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Milan - San Remo
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64th Gent-Wevelgem - 1.HC

Belgium, April 10, 2002

Results     Live report

Tuscan encore

By Jeff Jones

Click for larger image
Mario Cipollini
Photo © AFP

It's been nine years since Mario Cipollini last won Gent-Wevelgem in 1993, but he showed today that he has lost none of his power and finesse, as he took his third victory in this event in an utterly convincing fashion. Cipollini is a good bet in any kind of sprint, but today he was matched against just four other riders, beating home Americans Fred Rodriguez (Domo) and George Hincapie (USPS) in a straightforward sprint.

There were no zebra-striped teammates to lead him out, no-one to nurse him over the climbs. Today the win belonged solely to him, and how. "I wanted to do something special and show that I can do more than just sprinting. I am no superman, but after my win in Sanremo, I knew there was still more."

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Hincapie attacks
Photo © AFP

After making the first selection of 21 riders, which included Hincapie, Museeuw, Zabel, McEwen, Rodriguez and Hunter, Cipollini bided his time. He made it twice over the Kemmelberg as the lead group splintered, with Hendrik Van Dijck (Collstrop), Fred Rodriguez (Domo), George Hincapie (USPS) and Martin Hvastija (Alessio) going off the front over the climb. Cipollini waited until after the descent, before powering across the 10 second gap to the leading four. It was very impressive riding from the Lion King, who had clearly decided to win today.

Hincapie's teammate Tom Boonen commented on the move to Belgian TV afterwards: "The counter-attack by Cipollini was a big surprise. George was certainly the strongest on the Kemmel, with even Museeuw having to move over. But Cipollini went from the last position to ride across to the front group. From that moment I knew that they would stay away."

Behind him, Hunter and others tried and failed to get across, the strong headwind making life very difficult. The gap went from 10 seconds to 50 as the Domo boys stopped chasing behind, and it became a race of five men. Cipollini was trading turns with all the others, and they kept their advantage over the last 30 km into Wevelgem.

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The break
Photo © AFP

The attacks started with around 8 kilometres to go, with all riders - save for Cipollini - trying to escape. No dice, as there was always someone to close the gap, and Cipollini kept himself out of trouble. The slowest sprinters in the group, Hvastija and Van Dijk, led the way with 1 km to go, with Van Dijk deciding to go for a long sprint.

"I thought I could start early and then when someone came over me, I could get on their wheel," said Van Dijk. "It was a pity that Cipollini closed it up after the Kemmelberg. It would have been a more open race then."

Van Dijk faded to fourth as Cipollini had no problem in coming off his wheel to win by over a bike length from Rodriguez and Hincapie. Re Leone strikes again!

Click for larger image
Cipollini wins
Photo © AFP

Rodriguez was good today, but had no answer to Cipollini's sprint. "I was too nervous and began a bit too quickly," he said. "Unfortunately that was a missed chance that I had to beat Cipollini. He was also tired after the race. What wasn't possible in Milan-San Remo could have happened now. But there will be more chances."

As for Hincapie, he too had no answer. "I was criticised after the Tour of Flanders for not attacking. This time, I went several times, and at the right moment. But with Cipollini in the group, I couldn't do anything about it. He was too strong."

With this win, Cipollini has once again answered any critics. It's a pity he won't ride on Sunday but he has set his objectives differently this year. He said in the post race interview that his targets were Milan-San Remo and the World's, and that he would be riding the Vuelta (as well as the Giro). This suggests that the Tour de France is not on his program, even if the organisers do give his team an invitation.


Photo's by AFP


1 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone              4.39.00 (44.731 km/h)
2 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites
3 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service
4 Hendrik Van Dyck (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
5 Martin Hvastija (Slo) Alessio                         0.10
6 Robert Hunter (RSA) Mapei-Quick Step                  1.29
7 Tom Boonen (Bel) US Postal Service
8 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom
9 Tristan Hoffman (Ned) CSC-Tiscali
10 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites
11 Servais Knaven (Ned) Domo-Farm Frites
12 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Adecco
13 Hans De Clercq (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
14 Franck Pencole (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux
15 Paul Van Hyfte (Bel) CSC-Tiscali
16 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team Telekom                     1.43
17 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Lampre-Daikin                 2.18
18 Matthias Buxhofer (Aut) Phonak Hearing Systems       2.21
19 Remco Van Der Ven (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus      4.19
20 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Team Telekom
21 Gerben Lwik (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus
22 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Mapei-Quick Step
23 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux
24 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak Hearing Systems
25 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Adecco
26 Dmitri Konyshev (Rus) Fassa Bortolo
27 Nico Mattan (Bel) Cofidis
28 Pedro Horrillo Muoz (Spa) Mapei-Quick Step
29 Christophe Mengin (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux
30 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
31 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bonjour
32 Corey Sweet (Aus) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus
33 Bjrn Leukemans (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
34 Charles Guilbert (Fra) Bonjour
35 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
36 Mario Manzoni (Ita) Index-Alexia
37 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites
38 Christian Vandevelde (USA) US Postal Service
39 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Domo-Farm Frites
40 Enrico Cassani (Ita) Domo-Farm Frites
41 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
42 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank
43 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank
44 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
45 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio
46 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) US Postal Service
47 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) Team Telekom
48 Mario Scirea (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
49 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
50 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
51 Nicola Loda (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
52 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Lotto-Adecco                 10.52
53 David Derepas (Fra) Phonak Hearing Systems
54 Diego Ferrari (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi
55 Mauro Radaelli (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi           13.56
56 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bonjour
57 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Bonjour
58 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi
59 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
60 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
61 Tom Flammang (Lux) Cofidis
62 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank
63 Thomas Brunn Eriksen (Den) CSC-Tiscali
64 David Clinger (USA) US Postal Service
65 Frank Hj (Den) Team Coast
66 Kai Hundertmarck (Ger) Team Telekom
67 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal Service
68 Robert Bartko (Ger) Team Telekom
69 Bram Schmitz (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus
70 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
71 Coen H. Boerman (Ned) Rabobank
72 Bart Voskamp (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus
73 Mauro Zinetti (Ita) Index-Alexia
74 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank
75 Dario Pieri (Ita) Alessio
76 Dario Andriotto (Ita) Index-Alexia
77 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi
78 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis
79 Daniele Galli (Ita) Index-Alexia
80 Davide Casarotto (Ita) Alessio
81 Alberto Vinale (Ita) Alessio
82 Matthew White (Aus) US Postal Service
83 Marc Streel (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
84 Claude Lamour (Fra) Cofidis
85 Franck Perque (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux

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