CSC's Stuart O'Grady and Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha almost succeeded in their final-kilometre breakaway at Omloop Het Volk on Saturday. Almost - they were swept up by three riders only 300 metres from the finish line. Flecha finished second to Filippo 'Pippo' Pozatto (Liquigas) with O'Grady having to settle for fifth.
After working well to build up a lead of 15 seconds from a quality chasing group that included Tom Boonen (Quick Step - Innergetic), the two riders seemed to slow and begin tactical games, allowing the chasers to reel them in on the wide open finish down the Bergendriesstraat.
Earlier, O'Grady had attacked with 13 kilometers remaining, "without actually giving it 100 percent," according to the CSC team website, team-csc.com. Still, the Australian pulled a good gap on what was the final selection of the race. Sensing O'Grady's strength and the timing of his attack, coming as it did after a solid chase-down of another breakaway, Flecha bridged out of the pack. The Spaniard made it across and this prompted Boonen to als take leave of the peloton. However, the CSC website said O'Grady "even had to wait for the Spanish rider, so he wouldn't have to go solo for the remainder of the route".
However, according to CSC directeur sportif Scott Sunderland, "Flecha didn't work very hard at the beginning of the break and during the final five kilometres he even tried to pull free of Stuart several times, because he didn't want to risk a sprint against him at the end. So Stuart had to use all his strength to maintain the lead and of course he was a bit annoyed by this.
"Stuart was really strong throughout the day, but it's been a few years since he's done this particular race so he couldn't remember the route as well as his rivals, who joined him and Flecha at the end. This meant he used more strength than otherwise necessary in some situations, but still, he had the strength for a solo attack, and he was quite pleased with that afterwards," Sunderland noted.
Flecha and Rabobank had a different view of things, with the Dutch team claiming that "O'Grady blew the chances to win in the finale". According to rabobank.nl, O'Grady led less and less in the final kilometres, and finally did not lead at all. (This is not completely correct, Ed.) Flecha gambled that O'Grady would eventually open this sprint, which he did not do. "Flecha had no other choice," claimed directeur sportif Frans Maasen.
Rabobank was not unsatisfied though. "Everything went well, exactly as we wanted. The guys rode well in pursuit, and for example, Mathew Hayman was still strong enough to show something at the end," according to Maasen, who added that he was happy with Flecha's second place behind winner Filippo Pozzato.
See also: Full coverage of the 62nd Omloop Het Volk.