Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recently on

Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

 UCI codes explained

Belgian National Road Championships - CN

Maldegem, June 30, 2002

2001 Results    Results    Past winners

Incredible Steels wins men's road race

By Jeff Jones

Tom Steels (Mapei-Quick Step) has won his third Belgian championship in his nine year career, winning a modestly sized group sprint in Maldegem. Today's win was arguably one of his best ever, after having been in the breakaway for most of the 248 kilometre race. After he crossed the line he punched the air several times with enormous satisfaction, having outwitted the strongest teams in Belgian cycling. In second place was last year's champion Ludovic Capelle (Ag2r-Prevoyance), while Geert Vanderaerden (Palmans-Collstrop) crossed in third spot, punching his handlebars several times in anger at the team's missed opportunity.

The race was a classic kermesse, held over 16 laps of a 15.5 kilometre parcours, with the highest point being a climb of just 26 metres. That said, the race should never have come down to a bunch sprint, with teams such as Lotto-Adecco, Palmans-Collstrop and Domo-Farm Frites having the overwhelming numerical advantage over Mapei.

Steels decided to try his luck by attacking on the second lap, and he was joined by another 12 riders: His Mapei teammate Matthew Gilmore was there, along with Hans de Clercq, Christophe Detilloux, and Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Adecco), Karl Pauwels, Gert Omloop and Wim Vansevenant (Collstrop), Wilfried, Cretskens, Leif Hoste and Jurgen Van Goolen (Domo), Johan Verstrepen (Lampre), and Kurt Van Landeghem (Colnago-Landbouwkrediet).

The group cooperated well and got out to a 3 minute lead, with the Vlaanderen-T Interim team having to do the chasing in the peloton to try and limit the damage. The peloton eventually split into two groups, with 17 riders getting clear chasing the 13. In the second group were most of the favourites, including Merckx, Dierckxsens, Van Petegem, Capelle, and Vanhaecke, and they began to close down on the leaders.

With 50 km (just over three laps) to go, the gap between the two groups was around 50 seconds, and Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto), Jurgen Van Goolen (Domo) and Wim Vansevenant (Collstrop) attacked from the front group. They were not chased immediately as the rest sat up to wait for the chasers, and they built a lead of close to a minute once the two groups came together.

With the three biggest teams in the race represented in the break, there were only a few riders left in the peloton who could chase: Paul Van Hyfte (CSC), Fabien De Waele (Mapei), Marc Wauters (Rabobank), Michel Vanhaecke and Bert De Waele (Colnago-Landbouwkrediet), Nico Mattan and Jo Planckaert (Cofidis), plus the sprinters Tom Steels and Ludovic Capelle. It looked as though there would be a stalemate, and the three would stay away to win...

De Waele and the others gave it everything in the final two laps but the gap stayed at a nagging 15-25 seconds, with no-one willing to commit to pulling it right back. Whenever a rider attacked, there would be a Collstrop or Lotto man right on his wheel, and the attempt would be aborted. Steels had virtually given up hope at this point, telling director Eric Vanderaerden that "I am dead, I am dead", to which Vanderaerden replied "No, it's still possible."

With 4km to go it seemed unlikely, with Verbrugghe and co still 20 seconds in front. Then Marc Wauters attacked, quickly knocking 10 seconds off. All of a sudden, it seemed possible as the leaders were visibly exhausted. Rik Verbrugghe realised the danger and attacked with just over 1 km to go, but he was too late as Bert De Waele brought Vanhaecke up to the three. Vanhaecke countered, with Van Goolen and a Collstrop on his wheel, but could not get them to come past so close to the finish.

Behind them, the 30 or so strong bunch had picked up momentum for the sprint, and it became clear that Lotto, Palmans and Domo had completely blown their chances. Ludovic Capelle and Gert Vanderaerden led out, side by side with Steels in tow. The Mapei man timed it perfectly to come around Capelle on the inside and take an against the odds win.

Lotto's best result was only 8th (Hans de Clercq) which is quite remarkable seeing as they made up a quarter of the peloton. Domo did slightly better with Merckx in 6th, but the teams with only a few starters (Mapei and Ag2r) came up trumps in Maldegem.

Results - 248 km

1 Tom Steels (Mapei-Quick Step)                 5.40.00 (43.76 km/h)
2 Ludovic Capelle (Ag2r-Prevoyance)
3 Geert Vanderaerden (Palmans-Collstrop)
4 James Vanlandschoot (Vlaanderen-T Interim)
5 Mario De Clercq (Palmans-Collstrop)
6 Axel Merckx (Domo-Farm Frites)
7 Nico Mattan (Cofidis)
8 Hans De Clercq (Lotto-Adecco)
9 Johan Dekkers (Marlux-Ville de Charleroi)
10 Ludo Dierckxsens (Lampre-Daikin)
11 Sven Vanthourenhout (Domo-Farm Frites)
12 Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Adecco)
13 Serge Baguet (Lotto-Adecco)
14 Christoph Roodhooft (RDM-Flanders)
15 Geert Omloop (Palmans-Collstrop)
16 Glenn D'Hollander (Lotto-Adecco)
17 Jo Planckaert (Cofidis)
18 Wilfried Cretskens (Domo-Farm Frites)
19 Gorik Gardeyn (Lotto-Adecco)
20 Paul Van Hyfte (CSC-Tiscali)
21 Bert Roesems (Palmans-Collstrop)
22 Steven De Neef (Marlux-Ville de Charleroi)
23 Jurgen Van Goolen (Domo-Farm Frites)
24 Kurt Van de Wouwer (Lotto-Adecco)
25 Björn Leukemans (Palmans-Collstrop)
26 Karl Pauwels (Palmans-Collstrop)
27 Peter Wuyts (Palmans-Collstrop)
28 Bert De Waele (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
29 Marc Wauters (Rabobank)
30 Christophe Detilloux (Lotto-Adecco)
31 Michel Van Haecke (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
32 Fabian De Waele (Mapei-Quick Step)
33 Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Adecco)
34 Wim Vansevenant (Palmans-Collstrop)
35 Johan Verstrepen (Lampre-Daikin)           2.30
36 Geoffrey Gremelpont (RDM-Flanders)         7.50
37 Christophe Brandt (Lotto-Adecco)
38 David Plas (RDM-Flanders)
39 Marc Streel (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
40 Danny Baeyens (Palmans-Collstrop)

Starters: 103
Classified: 40

Past winners

2002 Tom Steels
2001 Ludovic Capelle
2000 Axel Merckx
1999 Ludo Dierckxsens 
1998 Tom Steels 
1997 Tom Steels