By Shane Stokes in Wevelgem
Nico Mattan took the second ProTour victory by a Belgian rider in three days when he won the 67th edition of Gent-Wevelgem, staging a last gasp recapture of lone leader Juan-Antonio Flecha inside the final kilometre of racing.
The 33 year old Davitamon-Lotto rider reached the line in Wevelgem two seconds clear of the deflated Spaniard, with Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Caffita) leading home Flecha's Fassa Bortolo teammate Fabian Cancellara and Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd for third. Pre-race favourite Tom Boonen looked strong midway through the 208 kilometre event, but faded in closing stages to finish a disappointed 26th. He will hope to turn things around again in time for Paris-Roubaix this coming weekend.
After the race finish, Flecha's Fassa Bortolo team lodged a protest, on the grounds that they felt the race victor had been aided in the closing stages by press motorbikes and neutral support vehicles. Mattan himself insisted that the vehicles were in his way and that he didn't deliberately draft in his efforts to catch and pass the race leader.
"I dare to put my hand on my heart to assert that I did not win thanks to the cars or the motorbikes," said Mattan. "I was never that close that I was in the slipstream. Should I have slowed down a bit at that moment? They certainly did not take me up to Flecha. I knew that I could rectify the situation in the last kilometre. Please don't put the value of my win in doubt. Didn't I spend the whole day on the attack? No-one should forget that."
The College of Commissaires agreed with Mattan's version of events, fining the driver of the Shimano neutral support car 400 Swiss Francs and warning the motorbikes in question. They upheld the race result, stating that a detailed report will be sent to the UCI on the matter.