) Française des Jeux 24 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Française des Jeux 25 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner 26 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues Telecom 27 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Silence - Lotto 28 Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) Saunier Duval - Scott 29 Koen Barbé (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 30 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Team Milram 31 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick Step 32 Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Crédit Agricole 33 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram 34 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld 35 Grégory Rast (Swi) Astana 36 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas 37 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux 38 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre 39 Anders Lund (Nor) Team Sparebanken Vest 40 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 41 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Team Milram 42 Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas 43 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française des Jeux 44 Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 45 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 46 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quick Step 47 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC 48 Steffen Wesemann (Swi) Cycle Collstrop 49 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 50 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team High Road 51 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step 52 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner 53 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 54 David Boucher (Fra) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 55 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank 56 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 57 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 58 Dmitriy Myravyev (Kaz) Astana 59 Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram 60 Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval - Scott 61 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Astana 62 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 63 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC 64 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank 65 Sebastiaan Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank 66 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 67 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step 68 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Crédit Agricole 9.29 69 Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil-Shimano 9.50 70 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Skil-Shimano 71 James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 72 Floris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil-Shimano 73 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2r - La Mondiale 74 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Silence - Lotto 75 Bastian Giling (Ned) Cycle Collstrop 76 Matthé Pronk (Ned) Cycle Collstrop 77 Kristof De Zutter (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team 78 Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence - Lotto 79 Stephan Schreck (Ger) Gerolsteiner 80 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Lampre 81 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas 82 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas 83 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa) Rabobank 84 Renaud Dion (Fra) AG2r - La Mondiale 85 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 86 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Crédit Agricole 87 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Cycle Collstrop 88 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Willems Veranda's Continental Team 89 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step