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.
|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|