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Belgians shut out on opening weekend

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma - Lotto)

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma - Lotto) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Belgian cycling season may have officially started but the Belgians were shut out of the results in the opening weekend. For the first time ever, there was no Belgian rider on the podium of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and they also missed out in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.

Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere, who has guided home talent to numerous wins in the past, put it simply. "This is a weekend to quickly forget." His top rider and former World champion Tom Boonen had gone into the weekend favoured to win both races, but finished only 59th in the Omloop, after suffering an unfortunately-timed puncture. He abandoned on Sunday, as did most of the field.

The team's top finisher in Omloop was French rider Sylvain Chavanel, who crossed the line in 20th place, and on Sunday Belgian Wouter Weylandt who finished 12th.

"The internationalisation we all called for has gradually broken through," Lefevere told "It is increasingly difficult for Belgian teams to win big races. But I draw no conclusions after two races. Ask me again after Liege-Bastogne-Liege."

Marc Sergeant, Lefevere’s equivalent at Omega Pharma-Lotto, was happy with the weekend because his riders “did what we had asked: rode offensively and displayed initiative.”

His team's best finishers were Philippe Gilbertt in the Omloop, at 26th, and Jürgen Roelandts at 15th in Kuurne. Sergeant expected more, especially in the Omloop.

“In hindsight, perhaps Gilbert rode with too much panache,” the team manager said. “The attack on the Lange Munte was not the best decision, after he had chased for 15 kilometres. But Gilbert is simply that way. He rides instinctively.”


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