Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus of the Astana Cycling Team was the fastest rider in the second Campina Ronde van het Groene Hart in the Netherlands. Vaitkus was the strongest sprinter of the remaining 51-rider peloton in Woerden, after harsh conditions with cold and even snow saw only the toughest survive. The podium featured Vaitkus on the top step, with last year's winner Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) in second and Bobbie Traksel (P3Transfer - Batavus) in third.
The win signals a timely return to form for the former U23 World Time Trial Champion, who scored his second season victory after a stage win in the Tour of Algarve. "I was really motivated but I had a good feeling, the whole day long. I'm a bit surprised that I felt this well since I had to travel by car from Spain to Holland. I think this confirms that I'm ready for Waregem [Dwars door Vlaanderen, March 26] and Harelbeke [E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, March 29]."
"If this can help, we will send Tomas back to Spain – by car – the days before the Tour of Flanders," joked team director Viatcheslav Ekimov.
"The entire Astana Cycling Team worked hard the whole day," said Ekimov after the 204-kilometre long race. "Michael Schär was the first attacker of the day. In the last kilometres, René Haselbacher and Michael Schär neutralized an escape of Steven de Jongh. Our seven riders were very attentive during the day, as the peloton broke constantly into many parts. Tomas' win is a real team victory."
CSC's Gustav Erik Larsson tried a late attack and stormed ahead of the peloton for several kilometres. Directeur sportif Torsten Schmidt explained on the team's website, team-csc.com that "We didn't have any sprinters in this race so we had to try something else. It looked really good for Gustav, when he first escaped, but all of a sudden the sprinters' teams had more riders at the front and it didn't work out for him after all, but it was a decent and gutsy attempt."
Schmidt added that "The route was almost totally flat so we knew it would be difficult to win without a sprinter. Towards the end we were just happy to get through without crashes because the roads were very wet and narrow. It will probably be better in Rund um Köln, where we have an almost identical line-up, but with extra power in the shape of Jens Voigt and Andy Schleck, who should both be able to make a difference on the hills around Köln."
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