Posted by Editoress on 04/6/05
Gent-Wevelgem Belgium (UCI Pro Tour)
Report Courtesy Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The 67th edition of the Belgian semi-classic, Gent-Wevelgem, had all of the ingredients of a Hollywood movie script today in western Flanders. For the Navigators Insurance Cycling Team, this was their first special invitation into a UCI Pro Tour event for the restructured 2005 season. Navigators Insurance was one of only five non-Pro Tour squads to take the start today for the 208Km race. As expected, the large crowds were on hand to cheer the riders, and obviously the presence of the top-20 teams in the world was viewed as a good thing.
With strong winds sweeping across the region, the 25 teams of 8-riders started racing almost from the starter's whistle. The Quick-Step team of race favorite Tom Boonen went right to the front to control the race with their depth of strength. Heading out toward the coastal town of Oostende, the pack was split by the winds into several groups, with a lead group of 12, containing the entire Quick-Step team, putting 40-seconds on the 2nd group. With a lot of motivation from behind, the entire peloton was back in 1 large group shortly after turning left into the head-wind along the coast.
The half-way point of the race is usually a deciding factor as the riders turn left again, and into the cross-winds of De Moeren, the tree-lined roads that zig-zag through the plains coming off the sea. As a section that usually creates a selection, the fight to be at the front is ferocious, and several casualties were the result of the fighting. It seemed like many minutes that the race radio was reporting crashes, and each one looked worse than the one before. The bad news was that a number of the fallen were race favorites and had been injured, and initial reports indicated some broken bones.
The final 80Km of the race was marked by a lead group of 29 riders, with Navigators' Mark Walters taking up the charge for the men-in-blue, with Siro Camponogara, Jeff Louder and Hilton Clarke in the next group. The bad news for some of the race's favorites continued as punctures and more crashes claimed more victims. The disparity between the large Pro Tour squads and the Pro Continental squads was evident by the fact that Walters was one of only 3 riders in the lead group that were not members of the Pro Tour-20.
The race began to get ugly as the final selections would be made on the series of short, steep "Bergs", most notably the Kemmelberg, which are raced over two times before the final run-in to Wevelgem. To complicate matters, the road and the pavé were now slick from the raindrops that were falling from the sky. The initial circuit saw several riders bridge the 27-seconds to the front group, while other riders were dropped. Unfortunately for the Navigators squad, one of the riders getting popped was Walters. The attacks in the front group grew more frequent as the strongest riders and teams tested each other.
An attack by Fassa-Bortolo's Juan Antonio Flecha at the top of the Kemmel gained the rider some real estate, and several others soon joined him. The 2nd group is still trying to close the gap. The 8 leaders fly with the wind as the chase group of 6 stay about 15-seconds back. The rest of the peloton is in shatters, and just trying to get to the finish. Approaching the finish of this "sprinter's race", Flecha looks to be the strongest as the Spaniard continues to drive everyone else off his wheel. Nico Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto) and Baden Cooke (Francaise des Jeux) are close behind and still fighting to close the gaps. With 300m to go, it looks like Juan Antonio Flecha has it in the bag. But wait, out of nowhere comes Mattan and passes Flecha in the last 100m and takes a very emotional victory.
For the Navigators squad, it was a bitter-sweet day. Hopes were high for a good result, but without some favorable luck, the challenges would be large. A strong performance, but not quite enough horse-power to keep the squad in the final selections. Overall, a good day of holding our own, but better days are surely coming.
1. Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto, 4.53.07
2. Juan Antonio Flecha (Esp) Fassa Bortolo, at 0:02
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre - Caffita, 0:09
4. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Fassa Bortolo
5. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole, both s.t.
6. Baden Cooke (Aus) Francaise des Jeux, 0:16
7. Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto, 0:18
8. Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Domina Vacanze
9. Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile
10. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Credit par Telephone
11. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Credit Agricole
12. Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas - Bianchi
13. Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Liquigas - Bianchi
14. Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank
15. Gregory Rast (Sui) Phonak Hearing Systems
16. Antonio Cruz (USA) Discovery Channel
17. Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC
18. Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech
19. Vladimir Gussev (Rus) Team CSC
20. Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile
21. Robert Hunter (RSA) Phonak Hearing Systems
22. Ludovic Auger (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
23. Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC
24. Frederic Guesdon (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
25. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
26. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep
27. Inigo Landaluze Intxaurraga (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
28. Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank
29. Nicola Loda (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi
30. Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quickstep
31. Roy Sentjens (Bel) Rabobank
32. Rory Sutherland (Aus) Rabobank, all s.t.
33. Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep, 0:31
34. Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quickstep, 0:36
35. Wim De Vocht (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto, 0:57
36. Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quickstep, 1:08
37. Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank, 2:05
38. Aurelien Clerc (Sui) Phonak Hearing Systems, 2:55
39. Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team CSC
40. Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Lampre - Caffita
41. Christophe Mengin (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
42. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
43. Unai Yus Kerejeta (Esp) Bouygues Telecom
44. Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Domina Vacanze, all s.t.
45. Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Esp) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
46. Bert Roesems (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto, 2:57
47. Inaki Isasi (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
48. Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems
49. Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Lampre - Caffita
50. Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner, all s.t.
51. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre - Caffita, 3:01
52. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quickstep, s.t.
53. Eric Baumann (Ger) T-Mobile, 6:57
54. Fabio Baldato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
55. Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Esp) Rabobank
56. Stefan Adamsson (Swe) Barloworld - Valsir
57. Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Credit Agricole
58. Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon - Lotto
59. Marco Zanotti (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi
60. Wesley Van Speybroeck (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim
61. Mauro Gerosa (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi
62. Gianluca Sironi (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi
63. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Credit Agricole
64. Michael Albasini (Sui) Liquigas - Bianchi
65. Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago
66. Servais Knaven (Ned) Quickstep
67. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto
68. Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim
69. Thomas Bruun Eriksen (Den) Team CSC
70. Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Wurth Team
71. Isaac Galvez Lopez (Esp) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
72. Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner
73. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld - Valsir
74. Matthe Pronk (Ned) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech
75. Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre - Caffita, all s.t.
76. Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Cofidis - Le Credit par Telephone, 12:25
77. Siro Camponogara (Ita) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
78. Hilton Clarke (Aus) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
79. Jeff Louder (USA) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
80. Josu Silloniz Aresti (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, all s.t.
DNF Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Discovery Channel
OTL Mark Walters (Can) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo, 93 pts
2. Oscar Freire Gomez (Esp) Rabobank, 70
3. Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 70
4. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep, 62
5. Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC, 50
6. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole, 50
7. Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile, 41
8. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Esp) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne, 41
9. Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto, 40
10. Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto, 35
11. George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel, 35
12. Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems, 35
13. Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Esp) Saunier Duval - Prodir, 35
14. Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile, 33
15. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Credit par Telephone, 31
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