Eisel wins Gent-Wevelgem

Austrian bests five breakaway companions for victory

Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia) has often sacrificed his chances to help his teammates but the friendly Austrian finally got his day of glory at Gent-Wevelgem, winning the six-rider sprint that decided the Belgian classic.

Eisel let George Hincapie (BMC) lead out the sprint and then hit the front hard with two hundred metres to go. It was still a little early but Eisel is an excellent sprinter and had the speed to beat Sep Vanmarke (Topsport-Vlaanderen) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto). Hincapie held on to take fourth.

"It was such a tough race," Eisel said to Sporza right after crossing the line. "I was sure it was going to be really hard in the end. Breschel punctured out of the lead and then we lost Oscar Freire when we put him in the wind. Then I knew I had a chance to win and I had to take it."

"In the sprint I waited and put Oss in front of me because I figured he was the fastest in the group. I stayed on his wheel and looking between my thighs I saw George coming. I was really going well and past him straight away. Then I thought: that's going to be a long way Bernie… This is the biggest win of my career. Actually I never liked this race. It was never my favorite. I've always been struggling. It's only the second time I finish this race in nine participations. It probably suits me and now I'll love it."

Crosswinds and dark clouds

Crosswinds and dark clouds were looming when the peloton left Deinze. Fabian Cancellara, winner of the E3-prijs Harelbeke 24 hours earlier was a late starter; the Swiss champion was still on the podium when the peloton rolled off. Luckily for Spartacus, the UCI forced the organizers to neutralize the first ten kilometres in order to make sure the race wasn't longer than the allowed 210 kilometers.

Several riders tried hard to get into the early breakaway and after 18 kilometers four riders managed to sneak away: Geert Steurs, Angel Madrazo, Tom Van den Hautte and Matthé Pronk. Despite the crosswinds the peloton didn't fancy to make it a daylong battle and no echelons formed near the coast and during the first hour the four leaders averaged just over 40 km/h.

The breakaway group - minus Tom Van den Hautte who got dropped - gained a lead of almost four minutes and when entering France, with 100 kilometers to go and the lead was down to 2'15". The narrow roads caused a lot of crashes and big guns like Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara didn't push hard to make it back to the front when being caught behind a crash; they wouldn't win Gent-Wevelgem.

HTC-Columbia's Lars Ytting Bak bravely launched a solo counter-attack when entering France. After tackling the Catsberg, the Berthen climb and the Mont Noir, the Danish rider joined the leading trio when turning back into Belgium; the four leaders had 1:46 on the peloton with 86 kilometers to go. Roy Curvers and Johnny Hoogerland were the next riders to sneak away. During the first ascent of the famous Kemmelberg the four leaders had a minute on the two chasers and almost two minutes on the peloton that was led by Luca Paolini.

Liquigas attack en masse

The Liquigas team put the pedal to the floor after the Kemmelberg and echelons formed in the crosswinds. About twenty riders joined the five Liquigas riders up front and big guns like Philippe Gilbert and Oscar Freire were caught napping. However the two chasers, and little later the four leaders, were caught back by the time the race reached the Scherpenberg.

The Liquigas riders in front were Manuel Quinziato, Tiziano Dall'Antonia, Aleksandr Kuschynski, Daniel Oss and Daniele Bennati. The other riders in the lead group were the former leaders Curvers, Hoogerland, and then Paolini, Matti Breschel, Tyler Farrar, Matthew Goss, Bernhard Eisel, Daniele Bennati, George Hincapie, Martijn Maaskant, Johan Vansummeren, Geert Steurs, Baden Cooke, Bobbie Traksel, Joost Van Leijen and Sepp Vanmarcke. A total of nineteen riders.

The gap between the leader's group and the chasing group of almost thirty riders remained about half a minute for a long time. When reaching the Mont des Cats the Liquigas riders sat back as many riders weren't co-operating in the breakaway. On the climb Enrico Gasparotto, then Gilbert and a bit later also Freire bridged back up to the leaders. Five kilometres further the rest of the second group connected with the Liquigas group. Maxim Iglinsky attacked on the Mont Noir and the Kazakh rider quickly received company from Liquigas' Oss. One by one more riders bridged up with these two leaders: first Breschel, then Freire and Hincapie, after the Baneberg also Sepp Vanmarcke, Jurgen Roelandts, Philippe Gilbert, Bernard Eisel and Kuschynski; forming an ten-man leader's group that had half a minute on the first chasers.

Matti Breschel clearly was the strongest man in the lead group when tackling the Kemmelberg for the second time. The Danish champion distanced the rest on the cobbles but he realized that the 35 kilometers to the finish in Wevelgem were a bit too much to cover on his own thus he waited for the others. Behind the ten leaders Farrar, Paolini, Christian Knees and Baden Cooke set-up a counter-attack and chased hard. Twenty-five kilometres from the finish line the ten leaders had just under half a minute on the four chasers.

Tricks and flicks

The race changed again with sixteen kilometers to go when Breschel's chances were ruined with a puncture. The neutral service had problems changing his rear wheel and by the time the Danish champion was back on his bike he was with the four chasers.

On the wide road towards Wevelgem, some of the riders were worried about Oscar Freire. Kuschinski flicked Freire out of the back of the group as he tried to force the triple world champion to join the work or drop back. Little later Iglinsky flicked himself out of the group when he tried to skip a turn.

The result was that there were only six riders left in front with ten kilometers to go: Gilbert, Roelandts, Oss, Hincapie, Eisel and Vanmarcke. Iglinksy was riding in no-man's land, followed by Breschel with Freire, Kuschinski, Cooke, Knees, Paolini and Farrar at almost a minute.

Vanmarcke opted not to take any more turns and then with three kilometres to go he jumped away. Roelandts reacted first and was marked by Eisel and the rest of the group. Roelandts led the group until half a kilometre to go, followed by Oss, Eisel, Gilbert, Hincapie and Vanmarcke.

Hincapie started the sprint from 400m to go but it was far too early and he faded before the real sprint had even began. Eisel took over on the front and had the power to go all the way. The Austrian took the biggest win of his career with two bike-lengths over Vanmarcke and Gilbert.

Full Results
1 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC - Columbia 5:17:12  
2 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
4 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team    
5 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:02  
6 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:00:07  
7 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana 0:00:51  
8 Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:01  
9 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions    
10 Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
11 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram    
12 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank    
13 Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas-Doimo    
14 Baden Cooke (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:08  
15 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 0:03:14  
16 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia 0:03:29  
17 Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
18 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team    
19 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
20 Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
21 Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin - Transitions    
22 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step    
23 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
24 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana    
25 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
26 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
27 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
28 Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:03:33  
29 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Team Milram 0:03:50  
30 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team    
31 Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team    
32 Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
33 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
34 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana    
35 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC - Columbia    
36 Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team    
37 Nikolas Maes (Bel) Quick Step 0:05:06  
38 Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo    
39 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
40 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram 0:09:17  
41 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana 0:11:46  
42 Ermanno Capelli (Ita) Footon-Servetto    
43 Matthé Pronk (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team    
44 Geert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
45 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Team Katusha    
46 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team    
47 Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam    
48 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank    
49 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
HD Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:22:14  
HD David Boucher (Fra) Landbouwkrediet    
HD Valentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana    
HD Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
HD Johnnie Walker (Aus) Footon-Servetto    
HD Gregory Joseph (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
HD Matthias Brandle (Aut) Footon-Servetto    
HD Servais Knaven (Ned) Team Milram    
HD Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team Radioshack    
HD Theo Bos (Ned) Cervélo TestTeam    
HD Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Team Katusha    
HD Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team    
HD Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
HD Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram    
HD Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Team Katusha    
HD Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank    
HD Vidal Celis Zabala (Spa) Footon-Servetto    
HD Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
HD Fuyu Li (Chn) Team Radioshack    
HD Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia    
HD Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram    
HD Thomas Fothen (Ger) Team Milram    
HD Grégory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack    
HD Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
HD Javier Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
HD Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Rabobank    
HD Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Astana    
HD Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
HD Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
HD Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
HD Matthew Wilson (Aus) Garmin - Transitions    
HD Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
HD Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step    
HD Steve Houanard (Fra) Skil - Shimano    
HD Mathieu Drujon (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne    
HD Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Team Katusha    
HD Gert Dockx (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia    
HD Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
HD Steven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
HD Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
HD Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
HD Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
HD Frank Hoj (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
HD Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
HD Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
HD Adam Blyth (GBr) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
HD Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step    
HD Alessandro Fantini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
HD Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam    
HD Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
HD Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step    
HD Allan Davis (Aus) Astana    
HD Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank    
HD Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank    
HD Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
HD Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por) Caisse d'Epargne    
HD Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quick Step    
HD Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Transitions    
HD Svein Tuft (Can) Garmin - Transitions    
HD Mickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
HD Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
HD Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
HD Gerben Löwik (Ned) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
HD Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram    
HD Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne    
HD Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank    
HD Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
HD Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team    
HD Reinier Honig (Ned) Acqua & Sapone    

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