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61st Dwars door Vlaanderen - 1.1
Belgium, March 22, 2006
Veuchelen by a whisker
By Gabriella Ekström
27-year old Frederik Veuchelen (Chocolate Jacques) won the first and obviously biggest victory of his career when he took home this year's edition of a most spectacular Dwars door Vlaanderen. He was the sole survivor of a breakaway group that was formed after only 14 kilometres, and he outlasted the peloton by a handful of seconds, showing his backside to riders like Tom Boonen (Quickstep) and Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel).
"No-one expected this: not me, not the team," a clearly emotional Veuchelen said after the race. "In three years as a pro I've never stood on the podium, except maybe in a kermis. This is fantastic."
How it unfolded
The 202 kilometre race left the Grote Markt in Kortrijk at 11.40 and unlike last years 43 km/h edition, the pace was relaxed. After only 14 kilometres, a four man group escaped the peloton and started to build up a gap. They gained a maximum of 18'20, and with one hundred kilometres to go, Frederik Veuchelen, David Boucher (Unibet.com), Kevin Neyrinck (Landbouwkrediet) and Harald Starzengruber (Elkhaus) still had a massive gap of 15 minutes.
With 80 kilometres to go, the normal chase routine was upset when a crash brought down several riders and halted two thirds of the peloton. Most of the blue-clad QuickStep team had just advanced to the front, including Tom Boonen, and the pace was high when the accident took place. Initially it looked as if they would slow down and wait for the large number of riders that were left behind, but approaching Eikenberg, Tom Boonen took of with Gert Steegmans of Davitamon-Lotto. Looking strong as ever, Boonen's approach still raised a few eyebrows since his actions led him away from his own team that still looked very strong and unthreatened. They were rejoined by the chasing group shortly after, but more surprises were to come.
It soon became clear that Alessandro Petacchi and his Milram team suffered bad luck in the crash, and Petacchi ended up chasing the 40-man group containing his worst rival Boonen, with Ralf Grabsch as his only teammate. But it seemed that Petacchi was more effected by fatigue than the crash, and he quickly lost time.
With 70 kilometres to go, the second group had brought the gap to the leaders down to ten minutes, and Boonen surprised again when he went on the attack and yet again left his own teammates behind on the Kwaremont to ride off with only Nick Nuyens, (QuickStep) Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto) and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis).
Boonen proved his strength up the Paterberg, when he rode away from everyone before being caught, but his tactics remained confusing. The remains of the peloton split up into a smaller front group containing Boonen, Kevin Van Impe, Stephen De Jongh, Nick Nuyens, Bram Tankink (all QuickStep), Bert Roesems (Davitamon-Lotto), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile), Karsten Kroon (CSC), Dimitriy Muravyev and Igor Abakoumov (Jartazi), and a larger chasing group containing several CSC riders, Baden Cooke and his Unibet.com team and various Davitamon-Lotto and Chocolade Jacques riders among others.
At the very front, the four leaders were highly benefiting from the varied pace in the chasing groups, and they started to look as if they stood a chance to stay away. Over the tough bergs, Veuchelen and Boucher stood out as the stronger climbers, and with 40 kilometres to go, Starzengruber and Neirynck were repeatedly getting dropped.
Alessandro Petacchi abandoned the race at Oude Kwaremont, never having caught up with Boonen's group again, and the race looked like it could be a perfect outcome for the World Champion, when he once again took off in pursuit of the four leaders. His team mate Kevin Van Impe came with him, and Boonen left behind him three of his teammates in a group where most riders had actually worked hard and harmoniously together. With 30 kilometres to go, two laps in Waregem, Boonen and Van Impe caught up with Starzengruber and Neyrinck, who could no longer follow the high pace of Veuchelen and Boucher. Neither could they keep up with the World Champ and his teammate on a mission, and the QuickStep riders were soon alone again.
In the second chasing group, Chocolate Jacques riders were pretty much alone at the front, trying to bring the two groups back together. Their action could be of great help for Veuchelen at the front, since the peloton hadn't gained much time on them earlier when the chase group was bigger. Now the clock was ticking in favour of Boonen and Van Impe, but they were only two and had never gained more than 30 seconds upon the group behind. With 17 kilometres to go, Boonen looked behind him, shook his head and reached for something to eat.
Joined by a much larger chasing group, the natural outcome would have been a full chase by the QuickStep team, but Boonen had now spent a lot of energy, and instead of a chase, the peloton saw the opposite happen when Boucher's teammates, including the illusive Frank Vandenbroucke went to the front of the peloton and slowed the pace down. They got shouted at, but no-one did anything to really alter the pace. At the front, Davide Boucher was actually getting dropped by Veuchelen at this time, and it seemed to take a few seconds before the Unibet.com team realized they were braking for the wrong guy. Veuchelen dropped Boucher on the Holstraat and set off for home alone, with Boucher getting absorbed by the peloton.
After another Boonen attack caused a mini-selection that didn't last, as - for various reasons - no-one was willing to ride to the finish, the peloton got organised for a sprint. Unibet.com had Jeremy Hunt, but lost past winner Baden Cooke in a nasty crash with three kilometres to go, and Davitamon-Lotto was working for Steegmans.
Over the slightly curved final stretch, the chasing riders came within two seconds of the overjoyed Chocolate Jacques rider Veuchelen, who was never really threatened. Unibet.com snatched the second place despite their loss of Cooke, opening up the opportunity for Jeremy Hunt instead. Lloyd Mondory of Ag2r was third in the bunch sprint that almost got hampered by the vehicles following Veuchelen, and Nico Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) took fourth ahead of a tired Tom Boonen.
"I was actually never in doubt," Veuchelen said after the race. "It was fantastic publicity, and if we were caught, the top man [Eeckhout] was in a good position. That's usually a perfect race."
Veuchelen went on to dedicate the win to his father who was injured in a cycling accident a few weeks ago, while descending the Cipressa. He was in a critical condition for a while, but is now reported to be healing well.
Tom Boonen wasn't disappointed with his fifth place. "This was super for the confidence. I'm ready to win." He explained his attacks during the race to the press; "The first was because I had good legs, the second was for training, the third was to win. But I realised reasonably quickly that we wouldn't catch the leaders."
On the question why Quick.Step didn't chase the leaders after Boonen was caught, he answered; "I made the race hard for 50 km. They can't expect us to work for a sprint that I probably can't win?"
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Luc Claessen/www.ctm-images.com
Images by Mani Wollner/www.foto-grafik-satz.de
1 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 5.13.20 (39.064 km/h) 2 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Unibet.com 0.02 3 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance 4 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 6 Igor Abakoumov (Bel) Jartazi-7Mobile 7 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile Team 8 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 9 Jens Renders (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 10 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Skil-Shimano 11 Christophe Detilloux (Bel) Française des Jeux 12 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 13 Marco Velo (Ita) Team Milram 14 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC 15 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 16 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 17 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 18 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole 19 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 20 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic 21 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 22 Maarten Wijnants (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 23 Steven Caethoven (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 24 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 25 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 26 Steven Kleynen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 27 Francis Mourey (Fra) Française des Jeux 28 Koen Barbé (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 29 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 30 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Jartazi-7Mobile 31 Geert Omloop (Bel) Unibet.com 32 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 33 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner 34 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic 35 Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) Unibet.com 36 Bert Roesems (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.17 37 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 38 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 39 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.31 40 David Boucher (Fra) Unibet.com 0.42 41 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.45 42 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Jartazi-7Mobile 0.52 43 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com 2.25 44 Stephan Schreck (Ger) T-Mobile Team 3.14 45 Rik Reinerink (Ned) Skil-Shimano 5.00 46 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 47 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 48 Matthew White (Aus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 49 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 50 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner Starters: 195 Classified: 50
Dwars Door Vlaanderen/A Travers la Belgique 2005 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-T Interim 2004 Ludovic Capelle (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 2003 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 2002 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com 2001 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) 2000 Tristan Hoffman (Ned) 1999 (2) Johan Museeuw (Bel) 1998 Tom Steels (Bel) 1997 Andrej Tchmil (Mda) 1996 Tristan Hoffman (Ned) 1995 (2) Jelle Nijdam (Ned) 1994 Carlo Bomans (Bel) 1993 Johan Museeuw (Bel) 1992 Olaf Ludwig (Ger) 1991 (2) Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) 1990 Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel) 1989 Dirk De Wolf (Bel) 1988 (2) Eddy Planckaert (Bel) 1987 Jelle Nijdam (Bel) 1986 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) 1985 Eddy Planckaert (Bel) 1984 (2) Walter Planckaert (Bel) 1983 Etienne De Wilde (Bel) 1982 Jan Raas (Ned) 1981 Frank Hoste (Bel) 1980 Johan Van der Meer (Bel) 1979 Gustave Van Roosbroeck (Bel) 1978 Adri Schipper (Ned) 1977 Walter Planckaert (Bel) 1976 Willy Planckaert (Bel) 1975 Cees Priem (Ned) 1974 Louis Verreydt (Bel) 1973 Roger Loysch (Bel) 1972 Marc Demeyer (Bel) 1970 (2) Daniel Van Ryckegem (Bel) 1969 Eric Leman (Bel) 1968 (2) Walter Godefroot (Bel) 1967 Daniel Van Ryckegem (Bel) 1966 Walter Godefroot (Bel) Dwars door Belgie 1965 Albert Hermans (Bel) 1964 Piet Van Est (Ned) 1963 Clément Roman (Bel) 1962 Martin Van Geneugden (Bel) 1961 Maurice Meuleman (Bel) 1960 Arthur Decabooter (Bel) 1959 Roger Baens (Bel) 1958 André Vlayen (Bel) 1957 Noél Fore (Bel) 1956 Lucien Demunster (Bel) 1955 (2) Alberic Schotte (Bel) 1954 Germain Derijcke (Bel) 1953 Alberic Schotte (Bel) 1952 André Maelbrancke (Bel) 1951 (2) Raymond Impanis (Bel) 1950 (2) André Rosseel (Bel) 1949 Raymond Impanis (Bel) 1948 André Rosseel (Bel) 1947 Albert Sercu (Bel) 1946 Maurice Desimplaere (Bel) 1945 b) Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel) 1945 a) Joseph Somers (Bel) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com