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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

66th Gent-Wevelgem - 1.HC

Belgium, April 7, 2004

2003 results     Preview     Course Map     Start List    Results

Commentary by Jeff Jones

Complete live report

Start time: 11:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 16:35 CET

14:07 CEST    105km/103km to go
Welcome to Cyclingnews.com's live coverage of Gent-Wevelgem, the mid-week so-called "sprinters' classic" that's ridden mostly around parts of West Flanders. Although it's not quite as windy as predicted, the weather will still play an important role in today's race. The wind is from the northwest and is picking up as the day wears on, meaning that crosswinds will be the order of the day, especially along the coastal section. Also there are frequent rain showers, with occasional hail lashing the riders as they fight their way around the parcours.

There was a very healthy crowd at the start in Deinze this morning, although some of the riders were looking nervous at the prospect of what lay before them. Everyone knows it will be a battle to get to the front in the crosswinds, and that will make life very difficult.

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon)
Photo ©: CN
Favourites for today include Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon), the young sprinter who finished third in this race last year. Smiling and relaxed, Boonen told Cyclingnews at the start that he wasn't out for revenge after what happened in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. "No revenge, but if everything goes as planned I'll try to be there in the final," he said.

"The wind is different to last year when we had a crosswind along the coast. This year it will be more of a tailwind and then a crosswind when we come to the Kemmel. All the same, it's still going to be hard.

"Last year I wasn't so super in the spring and I was only 22. Another year on and it's a different Tom Boonen. There's a bit of stress but everything is good."

14:15 CEST    110km/98km to go
The situation in the race at the moment is what we have a breakaway of three riders, including Benoit Joachim (USPS-Berry Floor). They are trying to establish a gap over the peloton after catching BankGiroLoterij rider Julien Smink, who at one stage had a six minute lead.

12:30 GMT    113km/95km to go
Last year's winner Andreas Klier (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: CN

Last year's winner Andreas Klier (T-Mobile) will be aiming for a second victory today, and after his 6th place in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen the Belgian based German is certainly a good chance. He has to survive first, but he was looking confident at the start in Deinze. Being last year's winner is a positive, according to Klier. "That gives me extra motivation. If it's not a mass sprint but a sprint from a group of 30 men then I have a chance."

Quick.Step's Johan Museeuw is a good man for Tom Boonen to have by his side. Although he's never won Gent-Wevelgem, Museeuw is often in the final selection at the finish. Some think that he will win today, but Museeuw disagreed. "It would be nice if everyone thought that but I'm afraid that it will not happen...Boonen is a fast sprinter but also very strong. As for our plans, first we'll wait until we see where the wind lies."

12:35 GMT    116km/92km to go
Henk Vogels (Navigators)
Photo ©: CN
Henk Vogels was second behind Klier last year, and the Navigators man is back for another shot at it in 2004. But a serious crash in June last year saw him miss the rest of the season, and he's been slowly recovering since. "I haven't got the condition of last year," he told Cyclingnews. "I'm going OK, but not well enough to win. I broke my neck last year and I've done six races since June. It's a selection race of the wind."

Vogels' teammate Kirk O'Bee might be one to watch today, if he makes the selection.

12:40 GMT    120km/88km to go
It's hailing at the moment and the peloton is in two sections, with a 30 second gap between each. A Landbouwkrediet rider gets a puncture and looks as though he'll have a tough time getting back on. Thor Hushovd is also in the second group.

Relax-Bodysol-Brustor are riding tempo in front. The lead peloton has around 50 riders in it.

12:44 GMT    124km/84km to go
Baden Cooke has abandoned.

Three riders have attacked: Geert Steegmans (Lotto-Domo), Wim De Vocht (Bodysol), Tomas Vaitkus (Landbouwkrediet) with more riders coming up to them. Kevin Hulsmans (Quick.Step), Jorg Ludewig (Saeco) are there now, fighting through the rain and wind. The peloton is now in one long line - still perhaps 50 men strong. The attack comes back.

12:51 GMT    127km/81km to go
The race is definitely going to be one of attrition, with the second peloton now 1'20 behind. There is a third group at 1'50. And they haven't even got to the Kemmelberg yet.

Ryder Hesjedal (USPS-Berry Floor) and Roy Sentjens (Rabobank) to their turn in front, keeping the tempo up to try and prevent attacks.

US Postal-Berry Floor director Dirk Demol
Photo ©: CN
US Postal-Berry Floor team director Dirk Demol said that the team's aims are not focused on this race. "If we have a chance today then we'll take it," he said. "But we are more looking at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. George [Hincapie] will be our leader normally, and Max van Heeswijk is going well again."

As for Hincapie, "He's doing a lot of climbing and that has improved him. He's not so fast in the sprint but he has made an improvement this year. We can count on him for Sunday."

Romans Vainsteins and Steven de Jongh have abandoned as more riders attack. Knaven is one of them, acting as more of a policeman for his Quick.Step teammates.

12:55 GMT    134km/74km to go
A group of nine detaches itself from the front of the peloton: Matthew White (Cofidis), Nick Nuyens, Servais Knaven (Quick.Step), Preben van Hecke (Bodysol), Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Gorik Gardeyn (Lotto-Domo), Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo), Vladimir Gussev (CSC), Martin Elmiger (Phonak). But Ludovic Capelle drives the bunch hard in pursuit.

12:59 GMT    136km/72km to go
The compact (but small) peloton is now in Westouter, ready to tackle the climbs of the Vidaigneberg, Rodeberg and Kemmelberg. Wilfried Cretskens (Quick.Step) sets tempo with Jeremy Hunt (MrBookmaker). Matt White (Cofidis) goes up to them. The peloton is right behind though.

13:02 GMT    138km/70km to go
Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) punctures on the climb of Vidaigneberg. The peloton sticks together over it and is now en route to the Rodeberg. It's still quite wet and cold, but the wind is behind them.

Backstedt (Alessio), J Planckaert (MrBookmaker), Farazijn (Cofidis) and Nuyens (Quick.Step) have a small lead at the moment. Flecha, Roesseler and a few others are trying to chase them on the descent of the Rodeberg.

13:09 GMT    145km/63km to go
A crash - Tom Boonen is down and has to get a wheel change from his teammate Hulsmans, who will have a much longer chase. Boonen returns to the peloton.

Backstedt, Farazijn, Planckart and Nuyens are joined by more riders form a group of 18. Hincapie, Hammond, Vaitkus, Bernucci and Kirsipuu are there. The next, and larger group which now has Boonen in it is at 12 seconds. Boonen looks strong.

13:13 GMT    146km/62km to go
The group that is at three minutes has abandoned en masse. Not really surprising in this weather.

There are still 18 riders off the front of the rest of the peloton, which has Boonen in it. But Nuyens makes the tempo in front anyway. He hits the Kemmelberg, which will be treacherous in this weather. The leaders struggle up the slippery cobbles as Bernucci and Vaitkus set tempo. Hincapie is well placed in this front group.

The next peloton has bridged the gap though. Near the top it's Bernucci, Nuyens, Hincapie, Roesseler, Kirsiupu, Backstedt, Boonen(!) and Klier. It's a very long line. No sign of Leon van Bon.

13:16 GMT    147km/61km to go
Rosseler is first down the cobbled descent and everyone is taking it as steadily as possible on the cobbles. Some even have one foot out of the pedals. Cornering is tricky. A Rabobank rider has crashed - it's Mathew Hayman. That looks as though it hurt. He could well have broken something.

George Hincapie (USPS-Berry Floor)
Photo ©: CN
There are around 70 riders in this main group. Rosseler is still in front, chased by Klier, Backstedt, Boonen and Steegmans. Flecha, Hammond, Museeuw (shaking his arms around to get the circulation going), Cretskens and a few others are a little way off the front, chasing Rosseler.

13:18 GMT    149km/59km to go
Rosseler is getting caught by the next group with Klier, Museeuw and Boonen in it. A group of 30 men has formed in front now.

Johan Van Summeren (Bodysol) has abandoned.

Cancellara drives the front peloton hard as they approach the town of Kemmel.

13:22 GMT    152km/56km to go
A group of 30 or so men has established itself in front with Frank Hoj and Tristan Hoffman, Backstedt, Bernucci, Casper, Forster, Farazijn, Kirsipuu, Cancellara, Flecha, Hincapie, Knaven, Boonen, Museew, Nuyens, Bodrogi, Haselbacher, Rosseler. Most (all?) of the Quick.Step team is here, and they're working hard. The second group is at 20 seconds.

13:28 GMT    156km/52km to go
Museeuw has to get some work down on his brakes, which are rubbing on the rim it looks like. He does it with help from Shimano neutral service, although it's interupted by a number of corners.

There are 24 men in front with 30 seconds lead: Klier (T-Mobile), Forster, Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner), Steegmans (Lotto-Domo), Bodrogi, Boonen, Cretskens, Knaven, Museeuw, Nuyens (all Quick.Step), Hammond (MrBookmaker), Vaitkus, Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet), Cancellara, Flecha (Fassa), Backstedt (Alessio), Gussev, Hoj, Hoffman (CSC), Hincapie (USPS), Casper, Farazijn (Cofidis), Kirispuu (Ag2r), Rosseler (Bodysol).

13:32 GMT    159km/49km to go
Four Quick.Step riders are working at the front now, while Museeuw and Boonen sit back. Quick.Step has six men in the front group. CSC is the next strongest team with three riders.

Nico Mattan, who is in the second group at 34 seconds, is trying to close the gap on his own on the second ascent of Vidaigneberg. He gets a gap, but what will he do with it?

13:34 GMT    160km/48km to go
Nuyens, Cretskens, Bodrogi and Knaven are riding tempo on Vidaigneberg. This group of 24 is slowly increasing its lead over group 2. Mattan is doing well to try and close the gap though. He's got about 25 seconds to close.

13:37 GMT    162km/46km to go
The lead group is over the Rodeberg now, still led by Quick.Step at a steady, but hard tempo. Mattan is coming back - 15 seconds he has to close. He's over halfway there that means. The wet roads may even help him if he takes the risks.

13:39 GMT    164km/44km to go
Mattan is getting very close now - a fantastic job to close the gap to the leaders. He's flying with this tailwind. But he explodes and sits up. He is looking for help, but there's not much there.

13:42 GMT    166km/42km to go
Mattan is still 20 seconds off the back as he hits the Monteberg. But there is no relaxing in front, as Quick.Step continues to drive the tmepo up the climb. Mattan suffers to the top, and is 17 seconds back.

Group 2 is now at 44 seconds.

13:45 GMT    168km/40km to go
Mattan is riding as fast as group 2 (which is now at 50 seconds) but not fast enough to catch group 1, which has most of Quick.Step as well as Klier and Hincapie in it (24 in total). They are nearly at the Kemmelberg again.

13:48 GMT    169km/39km to go
Quick.Step hammers the pace up the Kemmel, with Knaven, Boonen and Museeuw in the front ranks. Klier is riding well too, as are Hinacpie and Cancellara. Vaitkus looks as though he's getting dropped, although his teammate Bernucci is near the front.

At the top of the climb, with thousands of fans cheering them on, it's Knaven, Boonen and Museeuw leading a group of 10. Museeuw hammers over the top with Hinacpie, Boonen and Flecha on his wheel.

Mattan pedals a massive gear over the top 45 seconds behind.

On the descent, it's Museeuw, Hincapie, Klier, boonen, Flecha, Bernucci and the rest. Still most of the group is together. Group 2 is at 1'25 and are essentially out of it. Rob Hunter is one of the last over the top.

13:49 GMT    170km/38km to go
After the descent of the Kemmel, it looks like everyone has survived in front. Cancellara has a small gap off the front of the lead group. Casper has been dropped though.

13:53 GMT    173km/35km to go
35 km to go and we have a group of 23 riders in front as follows:

Klier (T-Mobile), Forster, Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner), Steegmans (Lotto-Domo), Bodrogi, Boonen, Cretskens, Knaven, Museeuw, Nuyens (all Quick.Step), Hammond (MrBookmaker), Vaitkus, Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet), Cancellara, Flecha (Fassa), Backstedt (Alessio), Gussev, Hoj, Hoffman (CSC), Hincapie (USPS), Farazijn (Cofidis), Kirispuu (Ag2r), Rosseler (Bodysol).

Casper and Mattan are chasing at various intervals, while a second group of 35 or so is at 1'30.

13:59 GMT    177km/31km to go
Mattan and Casper are riding together now, trying to close a 37 second gap to the front group of 23. They are getting help from the photo motos, but it's still a big ask.

It's raining off and on at the moment, and still not more than 10 degrees. The wind is either across or behind them.

Boonen punctures again and gets a wheel from Nuyens. Unbelievable back luck. He is chasing solo again, and not getting much help. The front group has slowed down with Museeuw controlling the tempo. Boonen makes it back easily. No pacing from a team car that time!

13:59 GMT    179km/29km to go
The sun is briefly shining now. Mattan and Casper are now with Nuyens, chasing at 25 seconds. This could work.

14:02 GMT    180km/28km to go
Casper is having trouble holding Mattan and Nuyens' wheel. He's not doing any turns. Still 29 km to go, and they finally make it back to the front group. So Mattan gets there in the end :-)

Rabobank has noticably completely missed the move.

14:09 GMT    185km/23km to go
The current situation is that we have a group of 25 men with several favourites in it, including last year's champion Andreas Klier (T-Mobile) and Forster, Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner), Steegmans (Lotto-Domo), Bodrogi, Boonen, Cretskens, Knaven, Museeuw, Nuyens (all Quick.Step), Hammond (MrBookmaker), Vaitkus, Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet), Cancellara, Flecha (Fassa), Backstedt (Alessio), Gussev, Hoj, Hoffman (CSC), Hincapie (USPS), Casper, Farazijn (Cofidis), Kirispuu (Ag2r), Mattan, Rosseler (Bodysol).

Quick.Step is controlling the race for Tom Boonen, who they believe can win the sprint. Jaan Kirsipuu drops back to a neutral car to get a wheel? He has a problem chasing on though.

14:13 GMT    189km/19km to go
The sun is out with a little more strength now, and the roads are starting to dry up as the leaders head into Hollebeke, near Ieper. It's all Quick.Step, all the time, but there are some other fast riders in this front group including Haselbacher, Klier, Hincapie, Backstedy, Casper and Steegmans. But Boonen is the favourite.

Rosseler drops back to his team car to drop something off. He has to chase hard on the narrow roads with Mattan, but he's on the back.

Kirsipuu is still in between the caravan. He is slowly getting back onto the group though. Nearly getting wiped out by Lotto-Domo.

Group 2 (remember them?) is at 1'50.

14:16 GMT    189km/19km to go
Kirsipuu is finally back to the lead group of 25, and is certainly a candidate for the victory.

Quick.Step is continuing to ride in a six man (five who are working) echelon at the front. Boonen is having a good ride, as he hoped he would when he spoke to us this morning in Deinze.

14:18 GMT    191km/17km to go
It's not particularly easy at the back of the group, as Quick.Step is really only allowing enough room for the front echolon. Boonen is in sixth wheel, and Hincapie is a couple of places behind him.

It's started to rain hard again. Quelle surprise.

14:21 GMT    193km/15km to go
Bodrogi does a big turn on the front, arms draped over the front of the bars. The leaders have 15 km to go to the finish in Wevelgem and they're flying with a tailwind now. 56 km/h to be exact on the flat.

14:24 GMT    195km/13km to go
Farazijn is talking to Casper at the back of the group, telling him where to ride. Hammond is looking grim, his white tricoloured jersey somewhat blackened by the mud.

The rest of the leading bunch are happy to sit on the Quick.Step train, hoping to pick off Boonen in the sprint.

16:26 CEST    198km/10km to go
10 km to go and the lead group is moving at high speed towards Wevelgem, where they will do a 3 km lap before the sprint. All the way, it's Quick.Step leading the bunch as they have six riders in this front group. The kilometres are ticking away rapidly now.

The leaders again: Andreas Klier (T-Mobile), Robert Forster, Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner), Geert Steegmans (Lotto-Domo), Laszlo Bodrogi, Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Servais Knaven, Johan Museeuw, Nick Nuyens (all Quick.Step), Roger Hammond (MrBookmaker), Thomas Vaitkus, Lorenzo Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet), Fabian Cancellara, Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa), Magnus Backstedt (Alessio), Vladimir Gussev, Frank Hoj, Tristan Hoffman (CSC), George Hincapie (USPS), Jimmy Casper, Peter Farazijn (Cofidis), Jaan Kirispuu (Ag2r), Nico Mattan, Sebastian Rosseler (Bodysol).

16:28 CEST    200km/8km to go
They're now riding through Menen, still on cold, wet roads. No-one has dared to attack yet. The average speed is around 42 km/h so far.

16:31 CEST    201km/7km to go
It's raining again as the leaders reach 7 km to go, but that doesn't change the situation. Quick.Step is leading the front group at 50 km/h, with Knaven, Bodrogi, Cretskens and Nuyens all doing their turn. Everyone else is holding their position.

16:32 CEST    203km/5km to go
It's stopped rainin (completely normal) as the leaders exit Menen. Casper is riding near the back of the group, in front of Bernucci. 5 km left.

16:33 CEST    204km/4km to go
The 25 leaders come into Wevelgem with the blue and white train of Quick.Step leading the way, hoping for a Tom Boonenn win. Hincapie, Haselbacher, Kirsipuu, Casper, Backstedt and Hammond might have something to say about that. Hincapie has Boonen's wheel still, and he doesn't mean to give it up.

16:35 CEST    205km/3km to go
It looks like a bunch sprint as they hit 3 km to go (sorry no finishing lap). Farazijn brings Casper to the front. Hincapie, Backstedt and Kirispuu are all together on Boonen's wheel

16:36 CEST    206km/2km to go
There are now three Quick.steps in front, but Farazijn and Casper are challenging them. Knaven, Museeuw and Boonen are left.

Mattan attacks, but Museeuw gets him straight away. 2 km to go. Boonen is in second wheel.

16:37 CEST    207km/1km to go
Museeuw leads all the way until 1 km to go, with Boonen on his wheel. Kirsipuu and Hincapie are there ready.

16:38 CEST    208km/0km to go
Museeuw is overtaken and Boonen is a bit boxed in, but he takes Backstedt's wheel. It's a very long sprint but Boonen gets around Backstedt and charges over the line with a big lead over Backstedt, Kirsipuu and Hincapie!! Fantastic race by Boonen - even better than his E3 Prijs win.

He hugs all his teammates who worked so hard to get him into the right position. He was incredibly strong over that last 200m. No-one came close once he hit his straps.


1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon
2 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi
3 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r-Prevoyance
4 George Hincapie (USA) USPS-Berry Floor
5 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis
6 Roger Hammond (GBr) MrBookmaker-Palmans
7 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 

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