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62nd Omloop Het Volk - 1.HC
Belgium, March 3, 2007
Pozzato wins with grinta
Boonen and Nuyens hammered while O'Grady-Flecha duo faded
By Gregor Brown in Gent and Brecht Decaluwé in Lokeren
"I used a little bit of grinta," said race winner, Italian Filippo Pozzato. The Liquigas rider proved his early season form and his rising Classics rider status by taking out the 62nd Omloop Het Volk. The 25 year-old rider from Veneto, 2006 winner of the Milano-Sanremo, played the finale of the Belgian semi-classic to perfection by playing off Belgian in-fighting.
Pippo started his 2007 season in style as one week after winning the Tour du Haut Var the blond Italian won the Belgian season opener after a very tense final between some of the best one-day specialists of the moment. When Pippo's group of four, with Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) and Aussie Baden Cooke (Unibet.com), closed in on the front duo of Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) he waited for the Belgian rivalry to play out. Into the final kilometre, 2005 winner Nuyens attacked, Pippo sat on the front and gestured back to 2005 World Champion Boonen that he had better chase his compatriot or all of Belgium would be furious. It worked.
Nuyens was closing in on the front duo when Boonen was forced to react. As Boonen went, Pippo countered and nailed the two Belgians and the Aussie-Spanish duo in one fatal swoop. He soloed home in the final 300 metres to take his biggest win since last year's Sanremo, and it is perhaps this win that will throw his hat into the ring of serious Tour of Flanders contenders (April 8 - ed.).
25 year-old Pozzato was thrilled after the race and noted, "It was an important win for me. The final was difficult with riders like Tom Boonen, Nuyens and O'Grady; all of them are good riders. While chasing O'Grady and Flecha I believed in our chances in the finale and apparently I did that with good reason," Pozzato said. "My team who did a lot of the work, and it was not just the last kilometre, but they did lots of work beforehand.
"It was ironic that Quick-Step did not win after racing so strong today. But also the other teams worked hard, like Rabobank. The final sections of pavé really made the difference." Then regarding the finale he added, "Cooke did not pull in the final. And maybe Boonen was a little tired. I used a little bit of grinta (force) and it worked out." How did the sprint go for you? "I went long," he quipped. And now do you consider yourself a contender for the Tour of Flanders? "I hope so, I don't know. It will surely be a difficult course but I will do what I can to win, but it will be hard.
Belgian favourite Tom Boonen has never won the Omloop – a rarity for the former world champion - and before the race he predicted that it would be a hard race for him to win. "It was a tense finale and I think everybody saw a beautiful race," Boonen laughed. "I was out of fuel at the end of the race; I really had to re-launch myself a few times to get back to the front. I had cramps so maybe I didn't drink enough during the race," Boonen explained.
Boonen's former team mate Nick Nuyens came close to the win but his jump was countered by Boonen and then Pozzato. "We wanted to have someone in the break and we had two guys so that's great, we've got a really strong team," Nuyens commented of his Cofidis team. "I didn't have much left in the legs when I attacked but I had to try something because I'm useless in a sprint. When I saw Pozzato go I knew he would win it like nobody else," Nuyens said.
Another Belgian launched the finale with an impossible looking solo. It was tall time trialist Bert Roesems (Predictor-Lotto) who tried his luck on the final cobbled sections, he was able to hold on to his small lead for a while but then he was overtaken by a group of favourites. "It could've seemed impossible for some but if you don't try then you'll never know if it's possible", Roesems noted.
Tomorrow the second part of the Belgian opening weekend is held between Kuurne and Brussels with the re-match for some favourites in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. We wonder if last year's winner Nick Nuyens will be able to recover in time from today's efforts to repeat his success.
How it unfolded
A large mass of 195 riders of 25 teams rolled away from the St-Peters square in Gent where big crowds were unimpressed by the stormy weather conditions that would torture the riders during the first hours of the race. Ludovic Auger (Française Des Jeux) was the first to try his luck with an attack but the peloton didn't let him go. Another French rider Laurent Mangel (Ag2r Prévoyance) tried to get away soon after but he was brought back after 26km. There were some crashes on the slippery roads and Christoph Roodhooft (Palmans Collstrop) ended up being the first one to abandon the race after a serious crash in which Gorik Gardeyn (Unibet.com) was involved as well.
After one hour of racing the peloton hit the first climb of the day, the Kluisberg, which was 40km away from the start. After 45km the peloton climbed the second berg of the day, the Cote de Trieu; by then Cameron Jennings (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed) decided to call it a day.
The Oude Kwaremont, which the classic selective climb during the Tour of Flanders, did same in the Omloop as the peloton was split into three groups. By the end of the 2.2km long climb, eight riders were away and they had twenty seconds on the first part of the peloton – 70 riders - with all the big guns still there.
The group of eight consisted of outsider Gert Steegmans (Quickstep-Innergetic) and teammate Sébastien Rosseler, Johan Van Summeren (Predictor-Lotto), Sébastien Minard and teammate Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis), Lorenzo Bernucci (T-Mobile), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com). This group quickly managed to develop their advantage on the front peloton; Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner) was the only rider who managed to bridge up to the first part of the peloton coming from the back.
With 118km to go the riders passed the Muur from Geraardsbergen, on that famous climb it was Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) who attacked the peloton. Last year's winner Gilbert created a gap of about fifteen seconds on the peloton when Kevin De Weert (Cofidis) crashed and broke his collarbone; he will undergo surgery this evening.
The group of eight had a minute and a half on the peloton before starting the climb of Eikenberg, with 90km to go. Behind them Steffen Wesemann (Wiesenhof-Felt) and Jimmy Casper (Unibet.com) attacked the peloton on the climb trying to bridge up towards the breakaway, which was then only 47" ahead. Jan Kuyckx joined Casper in the counter-attack on the Berendries climb while Wesemann decided not to continue his efforts. Meanwhile the peloton allowed the leaders to gain advantage of more than two minutes.
Although Quickstep had Steegmans and Rosseler up front they worked hard in the peloton; this effort resulted in Casper and Kuyckx getting caught by the peloton.
Just before entering the cobbled sectors at 60 km to the finish, the situation was eight men in the lead with 2'20" on the peloton, which was led by Rabobank. Thanks to the work of the orange Dutch squad going into a long headwind section the advantage of the leaders was cut in two. Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) crashed in this tough section but was brought back to the front by no less than four teammates.
Rabobank's continued work in the peloton resulted in a regrouping with 40km to go. Just before the group got caught there was a French attack by Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis), who grabbed some extra media attention while riding ahead of the peloton for some kilometres.
Bas Giling (Wiesenhof-Felt) attacked on the following cobbled section but behind him Predictor's Bert Roesems accelerated with only Marco Zanotti (Unibet.com) able to follow. Roesems and Zanotti joined Giling up front, and before long the tall Belgian time trialist was off on his own. Behind these three men Gilbert accelerated and his efforts resulted in the formation of another breakaway group. Behind Roesems, Six men followed with Gilbert, Steven De Jongh (Quickstep-Innergetic), Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), Gorik Gardeyn and teammate Laurens Ten Dam (Unibet.com), and again Giling.
While Gilbert slipped on the cobbles of Heistraat, Tom Boonen unleashed his forces for the first time, with Flecha being the only rider who could follow his wheel. There was yet another crash from this group, with Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) and Sébastien Chavanel (Française Des Jeux) as casualties.
Boonen and Flecha were joined by Nuyens and a handful others but Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel) was unable to keep up with the group of Boonen. On the cobbles of the Vogelzangstraat – the ultimate sector of the day - Roesems kept going hard, but with fourteen kilometres to go the time trial specialist was caught by a group with Stuart O'Grady, who attacked immediately with only Flecha following.
In a tense finale Boonen unleashed his power once more, trying to bridge up to O'Grady and Flecha. The former world champion couldn't do it on his own as he seemed to suffer, resulting in Pozzato, Cooke and Nuyens joining the Belgian. Flecha and O'Grady seemed to be the strongest men up front as they powered towards the finish, building a lead of 12 seconds with only five kilometres to go. The pursuers were looking at each other but with two kilometres to go, O'Grady and Flecha suddenly found the wind that was at their backs was in their faces, as the parcours did a 180 degree turn with one two kilometres remaining. Not only a headwind, but also a wide open, straight road, giving the chasers a good view of the duo. Meanwhile, Cooke suffered at the back of the group of four.
Amazingly, O'Grady and Flecha began to slow as they approached the line, weaving over the road and playing cat-and-mouse, while behind them, the chasing trio began to close. The gap was all but eliminated by an attack from Nuyens. Pozzato gestured for Boonen to counter and he obliged and as one Belgian caught the other, the Italian attacked from behind and with 300 metres to go, he put his head down and no other rider could follow. Flecha tried but couldn't hold his wheel, and Boonen came around Nuyens and powered home for third, leaving Nuyens off the podium. Cooke stayed ahead of the peloton, where Gorik Gardeyn won the sprint in front of Stefan Van Dijck (Wiesenhof-Felt) and Robbie McEwen.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Luc Claessen/www.ctm-images.com
Images by Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Stijn Vercamer
1 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas 5.04.38 (41.361 km/h) 2 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank 0.02 3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 4 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis 5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC 6 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com 0.30 7 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Unibet.com 0.39 8 Stefan Van Dijck (Ned) Wiesenhof-Felt 9 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor-Lotto 10 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic 11 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française Des Jeux 12 Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile 13 Niko Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 14 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Liquigas 15 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 16 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile 17 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo 18 Jukka Vastaranta (Fin) Jartazi Promo Fashion 19 Bas Giling (Ned) Wiesenhof-Felt 20 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Discovery Channel 21 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Unibet.com 0.45 22 Bert Roesems (Bel) Predictor-Lotto 0.49 23 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 0.50 24 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Predictor-Lotto 1.02 25 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Predictor-Lotto 1.20 26 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 3.13 27 Eric Baumann (Ger) T-Mobile 28 Christophe Laurent (Fra) Crédit Agricole 4.26 29 Lars Bak (Den) Team CSC 30 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) Ag2r Prévoyance 31 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues Telecom 32 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Milram 33 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis 34 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Milram 35 Kevin Neirynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 36 Mathieu Heijboer (Ned) Cofidis 37 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 38 Gregory Rast (Swi) Astana 39 Michiel Elijzen (Ned) Cofidis 40 Martin Müller (Swi) Milram 41 Sebastian Siedler (Ger) Milram 42 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux 43 Roger Hammond (GBr) T-Mobile 44 Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo 45 Steve Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel 46 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor-Lotto 47 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 48 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Rabobank 49 William Bonnet (Fra) Crédit Agricole 50 Renaud Dion (Fra) Ag2r Prévoyance 51 Roberto Petito (Ita) Liquigas 52 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas 53 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française Des Jeux 54 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Unibet.com 55 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 56 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 57 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Unibet.com 58 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 59 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Astana 60 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Astana 61 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Astana 62 Gerben Löwik (Ned) Rabobank 63 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank 64 Nico Mattan (Bel) DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed 6.00 65 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Milram 66 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Discovery Channel 67 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 68 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Astana 69 Anders Lund (Den) Team CSC 70 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Skil-Shimano 71 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Predictor-Lotto 72 Servais Knaven (Ned) T-Mobile 73 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Unibet.com 74 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) T-Mobile 75 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Milram 76 Antonio Cruz (USA) Discovery Channel 77 Matthew White (Aus) Discovery Channel 78 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole 79 Matthew Wilson (Aus) Unibet.com 80 Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Liquigas 81 Allan Davis (Aus) Discovery Channel 82 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Unibet.com 83 Julian Dean (NZl) Crédit Agricole 84 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Predictor-Lotto 85 Michael Schär (Swi) Astana 6.25 Starters: 195 Finishers: 85 Abandons: 110