|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
63rd Omloop Het Volk - 1.HC
Belgium, March 1, 2008
Gilbert returns with solo Het Volk victory
By Gregor Brown in Gent with additional reporting from Bjorn Haake
Belgian Philippe Gilbert returned to win the Omloop Het Volk after taking his first victory in the Flemish race two years ago. The 25 year-old of Française des Jeux attacked solo at 49 kilometres remaining of the 199-kilometre race, and was never seen again by the race favourites. 2005 winner Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) tried to close in on the lone leader with a group of heavy hitters, including Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), but the two finished second and third respectively.
"Like Eddy Merckx? I don't know, but this was my best win so far," said Gilbert of his ride that was almost a completely solo effort. "I saw that I was going well, so it wasn't too early to go."
Gilbert, from the Wallonia region of Belgium, won his first Omloop Het Volk in 2006 by putting in a powerful performance and moving free in the final seven kilometres. However, today's move, on the 1000-metre all-pavé Eikenberg, was one of epic proportions given the distance and two cobbled climbs left to cover. When he went, it was 27 year-old Nuyens on his wheel, but the Cofidis man thought it was too early for such an audacious move.
"I didn't follow deliberately," said Nuyens. "I think I was the best of the rest. I was on the wheel of Gilbert when he attacked. He really went very fast... It was still very far, with such a wind. The rest found it was too early as well. If you can do what he did, then it proves you are the best. I take my hat off to Gilbert."
At that point Gilbert had a gap of 3'30 to the five-man move in front, containing Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis), Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux), Michael Friedman (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) and Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
The effort looked like it might come to nothing. But working in Gilbert's favour was team-mate Gerard and the fact that Quick Step seemed to have given up on winning the race's 63rd edition. With the Belgian super-team out, there was no one capable of catching Gilbert on his solo flight to Gent.
"Quick Step? I saw a strong Devolder but I didn't really understand their tactics," continued Nuyens. The Belgian champion Devolder told Cyclingnews that his team will be back tomorrow at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. "I don't know what went wrong," said Devolder. "My legs were turning, but it was a bad day for the team and tomorrow we will have to try again."
On the pavé section through Horebeke, Cofidis was turning the screw for Nuyens with favourites Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) moving into position.
An attack by Allan Johansen (Team CSC) and Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner) helped thin the chase while Gilbert was making his way over the final climb of the day, the Molenberg. The 463-metre ascent, more than half of which is cobbled, shredded the favourites group to just 39 riders.
Gilbert needed help and team-mate Gerard dutifully dropped back following the 2400m Paddestraat to assist his leader. With just over 20 kilometres remaining, Gilbert wisely collected his energies within the newly formed group of Kuschynski, Minard, Gerard and Yuriy Krivtsov.
But the Belgian was on the attack again soon afterwards. Producing a scintillating final 20 kilometres to secure his finest win to date, adding to a palmarès which includes the 2006 GP de Fourmies, 2005 Tour du Haut Var and a stage in the 2004 Tour Down Under.
The chasers had now been reduced to Nuyens, Cancellara, Johansen, Hoste, Hushovd and Laurent Jalabert's younger brother, Nicolas. Given the winds and near 30-kilometre effort that the lone rider had already put in, it seemed as though victory was within reach of the six men. However, their organisation could not match Gilbert's determination.
After an attack by Johansen, Nuyens countered and moved clear to claim second in the race he won three years ago. Hushovd took third and will be a hot favourite in tomorrow's Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
The original escape that departed 15 kilometres after the start in Gent's Citadelpark - including American rider Michael Friedman - hung tough for the remainder of the day. Liquigas' Kuschynski finished sixth, Krivtsov fifth, Gerard 10th and Minard 11th. Slipstream's Michael Friedman closed out an excellent day for the American team to finish in 12th.
"We had to get into the move," said Friedman. "I knew that it would be pretty windy so that a group would form, and I figured I would be in there. Everyone [in the team] had a job to follow the move. The move went early, and I almost did not make it across due to the wind. A group came up from behind me and then we made it to the rest of the guys. I was hurting pretty bad [in the finale]."
How it unfolded
199 riders assembled under a sunny sky in Gent for the 63rd Omloop Het Volk. The weather was a relief, as the night before a heavy storm had hit Belgium, and was a cause of concern. But there was no trouble at the start, except for Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), who was the last to be interviewed on the podium, and subsequently had to line up at the back of the field.
Somewhat unusually, the peloton stormed out of Gent in a hurry, hitting the roads at high speed, helped by a strong tail wind on the initial section east of Gent. They passed last year's finishing town of Lokeren, but one who didn't even make it there was Australian Robbie McEwen, victim of the high speed of the bunch. His legs weren't the best and his injuries sustained in Portugal didn't help either.
A break off six riders formed quickly thereafter. 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) took off and after 25 kilometres they had an advantage of 3'25".
The peloton was not interested and only six kilometres later the gap was at 5'20". At kilometre 33 a crash brought down several riders, among them Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis).
The average speed after 36 kilometres was at 45.7 km/h. The next crash followed soon after and this time Marc De Maar (Rabobank) hit the deck. After 49 kilometres the gap to the leading five had gone up to 6'25" and another seven kilometres later it was at 8'30"
Frederik Veuchelen (Top sport Vlaanderen) and Loyd Mondory (Ag2r-La Mondiale) were the next to go down, in separate incidents. The favourites picked up the pace now and the gap came down to 7'35", after 63 kilometres.
The first obstacle of the day, besides the treacherous situations on the narrow roads, was the Grotenberg after 73 kilometres, one of the 11 hellingen to be climbed today. The peloton was split and two groups became separated by 38 seconds. But five kilometres later it was all back together, with the break at approximately seven minutes.
After 91 kilometres the peloton tackled the second climb of the day, the Leberg, still almost seven minutes behind the six leaders. The Berendries, Valkenberg, Ten Bosse and Pottelberg were next. While uncomfortable, none of them posed too much of a problem.
The only temporary problem was a closed rail road barrier and a small passenger train coming by. But the wait wasn't too long. The Kruisberg was next, a cobbled climb with 65 kilometres to go. Quick Step could be seen on the front for the first time. Paolo Bettini took over on the front briefly, before dropping back and then being held up by a crashing team-mate. Stijn Devolder looked good, powering up the hill.
Devolder also led over the Taaienberg, but couldn't get a decisive gap. On the Eikenberg, with 50 kilometres to go, Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) attacked strongly. Nick Nuyens tried to follow Gilbert's wheel, but couldn't quite match the power of his compatriot. At the same time, two Gerolsteiner riders, Heinrich Haussler and Stephan Schreck, had mechanical troubles.
The Wolvenberg was next and Gilbert used the 17 percent hill to increase his lead on a splintering peloton. The climb was followed by over two kilometres of cobble stones, but Gilbert looked quite comfy on the pavé.
With 39 kilometres to go the last helling of the day was reached, the Molenberg. The bad cobbles make this one particularly tricky and the front group had already lost David Boucher on the lead up to the Molenberg.
A counter attack from Allan Johansen (Team CSC) and Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner) formed a group of seven, including Fabian Cancellara, whose turns were so strong he didn't even realise he had dropped his companions.
The horrible Paddestraat was the last difficulty of the day. It wasn't uphill, but the cobbles are Paris-Roubaix style. Gilbert didn't care and pounded over them, reaching the first victims of the disintegrating breakaway shortly thereafter. The chase group with Cancellara, Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto), Nuyens and a few others were a good half-minute behind.
Briefly, Gilbert had company from team-mate Arnaud Gerard, Michael Friedman (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) and Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale), chasing the two leaders, Kuschynski and Minard.
With 22 kilometres to go the two leaders were sitting up and waiting for the Gilbert group. But the Belgian decided soon after that he wanted his group to be smaller. In fact, he wanted it to contain only one person - himself. So he attacked strongly and quickly built a comfortable lead.
The Cancellara group was now a minute back, and as the Belgian rode along the flat, straight major highway towards Gent, he was able to keep them at bay. Entering Gent, Gilbert still had 45 seconds and could enjoy the last lap near Citadelpark. He came up the incline to the finish solo and didn't have to sprint, having still a minute in hand. The chasers started playing games and Nuyens came out the winner, sprinting home for second with Thor Hushovd powering home for third.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Gerard Knapp/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Bjorn Haake/Cyclingnews.com
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Sonja Csury/www.allaboutcycling.de
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 4.55.25 (40.417 km/h) 2 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis 0.58 3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 1.06 4 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) Ag2r-La Mondiale 5 Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas 1.12 6 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) Agritubel 1.13 7 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence-Lotto 8 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 1.16 9 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 1.53 10 Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Française des Jeux 11 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis 12 Michael Friedman (USA) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 1.58 13 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 2.07 14 Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram 4.26 15 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Silence-Lotto 4.31 16 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step 4.37 17 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 18 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Liquigas 19 Anders Lund (Den) Team CSC 20 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Silence-Lotto 21 Steven Caethoven (Bel) Agritubel 22 Floris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil-Shimano 23 Kevin Ista (Bel) Agritubel 4.49 24 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Willems Veranda's Continental Team 25 Koen Barbé (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 26 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 27 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Team Milram 28 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 29 Loyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale 30 Huub Duyn (Ned) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 31 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Astana 32 Christophe Laurent (Fra) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 33 Andy Cappelle (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 34 Kevin Neirynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 35 William Bonnet (Fra) Crédit Agricole 36 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis 37 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole 38 Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française des Jeux 39 Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil-Shimano 6.32 40 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick Step 41 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 42 Steffen Wesemann (Swi) Cycle Collstrop 43 Mathieu Criquielion (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 44 Stijn Ennekens (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team 45 Roger Hammond (GBr) High Road 46 Michael Schär (Swi) Astana 47 Evert Verbist (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 48 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas 49 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Agritubel 50 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 51 Emilien-Benoît Berges (Fra) Agritubel 52 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis 53 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto 54 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 55 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Ag2r-La Mondiale 56 Jason Donald (USA) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 57 Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Crédit Agricole 58 Gerben Löwik (Ned) Rabobank 59 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Crédit Agricole 60 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 61 Martin Müller (Ger) Team Milram 62 Enrico Poitschke (Ger) Team Milram 63 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Ag2r-La Mondiale 6.35 64 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux 65 Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas 66 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 67 Mickaël Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux 68 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 69 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 70 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Astana 71 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Silence-Lotto 72 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 73 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quick Step 74 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Cofidis 75 David Boucher (Fra) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 76 Lars Bak (Den) Team CSC 77 Frank Hoj (Den) Cofidis 78 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank 79 Tom Stubbe (Bel) Française des Jeux 80 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Française des Jeux 81 Gregory Rast (Swi) Astana 82 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Silence-Lotto 83 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Cofidis 84 Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas 85 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 86 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram 87 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank 6.38 88 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank 89 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick Step 90 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 91 Koen De Kort (Ned) Astana 6.51 92 Kenny Van Braeckel (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team 6.54 93 Steven Cozza (USA) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 94 Dieter Cappelle (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team 95 Marco Marcato (Ita) Cycle Collstrop 96 Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Cycle Collstrop 97 Tomas Buchacek (Cze) PSK Whirlpool-Author 98 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues Telecom 99 Sven Nevens (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 100 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 101 Tom Steels (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 102 Robert Wagner (Ger) Skil-Shimano 103 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 104 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank 105 Bart Vanheule (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 106 Mathieu Heijboer (Ned) Cofidis 107 Erki Pütsep (Est) Bouygues Telecom 108 Jarno Van Mingeroet (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 109 Vytautas Kaupas (Ltu) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 9.12 110 Jens Mouris (Ned) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 111 Renaud Dion (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale 12.33 112 Harald Starzengruber (Aut) Elk Haus-Simplon 113 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 114 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Crédit Agricole 15.10 115 Servais Knaven (Ned) High Road 116 Martin Velits (Svk) Team Milram 117 Rony Martias (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 118 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas 119 Stéphane Poulhiès (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale 120 Sven Renders (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 18.19 121 Sjef De Wilde (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team 122 Jochen Summer (Aut) Elk Haus-Simplon 123 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Elk Haus-Simplon 124 Vicente Reynes (Spa) High Road 125 Daniel Musiol (Ger) Team Volksbank 126 Fabien Bacquet (Bel) Skil-Shimano 127 Tyler Farrar (USA) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 128 Leopold König (Cze) PSK Whirlpool-Author 129 Vincent Jérôme (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 130 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Astana 131 Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Skil-Shimano 132 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) High Road 133 Sebastian Siedler (Ger) Skil-Shimano 134 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC 135 Albert Timmer (Ned) Skil-Shimano 136 Kristof De Zutter (Bel) Willems Veranda's Continental Team 137 Lucas Persson (Swe) Cycle Collstrop 138 Carlo Westphal (Ger) Gerolsteiner 139 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC 140 Marc De Maar (Ned) Rabobank 141 Thomas Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner 142 David Kopp (Ger) Cycle Collstrop 143 André Greipel (Ger) High Road