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66th GP Stad Zottegem-Dr. Tistaert Prijs - 1.3
Belgium, August 20, 2002
Pronk wins a wet GP Zottegem
By Jeff Jones in Zottegem
Dutchman Matthé Pronk (Rabobank) has won the 66th edition of the GP Stad Zottegem (Dr. Tistaert Prijs), held in extremely wet conditions over a shortened parcours of 154 km. Pronk attacked on the last of six 16 km laps from a seven man break, to win by 37 seconds ahead of Estonian Janek Tombak (Cofidis) and New Zealander Gordon McCauley (RDM Flanders).
In a rare occurrence in Belgium, the rain did not abate all day, except when it poured. This was in stark contrast to the previous week's weather, which was sunny and 30 degrees every day. It had to break eventually, and the locals were curiously amazed at the tropical downpour.
This made life tougher than expected for the 176 starters in this popular kermesse race, which was upgraded to a UCI 1.3 event this year. Riders such as Johan Museeuw, Fred Rodriguez, Axel Merckx (Domo-Farm Frites), Peter Van Petegem and Serge Baguet (Lotto-Adecco) were all at the start, but only Baguet made it into the leading group when the peloton definitively split on the first 30 km lap. Coming past the start/finish for the first time, there was a group of 30 plus off the front with a 40 second lead. With the dangerously wet conditions and the high average speed (45 km/h), the rest of the peloton never saw the front again.
An early casualty was Zottegem's local resident Scott Sunderland (EDS-fakta), who had to pull out due to tendonitis in his right leg. The luckless Sunderland was riding in his first race back since spending another week off the bike due to a stomach virus (for the third time this season!). However, the pain was too much and he was taken to the local hospital, where the doctor ordered him to stay off the bike for another two weeks. The one advantage of this is that he should be at home to see the birth of his second child, which is due any day now.
Back to the racing, and the leading group were pressing their advantage, extending the gap to 2'30 to the peloton on the second big lap and 5 minutes by the time they started the six small 16 km circuits. The organisers had decided to cut the race short by two laps (32 km) due to the dangerous conditions which had already caused several crashes.
One rider who was particularly active in the leading group was New Zealand champion Gordon McCauley (RDM Flanders), who tried several times to get away, obviously relishing the high speed racing in the appalling conditions. He eventually managed to force a breakaway of seven riders, including Janek Tombak (Cofidis), Matthé Pronk and Sven Nijs (Rabobank), Luke Roberts (ComNet-Senges), Frédéric Amorison (Lotto-Adecco) and Roger Hammond (Palmans-Collstrop).
These seven held a 33 second advantage with one lap to go, as the remnants of the leading group tried to chase them down in the final 16 km. Only Serge Baguet (Lotto) succeeded in making the bridge, but by the time he got up to them the winning move had been made by Matthé Pronk. The strong Dutch rider quickly established a 20 second lead, which kept growing until he crossed the line in triumph. Estonian sprinter Janek Tombak beat home McCauley for second place, with the New Zealander finishing third.
Footnote: Anyone who visits a Belgian kermesse should keep an eye out for retired Australian pro Alan Peiper and his hamburger stand. Although he retired from racing 10 years ago, he is still very much a keen cyclist and a great person to have a yarn to, especially on days like today. He's lived in Belgium for 25 years and has a few stories to tell. Not so long ago, he won an "ex-professionals" criterium in Aalst, beating the likes of Roger De Vlaeminck, Sean Kelly, Jan Bogaert and Felice Gimondi. There was nothing fixed about this race either, as he described it as competitive as when he used to race against them as a pro.
Images by Jeff Jones/Cyclingnews
1 Matthé Pronk (Ned) Rabobank 3.24.00 (45.29 km/h) 2 Janek Tombak (Est) Cofidis 0.37 3 Gordon McCauley (NZl) RDM-Flanders 4 Luke Roberts (Aus) Team ComNet - Senges 5 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 6 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 7 Roger Hammond (GBr) Palmans-Collstrop 8 Sven Nijs (Bel) Rabobank 9 Geert Omloop (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop 0.52 10 Geert Vanderaerden (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop 1.02 11 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 1.08 12 Klaus Mütschler (Ger) Team Cologne 13 Julien Smink (Ned) Van Hemert Groep Cycling Team 1.25 14 Andy De Smet (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop 15 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Big Mat-Auber 93 16 Christophe Stevens (Bel) Marlux-Ville de Charleroi 17 Michel Van Haecke (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 18 Roy Sentjens (Ned) Rabobank 19 Mindaugas Goncaras (Ltu) 20 Johan Coenen (Bel) Marlux-Ville de Charleroi 21 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites 22 Marco Milesi (Ita) Domo-Farm Frites 23 Jeff Louder (USA) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 24 Paul Van Schalen (Ned) Dermar-Concorde 25 Arkadiusz Wojtas (Pol) Team Nürnberger Versicherung 26 Steven Kleynen (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites 27 Marcel Duijn (Ned) Rabobank 28 Stéphane Auge (Fra) Jean-Delatour 29 Thijs Al (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 30 Marc Streel (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 3.18 31 Mark Vlijm (Ned) Axa-VvZ 4.12 32 Michal Prechetel (Cze) Wüstenrot-ZVVZ 33 Mario Bolz (Ger) Team Cologne 34 Wolfram Wiese (Ger) Team ComNet-Senges 35 Kurt Van Lancker (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 36 Kristof Trouvé (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop 37 Adam Wadecki (Pol) Mróz 38 Wesey Van Speybroeck (Bel) Lotto-Adecco Starters: 176 Classified: 38
2002 Matthe Pronk (Ned) Rabobank 2001 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis 2000 Michel van Haecke (Bel) 1999 Etienne De Wilde (Bel) 1998 Paul Van Hyfte (Bel) 1997 Frank Hoj (Den) 1996 Chris Peers (Bel) 1995 Hendrik Redant (Bel) 1994 Marc Wauters (Bel) 1993 Pierre Herinne (Bel) 1992 Marc Dierickx (Bel) 1991 Peter De Clercq (Bel) 1990 Marco Van der Hulst (Ned) 1989 Gino Van Hooydonck (Bel) 1988 Chris Scharmin (Bel) 1987 Nico Verhoeven (Ned) 1986 Patrick Cocquyt (Bel) 1985 Raoul Bruyndonckx (Bel) 1984 Luc Colijn (Bel) 1983 Mario Mariotti (Bel) 1982 Rudy Colman (Bel) 1981 Gery Verlinden (Bel) 1980 Etienne Van der Helst (Bel) 1979 Pol Verschuere (Bel) 1978 Daniël Willems (Bel) 1977 Herman Vrijders (Bel) 1976 Willem Peeters (Bel) 1975 Jan Raas (Ned) 1974 André Dierickx (Bel) 1973 Maurice Dury (Bel) 1972 Herman Van Springel (Bel) 1971 Albert Van Vlierberghe (Bel) 1970 Fernand Hermie (Bel) 1969 Willy Vanden Eynde (Bel) 1968 Frans Melckenbeeck (Bel) 1967 Roland Vande Rijse (Bel) 1966 Jo De Roo (Ned) 1965 Frans Aerenhouts (Bel) 1964 Clément Roman (Bel) 1963 Jean-Baptist Claes (Bel) 1962 Jef Schils (Bel) 1961 Frans Schoubben (Bel) 1960 Jef Schils (Bel) 1959 Arthur De Cabooter (Bel) 1958 Roger Baens (Bel) 1957 Willy Schroeders (Bel) 1956 Lucien Matthijs (Bel) 1955 André Auquier (Bel) 1954 Gilbert Desmet I (Bel) 1953 Leon Delathouwer (Bel) 1952 Leopold Schaeken (Bel) 1951 Maurits Blomme (Bel) 1950 Maurits Blomme (Bel) 1949 Maurits Blomme (Bel) 1948 Emile Vanderveken (Bel) 1947 Michel Remue (Bel) 1946 Michel Van Elsué (Bel) 1945 K. De Baere (Bel) 1944 No race 1943 P. Depredomme (Bel) 1942 Albert Ritserveldt (Bel) 1941 Georges Claes (Bel) 1940 No race 1939 Marcel Kint (Bel) 1938 Louis Janssens (Bel) 1937 Sylvain Grysolle (Bel) 1936 P. Van Teemsche (Bel) 1935 Michel Buyck (Bel) 1934 André Verlinden (Bel)
Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com