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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, February 26, 2012

Date published:
February 26, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Breschel pleased with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad showing

    Matti Breschel (Rabobank)
    Article published:
    February 25, 2012, 17:43 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Dane working his way back after trying 2011 season

    He may have been shelled out of the lead group at a decisive stage but Matti Breschel (Rabobank) declared his satisfaction after a strong performance in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.

    The Dane positioned himself near the front of the field on the Taaienberg and latched into the coattails of Tom Boonen (Omega-Pharma QuickStep) and Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) when the two Belgians attacked.

    Matthew Hayman (Sky) Thor Hushovd (BMC), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Dries Devenyns (Omega-Pharma QuickStep) also made the move.

    On the Molenburg with 37 kilometres remaining Vanmarcke blew the group apart with a savage attack at the base of the climb. Breschel wasn't the only rider to be distanced but he dragged himself back on the descent.

    That episode proved to be a prequel for what happened on the cobbled stretch known as the Paddestraat. There, Vanmarcke tested his colleagues once more but unlike on the Molenburg, there was no way back for Breschel once he was dropped with Hushovd.

    "I'm pleased with how my race went," Breschel told Cyclingnews at the finish.

    "When I was in the front group I wanted to stay up there but I didn't have the legs today. I'm where I have to be though."

    "The Taaienberg is always the place to go. I'm happy."

    Breschel spent most of the 2011 season on the treatment table with a series of knee and hand injuries. It was a disappointing season lacking in results after his move to the Rabobank team had opened the doors to a crucial phase in his career.

    This year he has already shown flashes of his talent, picking up placings in Algarve last week.

    "It's not like I have results," he said, playing down his form.

    "There's still...

  • Vanmarcke makes his mark in Ghent

    Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) shakes out some champagne to celebrate his first big win.
    Article published:
    February 25, 2012, 19:15 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian sprints to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad victory

    At the tender age of 23, the relatively unknown Belgian rider Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) left his mark in the peloton with an astounding performance at the first of the spring classics, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

    Being a man from the region, residing in Waregem, Vanmarcke attacked the famous Flemish hellingen with gusto, pushed through on the pavé sections and eventually stormed to a sprint win over Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at St-Peter’s square in Ghent, Belgium.

    “I still can’t believe that I’ve won but I figure it’ll be true,” he said in press centre an hour after the finish. “This is unbelievable. As a 14-year-old you start to race and you admire the Belgians who ride the classics and win. You grow, each year you improve and now I’m here, winning my first classic.”

    While his girlfriend Pauline Billiet was already emotional before the race was over Vanmarcke too allowed himself a tear after the race. “This was my first classic win. That’s why I started to race and finally I achieved my goal, and in such a way; I’ve just beaten Boonen,” Vanmarcke said.

    “I’ve been through a lot of emotional roller coasters in the past due to some health issues. This winter I’ve worked much more professionally, for example doing exercises every day for two hours to strengthen my back which is often causing problems elsewhere. I had to say no to a lot of things which wasn’t always easy, also for my girlfriend.”

    After the race, Boonen and Vanmarcke talked with each other and at one point they were in the...

  • BMC falls short at Omloop Het Nieuwblad

    Thor Hushovd (BMC) was dropped from the breakaway.
    Article published:
    February 25, 2012, 20:37 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Hushovd slips out of winning break

    They may have one of the biggest budgets and the some of the sport's most decorated and accomplished Classics riders but BMC proved that racing doesn't always go to plan after their performance in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad fizzled out following a promising start.

    The team lined up with arguably their strongest Classics line-up - only George Hincapie was missing - as Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, Greg Van Avermaet and Alessandro Ballan took to the start in Ghent.

    The opening half of the race went to plan. The team's leaders were kept out of trouble by able domestiques, while rival squad, Omega-Pharma, did the majority of the work on the front of the bunch.

    However, the team's race began to unravel on the Taaienberg. Gilbert lacked form and positioning, finding himself isolated before a puncture effectively ended his chances of wining a third title in the race.

    At the front of the race, Thor Hushovd made the split and looked set to contest the win but the 2010 world champion cracked along with Matti Breschel (Rabobank) on the Paddestraat with 30 kilometres to go.

    "I was happy that I was there with the best riders when we went fast. I just had a bad moment on the Paddestraat but I don't know what happened. Suddenly I was dropped but I felt strong and that's important," Hushovd told Cyclingnews.

    "I had confidence that I was strong enough to be there in the final. Like I said I had that bad moment and suddenly I lost the power. When things like that happen it's just over for such a hard race."

    BMC did eventually rally, leading the chase from behind and Van Avermaet secured 5th place in the bunch sprint for 4th.

    For the likes of Hushovd and Gilbert, bigger tests are on the horizon and...

  • Boonen denied again in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) showed strong form, but couldn't pull off the win in the Omloop
    Article published:
    February 25, 2012, 21:52 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian is 0 for 10 in classics opener

    The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tom Boonen will probably never become best friends. One day before the race, the Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider pointed out that it was the only race within his reach that is lacking on his impressive palmarès, despite 10 attempts. Luck evaded the Belgian yet again on Saturday, when he misjudged the finish and was out-sprinted on the line by Garmin-Barracuda's Sep Vanmarcke.

    Before the final 200 meters, Boonen did everything right. After testing his legs on his usual spot – the Taaienberg with 59km to go – he made the main selection with other one-day specialists Thor Hushovd, Matti Breschel and Juan Antonio Flecha.

    When Vanmarcke attacked the Molenberg 30 kilometers later and put in two accelerations on the pavé sections, Boonen was unflappable.

    The final selection came down to Boonen, Flecha and Vanmarcke, and the former world champion, with a bag packed with bunch sprint victories including three in the past month, was the top favorite to nail down the win at the Omloop. Yet his day came unravelled in sight of the finish line.

    "This morning I checked out the finish area, but still I fooled myself. I thought I started my sprint at the right time but when I launched my sprint I ran out of gas. The race was 50 meters too long," Boonen said on Sporza.

    "I could've won. My form is good but I'm not in top form yet. Much respect for Sep Vanmarcke, though, because he was incredibly strong, I felt that on the cobbles of the Lange Munte. He made the right choice to peak towards this opening weekend – I think - while I aim to be better in a few weeks."

    As the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a 1.HC race there are no race radios allowed, which resulted in...

  • Vaughters: Vanmarcke said he could win

    Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) gets one of his prizes of the day
    Article published:
    February 25, 2012, 22:00 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Garmin rider made good on his promise to team

    In 2011 Garmin waited until the final cobbled race of the season before finally delivering success with Johan Vansummeren’s memorable ride in Paris-Roubaix.

    Almost twelve months on and the team have made a 180 degree turn, winning in the opening weekend of the Belgian road calendar, courtesy of Sep Vanmarcke’s performance in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

    However, it could have been different had Vanmarcke not stood up during a team meeting the night before Saturday's race and ask the team to work for him.

    Team boss Jonathan Vaughters, who followed the race back home in the United Stated confirmed to Cyclingnews that the team had been persuaded to ride for the Belgian only after he’d stepped up and asked for his own chance.

    “The night before the race Sep’s manager called me up and said the team wanted to only work for Heinrich [Haussler] and that Sep was a bit upset. I asked if Sep could win the race and if he could, then he needed to stand up in front of everybody and say he could win. If he does that and has the balls to do it then the team will be behind him for sure,” Vaughters told Cyclingnews.

    “It’s the first classic and nobody knows for sure where their form is and it’s all a little unpredictable but if he has the confidence then we have to believe in him. I think it was a strong and confident thing for a rider to do. He did it and made good on his promise.”

    Vanmarcke made the key break on the Taaienberg and was more than a match for Omega-Pharma QuickStep and Sky, who both had two riders in the final group of five.

    In the sprint Vanmarcke...

  • Haussler inspired by Garmin-Barracuda's start

    Heinrich Haussler off the front trying to shake things up.
    Article published:
    February 25, 2012, 23:05 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    No birthday win for Australian, but form is coming

    There was to be no birthday win for Heinrich Haussler in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday but the 28-year-old still put in a rousing performance to take fourth place in the bunch sprint.

    Earlier, teammate Sep Vanmarcke had won the semi-classic with a powerful sprint ahead of Tom Boonen (Omega-Pharma QuickStep) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky).

    Haussler came into the race targeting the win despite a less than ideal perpetration, having been hit by two bouts of illness.

    But with Garmin-Barracuda enjoying their best one-day result since last year's Paris-Roubaix, the Australian had little complain about.

    "That was the perfect way for us to start off the Classics, just like we did back in 2009 with Cervelo," he told Cyclingnews.

    Heading towards the Taaienberg with 59km left to race, Garmin began a surge to the front with Haussler, Vanmarcke and Andreas Klier leading the charge. Haussler lost his position due to a crash but praised Vanmarcke for both his tactical awareness and form.

    "I was pissed and I'm not going to mention any names, but so many people crashed right in front of us and then it was over by the time we got to the top. Then we spoke with Andreas and thank God, Sep was strong enough to make it into the front group. He's done an unbelievable job and it meant that we could just sit back and do nothing."

    "Sep felt confident and put his hand up in the meeting last night, so he was a protected ride from the start and that's why we rode into the Taaienberg on the front with him me and Andreas. I said to him a couple of hundred meters before that if Boonen goes he needs to be on his wheel and to go with him."

    Haussler is yet to rediscover the form he displayed in the 2009...

  • Boom will start Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

    Lars Boom
    Article published:
    February 26, 2012, 6:58 GMT
    Cycling News

    Rabobank rider able to race after Omloop spill

    Rabobank's Lars Boom will start in Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne after escaping serious injury in a crash during the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.

    Boom suffered only superficial wounds to his hand and shoulder in a dramatic crash which happened just as Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Tom Boonen was forcing the winning selection on the Taaienberg with 60km to go.

    The multiple-time Dutch champion will ride in support of sprinter Mark Renshaw in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, along with Maarten Wynants, Matti Breschel and fresh recruits who did not race on Saturday, Jetse Bol, Jos van Emden, Tom Leezer and Dennis van Winden.

  • Di Luca starts campaign with Acqua & Sapone

    Danilo Di Luca signs an autograph
    Article published:
    February 26, 2012, 10:48 GMT
    Cycling News

    Italian reaches final agreement ahead of GP Lugano

    Danilo Di Luca has finally signed on the dotted line with Acqua & Sapone and will get his 2012 campaign underway on Sunday at the GP Lugano in Switzerland.

    The 36-year-old rode for Katusha last season, his first back in the peloton after serving suspension for his positive test for CERA at the 2009 Giro d’Italia. However, Di Luca failed to make any significant impact with the Russian team and he was not retained at the end of the year.

    “I’m not hiding it, I didn’t go well,” Di Luca told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I think I suffered more than I thought I would from my inactivity. But I wouldn’t be putting myself back in the game if I wasn’t convinced I could return to my old levels. You know well that I don’t like just to scrape a living.”

    Di Luca had been linked with a switch to the Acqua & Sapone squad, which is based in his home region of Abruzzo, since last autumn. While he insists that an agreement was always in place, his signing was not confirmed until this week. Di Luca began his career with Cantina Tollo, a forerunner to the current Acqua & Sapone set-up.

    “I had the agreement for quite a while, I was always relaxed,” Di Luca said. “I started training in the middle of November, and I have around 8,000km in my legs.”

    In the midst of Di Luca’s protracted negotiations with Acqua & Sapone, the Pro Continental squad learned that it had failed to secure a wildcard invitation to the Giro d’Italia. “For me, for Garzelli, for a team like this, the Giro is the centrepiece of the year,” Di Luca said. “It’s not nice, but...