63rd Omloop Het Volk - 1.HC
Belgium, March 1, 2008
Complete live report
Live commentary by Bjorn Haake
Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews'
coverage of the 63rd Omloop Het Volk. A big storm had passed in the night, but
headed over to Germany, where it enforced the cancellation of one of the Bundesliga
The 199 riders in Het Volk, though, took the start
at 11:30 local time from Gent under sunny skies, though it was a tad crisp.
German André Korff (Team Volksbank) was the one rider who was not able to start
today's race. Six riders have gone clear after about 20 kilometres and are currently
at the front, with a gap of more than six minutes. The six are Aleksandr Kuschynski
(Liquigas), David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner), Michael Friedman (Slipstream
Chipotle - H30), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis), Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
and Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux).
Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux)
will be very motivated
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
14:02 CET 100km/99km to go
"I am okay today,
I hope that I will have good legs like two years ago," said Philippe Gilbert
(Française des Jeux), who won the race in 2006.
"I know the parcours
well," he continued to Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews. The return to Gent
is nice; however, today there is a lot of wind, and it is a real race.
I am happy to be back in Belgium racing; I live here, and I know so many people
in this area. ... I think I have a chance to make a good result."
Gilbert looked a little nervous. "Nervous? No, never!"
One of the big shots in the peloton,
Aussie Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto), has given up the race after only 20 kilometres.
He may have still felt the problems of his crash in Portugal. The pace was very
high in the beginning, due to tail wind and McEwen found the pace a bit too
taxing, that early in the season.
14:06 CET 96km/103km to go
The race hit the Berendries,
which last year came much later on. The gap to the escape is at six minutes.
"I hope my form is good enough for
today," said Belgian Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) to Cyclingnews' Gregor
Brown at the start in Gent. "However, I will look for the form to come later
on in the season. Maybe I will have my chances today, but Nick Nuyens is the
leader. My form will be best for Flanders, the Ardennes and then I will go to
the Giro d'Italia.
"I rode the new parcours on Wednesday, and I
prefer the new design from the last years. The last kilometres will not be as
easy as some others think."
The peloton has made it over the fourth
helling of the day, the Valkenberg. This is not the same Valkenberg as
the one in the final of the Amstel Gold race, but it's uphill nonetheless and
strings out the field.
The riders hit the Ten Bosse, climb
number five of 11 today.
Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle - H30)
(and his mustache) interviewed
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
14:15 CET 106km/93km to go
"I just came from
the Tour of California," noted Steven Cozza (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) to Gregor
Brown of Cyclingnews. "It was a very good race for us, so today should
be good for the team. We have Tyler Farrar, who's local, and Martyn Maaskant
to work for today... I think it just kind of a race of attrition, and as the
race goes on we will see who is strong."
He added, "I raced a lot
as a junior and under 23 rider a lot."
I had the moustache before
David Zabriskie, and I got him to grow one. I have it off and on. I am used
to the wind, and this moustache helps me know which way the wind is blowing.
Moustaches are starting to appear in the team. "I won't be going that way!"
joked Tyler Farrar (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) to Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews.
"I am still living in Gent, so it is a home race today. The team is based in
Girona, and I am one of the only guys who is not based in Spain. My girlfriend
is normally here too, but unfortunately she will not be in Gent until Tuesday.
However, I have lots of friends here watching.
"I am really motivated
for this classics season. It is nice to finally get started. We have a strong
team, and with some luck we can do well today. I now the parcours, and I feel
comfortable. I feel better after California; I just got sick at the wrong time.
I am completely recovered and ready for today."
Many are asking where is 'Pippo' Pozzato;
Liquigas Team Manager Roberto Amadio talked to Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews
at the start about Filippo Pozzato's absence. "We did not bring Pozzato because
his condition is different than last year; last year it was already at ninety
percent and this year we need to work a little more, and for this reason we
selected Valenciana. His condition is about at seventy percent now, but he is
"It will be a great race. Today with the
wind; we have Manuel Quinziato, Frederik Willems, Aleksandr Kuschynski; riders
with experience. I would say that the course is most suited to Quinziato, and
if not today then tomorrow. However, I think that Liquigas will make a good
14:18 CET 108km/91km to go
The front group is
hitting the feed zone. They barely take time to stuff their back pockets with
all the goodies in the musettes, but it is important to eat, eat, eat. Five
hours in the saddle is a long work day.
2005 Wold Champion Tom Boonen, 27, of
Team Quick Step looks forward
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Quick Step will undoubtedly be the
team to watch in the 63rd Omloop Het Volk with mega-stars Tom Boonen and World
Champion Paolo Bettini. The 199-kilometre semi-classic officially opens the
season of spring one-day races for the powerful duo, both of whom returned to
Europe last week after racing the Tour of California.
The team has
won the race twice in recent years, but never with the Belgian nor Italian.
In 2003, it was Johan Museeuw who took the win with Bettini playing good team-mate
in third, while two more Quick Step riders, Franck Vandenbroucke and Boonen,
rounded out the top five well ahead of the field. In 2005, Nick Nuyens made
a name for himself by holding onto a courageous solo attack while Boonen won
the sprint for second.
For Boonen, the semi-classic is an empty space
on his trophy shelf. "It is the only race I have not won from the spring classics,
all the other ones I have already won one time or more," noted 27 year-old Tom
Boonen to Cyclingnews Friday evening, February 29, at the Kennedy Hotel in Kortrijk.
For more on Boonen and Bettini, read Boonen
and Bettini ready for spring campaign.
Wim Vansevenant (Silence-Lotto) abandoned
The reason the front runners can't
take too much time to eat is that the gap is decreasing. It is 5'22 now, and
with all the little climbs coming up, the leaders will get even more tired,
having been in the lead for a long time already.
Marc de Maar (Ned) of Rabobank
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
Rabobank has a strong line-up for
the race. "We have Flecha, Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank),"
noted Marc De Maar (Rabobank) when speaking to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown.
"If we have to do something then Paul Martens will be the first that has to
pull, and then the others. It will be a tough race with the wind. Normally the
first 70 kilometres is always easy..."
"Today will be a different
race with the new arrival, and the last five-hundred metres will be steep,"
confirmed Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank). "The climbs are closer to the finish
this year, and also the wind will make it very hard.
"I know how
to move with the wind. I came here on Monday night from Barcelona to prepare
on the parcours. I am feeling good, I have Mallorca and Ruta del Sol; I am confident
There was a bit of discussion about
excluding the Wolvenberg today, as it was littered with debris and broken tree
branches, following last night's storm. But eventually they decided to just
clean it up and go on with the normal route. The Wolvenberg is the next to last
climb. It is not too bad, but is followed by the Molenberg, which is not only
steep, but the cobbles are in terrible condition.
14:30 CET 114km/85km to go
Stefan Van Dijck (Mitsubishi-Jartazi)and
Laurent Mangel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) are down in a crash. We will hope they are
OK. Sometimes, trying to get almost 200 riders through those narrow roads in
Vlaanderen can be tricky.
14:33 CET 123km/76km to go
The gap has slightly
increased again and it is now 5'39" The break is looking good, forming a nice
little echelon and switching the lead frequently. They are now tackling the
Pottelberg. Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) is out of the saddle.
14:34 CET 123km/76km to go
"The morale is high
in the team, plus we have a great team here," noted Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) to
Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews.
"My legs are good, but after
Algarve I was sick a little bit. For the classics I must go well! The team will
speak in the race, and see how it unfolds."
14:36 CET 124km/75km to go
The race is on the
"I was in Japan for the off-season, just for training,"
confirmed a happy Fumiyuki Beppu (Skil-Shimano) at the start of Het Volk when
speaking to Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews. "I did spend a few days in Brussel
with Roger Hammond and his wife. I got to know him well during our days in Discovery
Channel; he is a good friend, and he is funny.
"Today, it is a big
race for me, and I have never raced this. I am happy to be here."
14:38 CET 125km/74km to go
Slipstream was well
received at the sign-in. Jason Donald was impressed with the crowds, as it is
his first race in Belgium. His team-mate Michael Friedman is in the break. Christophe
Laurent, also from Slipstream Chipotle - H30, has a flat and is looking for
his team car. Jarno Van Mingeroet (Mitsubishi-Jartazi) has trouble with his
gearing. Welcome to quality streets!
Devolder in his Belgian Champion outfit
is easily visible in the peloton. His wrist injury should be mostly healed up
and he may be ready to do something today. The whole Quick Step team is on the
front, including Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini.
14:42 CET 127km/72km to go
There is an attack
in the peloton by an Astana rider. There is no separation yet, but the peloton
is now one long line.
There was definitely a little bit
of a lull in the field. The gap is now at 6'45" and somebody in the peloton
needed to react. In a few minutes they will reach the cobbled climb of the Kruisberg.
If you are enjoying the live coverage,
please write in and let us know!
Milram's Ralf Grabsch was a popular
man this week – popular with the "vampires", that is. The 34 year-old came home
from the Volta ao Algarve and had a lot of company at home. Wednesday morning
the German anti-doping agency came by for blood and urine controls. If that
wasn't enough, the UCI came by the next day and wanted a blood sample. Let's
hope he still has enough flowing through his veins to get him through the race
today and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne tomorrow!
14:49 CET 132km/67km to go
The Kruisberg is arriving...
The peloton is on a big road right
one, on the Nationale Weg. There is a big divider. Part of the peloton went
on then left, which wasn't a great idea, as one car was condign the other way.
It is not clear of the other side was really closed to traffic. With some elegant
riding, all the riders made it back to the right side. Franzoi made practical
use of his cyclo-cross skills and did a nice bunny hop. some of the fans on
bicycles stayed on the bike lane, which was safer at this time.
14:51 CET 134km/65km to go
Carlo Westphal (Gerolsteiner),
Thomas Fothen (Gerolsteiner) and Roberto Petito (Liquigas) take a spill. Petito
is holding his shoulder in pain. They hit a traffic island.
Ok, the peloton comes to a screeching
halt, as there is a train coming through! Quick Step is in the front and Steegmans
doesn't look to happy. The train was short, though, so the break was short,
too. But Lars Bak (Team CSC) was using it for a natural break anyway.
Friedman is looking good on the cobbled
Kruisberg, taking a strong turn at the front. The other breakaway riders are
in his Slipstream, so to speak.
14:57 CET 136km/63km to go
make use of the bike paths on the sides of the road. They are dangerous enough
as is using them with traffic on the road, but now, with a fast-charging peloton
and the spectators waiting on the bike paths, there are equally treacherous.
All riders made it back to the peloton before a potential crash. Phew.
An Agritubel crashes on this climb.
Quick Step is at the front again,
leading up the Kruisberg, some 5'40" behind the break. Devolder is on the front,
then Bettini takes over, but drops back. It is Devolder again, looking strong.
A Quick Step rider loses it on the cobbles and crashes right in front of Bettini!
15:03 CET 140km/59km to go
The pace that Devolder
is putting on now is incredible. The lead quickly goes under the 5-minute mark.
We are only a few kilometres off the Taaienberg, with a maximum of 15%. Oh,
and it has cobbles, too.
There is a split in the peloton. The
two parts are about 20 seconds apart.
15:07 CET 142km/57km to go
There is a big crash
in the front part of the peloton. A Cofidis rider went down first, it looked
like. These riders were also involved: Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas), Bert De Waele
(Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner), Tyler Farrar (Slipstream Chipotle - H30), Bernhard
Eisel (High Road), Roy Curvers (Skil-Shimano).
Kevin De Weert is leading the first
peloton, working for his leader Nick Nuyens. There are about 30 riders in the
front, building a nice long echelon. The bunch is close behind.
The five leaders are now on the Taaienberg.
The lead has dropped to 3'48. With still 55 kilometres to race, that does not
look like a comfortable lead.
15:12 CET 146km/53km to go
Devolder leads up
the Taaienberg, with Jurgen Roelandts behind him. They have about 50 metres,
trying to repeat the Boonen/Burghardt break from last year.
15:13 CET 147km/52km to go
Johan Van Summeren
(Silence-Lotto) takes a spill through a left-hander while in third position.
He is up and okay.
15:15 CET 148km/51km to go
There are three at
the front now. Neo pro Roelandts, who was still pretty sick last weekend and
told Cyclingnews that he had food poisoning in Portugal. Fabian Cancellara,
the Swiss powerman and Stijn Devolder, the Belgian Champion. But they are sitting
The lead group is on the Eikenberg
now. It is cobbled, but only 10% maximum gradient. Peanuts for the pros, but
Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is feeling it and drops off a bit. He desperately
tries to make it back to tail end of the other four.
Roy Sentjens (Silence-Lotto) and William
Bonnet (Crédit Agricole) are off the front now. Française des Jeux is driving
Philippe Gilbert is attacking! He
drops Nuyens and is off. It will be hard by himself. He'll hope that someone
comes across. He has about 100m. Kevin Ista (Agritubel) is chasing.
15:23 CET 153km/46km to go
Gilbert is putting
his head down and tries to get to the front group. The gap is now less than
three minutes. Up next is the Wolvenberg.
Stephan Schreck (Gerolsteiner) waves
his hand in the air; he has a flat tire and has to pull out of the action.
Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) now
has a mechanical! A problem with the front tire. It looks like he crashed first.
The peloton is strung out. Gilbert
takes a tight right-hander, then goes out of the saddle and sprints back to
full speed. He attacks the Wolvenberg with a max of 17% with full speed, tongue
hanging out. It's steep, but at least no cobbles.
15:27 CET 156km/43km to go
Gilbert looks comfortable
on the cobbles. Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is still hanging on the back,
always a slight gap. It is tough! Gilbert seems to have about 15 seconds on
a larger group, which has a slight split.
Current race situation
- Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner),
Michael Friedman (Slipstream Chipotle - H30), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis),
Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux).
- Phillippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) at 2.25
- Peloton at 2.40
Gilbert has about 20 seconds. The
peloton behind is pretty nervous now. There are some smaller splits and there
is a lot of attacks. We will see if Gilbert can make it to the leaders by himself.
The gap is still above two minutes. The only company the Belgian has right now
is from the motorbikes.
15:32 CET 159km/40km to go
There are now about
30 riders grouped together. Allan Johansen (Team CSC) is attacking. He still
has his vest on, and it is flapping in the wind. Not the greatest aerodynamic
move on this windy day.
The last biggy of the day is the Molenberg.
The turn-off looks more like the entrance to a driveway, but you know quickly
that you are on the right way. It is steep (max of 14%) and very, very cobbled.
Not nice cobbles. They are spaced apart and makes it really hard to keep traction.
Allan Johansen has passed one of the breakaways. Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel)
is chasing also.
Many spectators are out on the Molenberg.
The break is reaching the top. Phew. The lead is less than two minutes. Gilbert
has passed one of the breakaway riders and tackles the Molenberg! He is looking
good, passing a flag with the Lion of Flanders. Allan Johansen and Jan Kux are
next to hit the climb.
15:39 CET 163km/36km to go
Jalabert can't reach
the others and is caught by the peloton, just on top of the climb where the
cobble end. After the cobbles it is actually still a bit uphill to the top.
Nuyens is leading two other riders. Lots of little splits now.
Right when they pass the windmill
(Molenberg means Mill climb) a group of 5 is picking up Johansen and Kux. Cancellara
is one of the 5 and Johansen is now providing help for his team captain.
15:45 CET 167km/32km to go
The riders are hitting
the Paddestraat. It's not a climb, but cobbled from the bad sort. Two kilometres
of full pain. The riders try to take advantage of the smooth part on the side
of the road, but they have to be careful. It is narrow and a little mistake
can cost you. Gilbert rides right through the middle. He doesn't seem to mind
the cobbles. Well, he i a Belgian, after all.
The peloton no longer exists. Lots
of little groups are trying to get through this little piece of the Hell. Gilbert
decided now to get into the gutter and ride a bit on the smooth part. A little
bunny hop and he is back on the cobbles, as the gutter stopped. Does that street
never stop? At least a flat wouldn't be too bad, as Gilbert has team helpers
on the side of the road with spare wheels.
Gilbert takes the left hander and
has now the second part of the Paddestraat. He is one minute behind the break.
Cancellara, Nuyens, Kux, Hushovd are in the group behind Gilbert.
15:52 CET 173km/26km to go
Gilbert is off the
cobbles. What a relief! He immediately picks up Yuriy Krivtsov, who finally
was dropped off the group. But he claws himself on the back of Gilbert's wheel.
The Belgian now also has the help of team-mate Arnaud Gerard, who dropped back
from the break.
Forty-four seconds separate the four
riders chasing the front runners. Friedman has dropped back to the Gilbert group,
making it a quartet.
Current race situation
- Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis).
- Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux),
Michael Friedman (Slipstream Chipotle - H30), Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
- Group of 5 with Cancellara, Nuyens at 1.20
16:00 CET 177km/22km to go
The Gilbert group
is passing the 25-km to go sign. It is hard to read as the wind is really twisting
it. Leif Hoste is in the Cancellara group. He is a bit angry at some of the
riders not pulling through right now. Aleksandr Kuschynski and Sébastien Minard
are sitting up and waiting for the quartet behind. They join up and it's now
six at the front.
Friedman is hanging on - literally.
He is in last spot and desperately trying to follow the wheels. But he is in
a better position than Quick Step. They are nowhere to be seen. Gilbert attacks
16:04 CET 178km/21km to go
Gilbert attacked again
in the cobbles. Some riders are really comfortable with it. As Thor Hushovd
told Cyclingnews before the race, "If you have good legs than the cobbles
are fine." And the Norwegian is looking good, still in the second group.
Gilbert has his sunglasses on his
helmet now. He powers along is and makes some funny grimaces. But we don't blame
him. He is giving it his all, with about 20km to go. Aleksandr Kuschynski is
chasing, as is Minard.
Kuschynski is sitting up, waiting
for Minard. The two join up right at the 20km to go sign.
Gilbert has 44 seconds now on the
duo behind. It will be hard to stay ahead, with the wind blowing hard. With
the twists of the road, it switches between tail- and headwind.
Hoste is going back to the team car
and checking for advise. His group is bigger now, as the Friedman trio has been
caught. They are about a good minute behind Gilbert.
Current race situation
Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux)
- Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis) at 0.44
- Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux), Michael Friedman (Slipstream Chipotle
- H30), Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis), Fabian Cancellara
and Allan Johansen (Team CSC), Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto), Thor Hushovd (Crédit
Agricole) and Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) at 1.20
16:14 CET 185km/14km to go
Gilbert has 14 km
to go and it is looking good now. He has extended his lead to mover a minute,
but the chasers behind are now even more, as Kuschynski and Minard have been
Gilbert has put the shades back on.
The last thing he wants now is an insect getting caught in his eyes and spoiling
his chances. He takes a sip out of his FdJ team bottle and pedals on. He can
hold off the group for now. 1'07". Amazing!
16:20 CET 190km/9km to go
Cancellara lifts his
arm. He wants some advise or drink. Marc Madiot, the DS of FdJ is very happy.
"It is not finished yet, but it is looking good!" It sure would be a good win
for the French team. He said that it is "a very good Gilbert today." The Belgian
gets passed by a photo moto. He switches over to the left side of the road,
to get a bit of a draft. Then back to the bike lane on the right, inches away
from parked cars. Let's hope nobody opens their car door now!
16:22 CET 191km/8km to go
The wind is blowing
from the right hand side and looking at the many flags, it is quite strong.
But Gilbert is riding like a madman along the main road, which is very straight.
It is not good for a breakaway rider, having the straight road, where the chasers
can see him. But the gap doesn't change! He is entering Gent now. What a relief
He is in the suburb, in Zwijnaarde.
Madiot pulls up and tells him something. Gilbert gets out of the saddle and
gets some more momentum. Whatever Madiot said, it motivated Gilbert even more.
16:25 CET 194km/5km to go
Nuyens is pulling hard
and trying to get back to the leader. Hushovd pulls through, but it doesn't
look very cohesive. Some have decided to race for second place, looks like.
Gilbert is under the 5 to go banner!
16:28 CET 195km/4km to go
Hushovd does look comfortable
on the cobbles, but the gap is still over a minute. Impossible now to get back?
It sure looks like it. Gilbert is not slowing down.
16:28 CET 196km/3km to go
Gilbert goes into the
tunnel underneath the railroad tracks. He will be approaching the finish line
soon, but there is another small loop of a couple of kilometres he has to do
before tackling the uphill finish. 47 seconds now. If the break catches him
he will have nothing left for the uphill sprint.
16:30 CET 197km/2km to go
The spectators are
cheering him on as he is approaching the start-finish area. Madiot is going
mad in the team car - a real Mad-iot! It is downhill now until the turnaround.
And of course uphill on the way back. Ouch!
Johansen attacks out of the chasers!
Gilbert slows down! Well, it's for the U-turn. Watch out, there are tracks form
the street cars. Danger! But it is dry and he gets around just fine.
16:32 CET 198km/1km to go
Nuyens has countered,
as the Dane form CSC is caught again. But Gilbert can see the finishing banner!
But it is uphill.
With 300m to go, Gilbert is starting
to celebrate and rides up the last bit.
He blows kisses into the audience,
as he crosses the line! What a victory.
Nuyens is away, turning around. He
will get second. A Belgian day in Belgium!
Hushovd gets third, with a long sprint
uphill. Good job, Thor.
Friedman went to early on his sprint
and doesn't quite make it to the top 10. Cancellara comes in a bit later.
Well, what an exciting race. Gilbert
said it is his biggest win so far. He wasn't worried about being by himself.
"I saw I was strong." And he sure was, going alone for some 50km!
Thanks for joining us for the Cyclingnews coverage from Gent and see
you back tomorrow for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne!
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux
2 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis
3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
4 Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas
5 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
6 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) Agritubel
7 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence-Lotto
8 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC
9 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner
10 Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Française des Jeux
11 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis
12 Michael Friedman (USA) Slipstream Chipotle - H30
13 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC
14 Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram
15 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Silence-Lotto