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43rd E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - 1.HC
Belgium, March 26, 2005
Boonen's best ever?
Quick.Step gun is not just a sprinter
By Jeff Jones
Although it's hard to go past his wins in Gent-Wevelgem and the final stage of the Tour de France last year, Tom Boonen's second consecutive victory in today's 43rd E3 Prijs Vlaanderen was arguably his best yet. After isolating himself from his teammates when he followed an attack by T-Mobile's Andreas Klier on the Taaienberg with 55 km to go, Boonen rode with the German all the way to the finish, never much more than half a minute away from the nearest chasers. Naturally, Boonen had no problems winning a two man sprint against Klier, but the way in which they held off the likes of Peter Van Petegem, Nico Mattan and Erik Dekker for an hour and a half was extremely impressive. "I was looking over my shoulder quite a lot," Boonen said after his fifth win of the season. "I had a feeling that at any moment one of the riders chasing us was going to get away from the group and catch us.
"I am very happy. I wanted to win today but I really didn't think my move would have continued for so many kilometres. I won this race last year; it's not easy repeating a win with just a 12 month difference. Today's race was great test for me in light of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen. I had a chance today to see some of the opponents I'll be racing against on the roads of the Ronde."
Boonen also said he was motivated by criticism in the media recently, after his relatively poor performances in Milan-San Remo and Dwars door Vlaanderen. "In fact, I was annoyed by the criticism I in the press in the last few weeks. I was not good enough in Milan-Sanremo and also in Dwars door Vlaanderen I was nowhere according to the media. I couldn't sprint any more and was past my peak. I reacted today in a fitting way, I think. This is a brilliant race to put on your palmares. I've done it now for the second consecutive time. It was a tough race."
Andreas Klier was disappointed but philosophical with his second place. "It's a hard task to stay in front with two. Definitely against a group of five men that is chasing at half a minute. My teammate Steffen Wesemann was in there too."
Although Wesemann was visibly frustrated about not being able to go for his own chances, T-Mobile chose to stick with Klier, perhaps remembering the 2003 Gent-Wevelgem, where Klier beat Vogels and Boonen in a small group sprint and Boonen was even led out by a teammate.
"I got the green light from sports director Mario Kummer and could go all out for the victory," said Klier. "At the end, I gambled and lost. I knew that I was slower than Boonen, but wanted to sell my skin dearly, because he also did his part of the work in our break. I hoped that he would have lost his edge."
How it unfolded
Excellent weather conditions greeted the 187 riders at the start in Harelbeke, with temperatures just below 20 degrees and a light northeast wind blowing. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) did not start, suffering from a saddle sore, and instead went training. He will be in tomorrow's Brabantse Pijl.
After a fast start, a group of 11 riders got away after 100 km with most of the major teams represented: Marc Wauters (Rabobank), Kevin Hulsmans (Quick.Step), Eric Baumann and Bas Giling (T-Mobile), Aart Vierhouten (Davitamon-Lotto), Allan Johansen (CSC), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), Geoffroy Lequatre (Crédit Agricole), Tom Stubbe (Chocolade Jacques), Sebastian Siedler (Wiesenhof) and Christophe Mengin (Francaise des Jeux).
Discovery Channel was not represented in the break, so Dirk Demol's boys drove the peloton in pursuit until Hayden Roulston was able to bridge a small gap just before the first climb of La Houppe with 83 km to go. Canny Dutchman Erik Dekker (Rabobank) saw his chance and also got across the gap, forming a group of 13 in front. The peloton eased off the gas and the gap quickly blew out to 1'30 as Quick.Step and Lotto set a controlling tempo for their team captains.
Under the impulse of Quick.Step's Davide Bramati and Wilfried Cretskens and Lotto's Wim Vansevenant and Nico Mattan, the bunch came within 1'00 of the break at the foot of the Eikenberg with 64 km to go. That's when things started to heat up in the peloton, as Van Petegem, Mattan, Vansevenant (Lotto), Boonen (Quick.Step), Klier (T-Mobile) and Kopp (Wiesenhof) split off the front of the bunch in pursuit of the big early break. It didn't take long for them to close the gap, especially when a train crossing stopped the break just before the Stationsberg at 61 km to go. But the gap was only 10 seconds at that point, and the chasers would have caught the leaders anyway.
The problem was that the peloton also came very close to bridging the gap, and by the time the barriers went up again after some 20 seconds, only 10 seconds separated the front two groups (the peloton wasn't slowed at all by the train crossing). Erik Dekker realised the danger and didn't want to waste the small advantage that the now 19 man break had, and upped the pace on the Stationsberg to keep the broken peloton at bay.
Stijn Devolder (Discovery) was the biggest name missing from the front group, and he led a small bunch containing Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) and Jurgen Van De Walle (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) across to the leaders. But on the Taaienberg with 57 km to go, Andreas Klier made what turned out to be the decisive attack. The German stomped on the pedals with Tom Boonen digging deep to stay on his wheel, and the pair opened up a 10 second gap on Lotto teammates Peter Van Petegem and Nico Mattan, who were leading the front group at the time.
At the top of the Taaienberg, there was a regrouping behind, as Devolder, Farazijn, Wesemann and Voeckler got up to the chase group, followed by more riders in dribs and drabs. The gap grew to 30 seconds at 50 km to go and it seemed as though the two leaders would have their work cut out to hold off the big chase group over the next six climbs. But despite the danger, the gap held.
Stijn Devolder attempted to bridge across on his own but couldn't get closer than 27 seconds before he punctured and had to return to the peloton, which was now at the magic minute mark on the Kapelberg with 43 km to go. On the Paterberg, the two leaders rode smoothly up as the next big chasing move started behind them, led by the impressive Erik Dekker. By the top of the 400m/12% cobbled monster, Dekker had pegged the gap back to 45 seconds with Mattan, Van Petegem (Lotto), Wesemann (T-Mobile), De Jongh (Rabobank), Kopp (Wiesenhof) and Guesdon (FDJ) in tow.
It looked like this group would come back to the two leaders, while the rest of the peloton appeared to be cooked. Indeed, on the Oude Kwaremont with 35 km to go, Boonen and Klier looked tired and lost half of their lead as Van Petegem and Mattan led the chase group to within 20 seconds. Kopp and Wesemann were able to stay with the two Belgians, while Dekker dropped off to help De Jongh, and Guesdon was dropped for good. De Jongh didn't have the legs today and told Dekker to go on, and the Dutchman easily regained the four remaining chasers.
Over the top of the Kwaremont, Boonen and Klier stepped on the gas again and got out to 30 seconds with the chase group now down to five: Van Petegem, Mattan, Dekker, Kopp and Wesemann, who was not contributing as his teammate was up the road. At the top of the Knokteberg with 27 km to go, it was back down to 22 seconds, then 19 seconds, then 11 seconds at the end of the Varent cobbles with 19 km to go. It looked like the leaders were history, but they refused to give in and again forced it out to 20 seconds at the foot of the Tiegemberg, the day's final climb.
Van Petegem was looking good and put in a big effort on the Tiegemberg to try to get the leaders back for good. The best he could do was 15 seconds and it was now becoming clear that the chasers were running out of steam. In the final 10 km, Boonen and Klier upped the pace and broke the spirit of the pursuers. It was 30 seconds with 2 km to go and the nail biting pursuit match was over. A frustrated Steffen Wesemann knew that Klier had little chance of beating Boonen in the sprint, but he could do nothing to help.
Klier did not resort to any cat and mouse tactics with Boonen in the final two kilometres, and even took the lead with one kilometre to go. It wouldn't have mattered. Boonen didn't move until Klier accelerated at 200m to go, then immediately jumped around the German to open up an unbeatable two bike length lead, allowing him plenty of time to celebrate his second consecutive E3 Prijs victory in a row. Klier thumped the bars in frustration, but at least he secured second place. Van Petegem attacked the chase group with 1 km to go to take third place and show that he has the form for next week's Ronde Van Vlaanderen.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Bert Geerts
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep 4.42.54 (42.418 km/h) 2 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile 3 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 0.13 4 David Kopp (Ger) Wiesenhof 0.17 5 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 6 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile 0.22 7 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 0.33 8 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech 2.50 9 Eric Baumann (Ger) T-Mobile 10 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC 11 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 12 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Davitamon - Lotto 13 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank 14 Stefan Schumacker (Dui) 15 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2r Prévoyance 16 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française des Jeux 17 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 18 Michal Precechtel (Cze) eD'system - ZVVZ 19 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile 20 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française des Jeux 21 Christophe Detilloux (Bel) Française des Jeux 22 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 23 Koen Barbé (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 24 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld - Valsir 25 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel 26 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom 27 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux 28 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quickstep 29 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Flanders 30 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Rabobank 31 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep 32 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery Channel 33 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 34 Glenn D'Hollander (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago 35 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago 36 Hayden Roulston (NZl) Discovery Channel 37 Guido Trenti (USA) Quickstep 38 Peter Farazijn (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 39 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel 40 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 41 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quickstep 42 Benoît Joachim (Lux) Discovery Channel 43 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 44 Rolf Aldag (Ger) T-Mobile 45 Sean Sullivan (Aus) Barloworld - Valsir 46 Angel Castresana Del Val (Spa) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech Starters: 187 Classified: 46
2004 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 200 km in 4.31.00 (43.173 km/h) 2003 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank 209 km in 4.33.00 (45.934 km/h) 2002 Dario Pieri (Ita) Alessio 200 km in 4.45.00 (42.10 km/h) 2001 Andrej Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 209 km in 5.08.49 (40.41 km/h) 2000 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Farm Frites 209 km in 5.13.00 (40.06 km/h) 1999 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) TVM-Farm Frites 206 km in 4.39.10 (44.30 km/h) 1998 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Mapei-Bricobi 201 km in 4.48.00 1997 Hendrik Van Dyck (Bel) 1996 Carlo Bomans (Bel) 1995 Bart Leysen (Bel) 1994 Andrej Tchmil (Mda) 1993 Mario Cipollini (Ita) 1992 Johan Museeuw (Bel) 1991 Olaf Ludwig (Ger) 1990 Sören Lilholt (DÄN) 1989 Eddy Planckaert (Bel) 1988 Guido Bontempi (Ita) 1987 Eddy Planckaert (Bel) 1986 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) 1985 Phil Anderson (AUS) 1984 Bert Oosterbosch (Ned) 1983 Willy Tackaert (Bel) 1982 Jean Bogaert (Bel) 1981 Jan Raas (Ned) 1980 Jan Raas (Ned) 1979 Jan Raas (Ned) 1978 Freddy Maertens (Bel) 1977 Dietrich Thurau (Ger) 1976 Walter Planckaert (Bel) 1975 Frans Verbeeck (Bel) 1974 Herman Vanspringel (Bel) 1973 Willy In'T'Ven (Bel) 1972 Hubert Hutsebaut (Bel) 1971 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel) 1970 Daniel Van Ryckegem (Bel) 1969 Rik Van Looy (Bel) 1968 Jacques De Boever (Bel) 1967 Willy Bocklant (Bel) 1966 Rik Van Looy (Bel) 1965 Rik Van Looy (Bel) 1964 Rik Van Looy (Bel) 1963 Noél Fore (Bel) 1962 André Messelis (Bel) 1961 Arthur De Carbooter (Bel) 1960 Daniel Doom (Bel) 1959 Norbert Kerckhove (Bel) 1958 Armand Desmet (Bel) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com