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Former winner Steels gives Gent-Wevelgem lowdown

Kuschynski goes on the attack on the second trip up the Kemmel.

Kuschynski goes on the attack on the second trip up the Kemmel. (Image credit: Tim Van Wichelen)

By Daniel Benson in Wevelgem

Two-time winner of Gent-Wevelgem and former Belgian national champion, Tom Steels, watched this year's race from the commentary box and gave Cyclingnews his expert opinion on the race and the tactical battles within it.

"It was an impressive race and very hard on the riders. I don't think I'm going out on a limb here by saying that the two riders who came first and second weren't necessarily the strongest, but were certainly the riders who made the best decisions," Steels said.

The 1996 and 1999 winner thought that the weather was crucial to the race after all but thirty riders were ruled out after a split within the opening 10 kilometres. "The weather is always a key part. This is Gent-Wevelgem we're taking about. But once the break went away we saw some teams represented very heavily."

The Belgian thought that Liquigas' Aleksandr Kuschynski's move with 39 kilometres to go wasn't a deliberate attempt to stay away until the finish. "Liquigas had good riders in that group and Kuschynski's style dictates that he's always going to try and break off the front. I think he was simply trying to make things easier for his teammate Fischer who has a good sprint. But once he was away and had a gap the situation changed."

Steels agreed that the Belarusian was almost certainly racing for second place once Boasson Hagen bridged the gap and the pair built a solid lead towards the finish. "Kuschynski's move was tactical but Boasson Hagen's was pure strength. Then Liquigas would have thought, 'Okay we can ride for second place' because if they get to finish with Boasson Hagen you're going to come off second best."

As for the teams and riders who missed the day's key break, Steels seemed to have little sympathy. "I don't think some of the riders and teams were aggressive enough. It's hard to say who could have played their cards better, but maybe Rabobank could have done something more with the riders they had."

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