Team Sky should anticipate a fruitful Classics campaign after Juan Antonio Flecha's emphatic victory this afternoon in Gent, Belgium, as the seasoned journeyman became the first Spaniard to win the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title.
While a milestone for his nation, Flecha's win was also a huge personal breakthrough for the Classics journeyman. Ever-present as a contender, he has recorded a number of high finishes in seasons past, including two previous podium appearances at Omloop (2nd in 2007 and 3rd in 2009), but had never quite been able to reach the top step of the podium until today. It was also his first individual victory since October 2008.
"I'm super happy for him. He’s been knocking on the door for such a long time and he was getting the reputation for getting to the end and not being able to finish it off and he showed everyone today that he was super strong. He was strong and did a fantastic job," said Flecha's team manager Dave Brailsford.
A wily attack on the cobbles with some 20 kilometres remaining set up Flecha's win as he powered away from pre-race favourite and two-time Omloop winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto). Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo) would prove to be the next member of the peloton to see Flecha as he followed the Sky rider in for second place.
"I tried to attack a few times today but it was never the right group," said a satisfied Haussler. “No one seemed to want to work. So in the final I tried it again and I was just able to stay ahead of the group behind me. I am really happy about the second place, to be honest I wasn't sure about today. Actually this race was a bit a test because of my knee but I realized today that my form is still there and I felt comfortable mixing it up at the front of the bunch.”
The USA's Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) finished third, ahead of Luca Paolini (Aqua & Sapone) and Marcel Sieberg (HTC-Columbia).
The Classics get underway in Gent
After leaving Gent the classical early breakaway was set up by 24 year-old Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) after ten kilometres. The Belgian was joined by Frederic Guesdon (Francaise de Jeux), Roy Curvers (Skil-Shimano) and the young talented German Roger Kluge (Milram).
Thirty kilometers further up the road a late counter-attack from Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), Gregory Habeaux (Verndas Willems) and David Boucher (Landbouwcredit) was launched when the breakaway already had a five minute advantage.
Arriving near the first of the hills the four original escapees had twelve minutes on a relaxed peloton. Their efforts were partly spoiled when they were forced to wait at a railway crossing. The peloton used this opportunity to accelerate and take some time back on the first cobbles at Hellingen. The speed wasn't fast enough for Daniel Lloyd (Cervélo), who launched a solo counterattack after tackling the Berendries climb.
After two hours of racing there were still four leaders, three chasers and one sole chaser ahead of the peloton that trailed the front of the race by around seven minutes. By the time the peloton came to the Muur of Geraardsbergen, all of chasers were caught back by the main group, where Quick Step, Sky and Garmin-Transitions were actively working to control the race.
Trains again play a role in the Classics
The race settled once more as it rolled from Helling to Helling. However, with 66 kilometres to go, a moment of consternation occurred just before climbing the Kruisberg. Five riders were chasing the peloton after flat tyres, including in-form Sebastien Rosseler (RadioShack). As the race arrived at another railway crossing, the peloton was allowed by the police to pass through despite red flashing signals, but the five chasers were forced to stop.
The speed increased and on the Kruisberg the gap on the four leaders ran back to three minutes thanks to the work from Cervélo's Andreas Klier, with sixty kilometers left to cover. In the meantime Roger Kluge was dropped by the leaders. After the Kruisberg, the peloton was stretched in a long line on the twisting roads - including the cobbles from the Donderij - towards the Taaienberg, thanks mainly to the pace being set by Omega Pharma-Lotto and Rabobank.
While most were able to follow the furious tempo, for some these accelerations proved to be very painful as they had trouble to get back in the peloton, surprisingly Stijn Devolder (Quick Step)was among them; Nick Nuyens (Rabobank) had bike problems and was out of contention, too. All the big guns were present near the front when approaching the bottom of the Taaienberg including Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
On the Taaienberg Boonen launched his classic acceleration in the gutter and he quickly had a forty meter gap over the peloton, where a Liquigas rider held up the rest of the peloton. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) flatted and was thrown backwards while Jurgen Roelandts worked hard for Gilbert to bring the remnants of the peloton back to Boonen.
The Belgian champion didn't seem to continue his all-out effort but on the Eikenberg he was still alone in front, at less than a minute from the leaders. After the Eikenberg, Boonen dropped back into a large group of about thirty riders. On the Wolvenberg, Roelandts accelerated but when Haussler marked his wheel the Belgian didn't want to go on.
The speed in the peloton dropped back and more riders caught back up with the main group. Gilbert went the other way when he slipped away in a left-hand corner and ended up in a big chasing group. Several attacks occurred in the main group featuring former cyclo-cross World Champion Lars Boom (Rabobank) and Marcel Sieberg (HTC-Columbia), however, all were met with without much success.
With only thirty-six kilometers to go the three remaining leaders hit the terrible cobbles of the Molenberg with only half a minute on Sieberg, and then Boonen, who led the peloton over the short climb. On the windy farm roads following the last official climb of the day Roelandts powered away from the peloton and towards the three leaders, who had only twenty seconds of their advantage in hand.
The former Belgian champion joined the front of the race on the famous 2300-metre long cobbled section of the Paddestraat where Guesdon and Curvers had the most left in their tanks and left Veuchelen behind; there were now three leaders in the front with twenty-eight kilometers to go. Nuyens tried to repeat Roelandts' counterattack as he left the peloton behind.
A decisive moment occurred little further on the cobbles of the Lippenhovestraat. Nuyens caught back up with Guesdon, who showed his Paris-Roubaix-honed skills on this next long cobbled section. Favorite Boonen punctured shortly after the Lippenhovestraat and although he quickly received a new wheel he was facing a huge task to battle himself back in the race.
In contrast, Gilbert and Flecha were able to bridge up with the front but then bad luck struck Nuyens, who punctured out of the front as there were no teammates around to help him. With twenty-two kilometers to go there were five leaders: Guesdon, Curvers, Flecha, Gilbert and Roelandts.
The Archer takes aim and fires
Behind, Cervélo were leading the pursuit of the leaders. Their task was quickly being divided as Flecha launched a stinging attack that decimated the front group. Gilbert the quickest to respond but still gapped by the Spaniard.
With a lead established, Flecha put his head down and stretched to the point where his team car was permitted to come through. As the 15 kilometre to go flag flashed by, a smooth looking Flecha was being encouraged from the vehicle by his sports director Scott Sunderland.
Cervélo continued to take the initiative, with Jeremy Hunt and Roger Hammond's efforts giving way to a desperate pursuit by Haussler. The work was enough to absorb the chasers back into the bunch, but not enough to make in imprint on the advantage of Flecha, who re-entered the streets of Gent alone.
Safely over the final, 700-metre cobbled sector, Flecha was alone and swept into the final kilometre with enough time to adopt his archer pose and claim the first Spanish victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Haussler's efforts were rewarded with second place, while Garmin-Transitions' Tyler Farrar emerged from the bunch to secure the third step of the podium.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team||5:07:15|
|2||Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo Test Team||0:00:18|
|3||Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions|
|4||Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone|
|5||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia|
|6||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team|
|7||Niko Eeckhout (Bel) An Post - Sean Kelly|
|8||Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC - Columbia|
|9||Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil - Shimano|
|10||Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha|
|11||Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux|
|12||Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team|
|13||Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet|
|14||Yoann Offredo (Fra) Française des Jeux|
|15||William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom|
|16||Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne|
|17||Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano|
|18||Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|19||Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervelo Test Team|
|20||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step||0:00:24|
|21||Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom||0:00:26|
|22||Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom|
|23||Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervelo Test Team|
|24||Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - Shimano|
|25||Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo|
|26||Phillippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto|
|27||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team|
|28||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha||0:00:29|
|29||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||0:00:32|
|30||Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team||0:00:34|
|31||Leif Hoste (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||0:00:39|
|32||Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team||0:01:33|
|33||Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Team HTC - Columbia||0:02:57|
|34||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator|
|35||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Doimo|
|36||Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||0:03:51|
|37||Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel) An Post - Sean Kelly|
|38||Mauro Finetto (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo|
|39||Andrea Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone|
|40||Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne|
|41||Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet|
|42||Kevin Neirynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet|
|43||Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator|
|44||Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team|
|45||Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank|
|46||Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team|
|47||Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Française des Jeux|
|48||Jérémie Galland (Fra) Saur - Sojasun|
|49||Steve Houanard (Fra) Skil - Shimano|
|50||Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank|
|51||Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo|
|52||Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin - Transitions|
|53||Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Team Saxo Bank|
|54||Grégory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack|
|55||Nick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank|
|56||Steve Chainel (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom|
|57||Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank|
|58||Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française des Jeux|
|59||Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step|
|60||Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team|
|61||Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||0:04:59|
|62||Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank|
|63||Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française des Jeux|
|64||Martin Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia|
|65||Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Garmin - Transitions|
|66||Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo|
|67||George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team|
|68||Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|69||Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank|
|70||Jens Mouris (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team|
|71||Davide Vigano (Ita) Sky Professional Cycling Team|
|72||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step|
|73||Gert Steegmans (Bel) Team Radioshack|
|74||Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team|
|75||Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Team Radioshack|
|76||Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank|
|77||David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions|
|78||Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step|
|79||Koen Barbe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||0:05:38|
|80||David Boucher (Fra) Landbouwkrediet||0:05:41|
|81||Alessandro Fantini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone|
|82||Sven Renders (Bel) Verandas Willems|
|83||Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||0:06:49|
|84||Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|85||Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling Team|
|86||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Quick Step|
|87||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram|
|88||Steven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator|
|89||Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet|
|90||Tiziano Dall'antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo||0:07:28|
|91||Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Rabobank||0:10:45|
|92||Martin Reimer (Ger) Cervelo Test Team|
|93||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator|
|94||Gert Dockx (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia|
|95||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Skil - Shimano|
|96||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Team Katusha|
|97||Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervelo Test Team|
|98||Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank|
|99||Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|100||Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team|
|101||Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank|
|102||Paidi O Brien (Irl) An Post - Sean Kelly|
|103||Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team|
|104||Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team|
|105||Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française des Jeux||0:11:14|
|106||Kim Borry (Bel) An Post - Sean Kelly|
|107||Rene Mandri (Est) AG2R La Mondiale|
|108||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto|
|109||Andy Cappelle (Bel) Verandas Willems|
|110||Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo|
|111||Nikita Eskov (Rus) Team Katusha|
|112||Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto|
|113||Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française des Jeux|
|114||Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux|
|115||Matthew Wilson (Aus) Garmin - Transitions|
|116||Domenik Klemme (Ger) Team Saxo Bank|
|117||Jurgen Vandewalle (Bel) Quick Step|
|118||Stuart O'grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank|
|119||Cedric Coutouly (Fra) Saur - Sojasun|
|120||Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin - Transitions|
|121||Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Transitions|
|122||Floris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil - Shimano||0:13:10|
|123||Luke Roberts (Aus) Team Milram|
|124||Dieter Cappelle (Bel) Verandas Willems|
|125||Russell Downing (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team|
|126||Servais Knaven (Ned) Team Milram|
|127||Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team Radioshack|
|128||Michiel Elijzen (Ned) Omega Pharma-Lotto|
|129||Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram|
|130||Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team|
|131||Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step|
|132||Daryl Impey (RSA) Team Radioshack|
|133||Wim De Vocht (Bel) Team Milram|
|134||Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram|
|135||Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|136||Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia|
|137||Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Cervelo Test Team|
|138||Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team|
|139||Robin Chaigneau (Ned) Skil - Shimano|
|140||Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale|
|141||Steven Caethoven (Bel) Landbouwkrediet|
|142||Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC - Columbia|
|143||Yohann Gene (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom|
|144||Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator|
|145||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator|
|146||Dario Andriotto (Ita) Acqua & Sapone|
|147||Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone|