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Eisel wins Gent-Wevelgem

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
1Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC - Columbia5:17:12
2Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
3Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
5Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo0:00:02
6Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:00:07
7Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana0:00:51
8Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank0:01:01
9Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions
10Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
11Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram
12Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank
13Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas-Doimo
14Baden Cooke (Aus) Team Saxo Bank0:01:08
15Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia0:03:14
16Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia0:03:29
17Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Professional Cycling Team
18Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
19Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
20Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano
21Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin - Transitions
22Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
23Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
24Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana
25Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
26Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
27Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team
28Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo0:03:33
29Wim De Vocht (Bel) Team Milram0:03:50
30Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
31Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
32Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - Shimano
33Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
34Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana
35Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC - Columbia
36Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
37Nikolas Maes (Bel) Quick Step0:05:06
38Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo
39Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
40Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram0:09:17
41Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana0:11:46
42Ermanno Capelli (Ita) Footon-Servetto
43Matthé Pronk (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
44Geert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
45Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Team Katusha
46Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
47Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam
48Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
49Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
HDAlessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:22:14
HDDavid Boucher (Fra) Landbouwkrediet
HDValentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana
HDLloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
HDJohnnie Walker (Aus) Footon-Servetto
HDGregory Joseph (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
HDMatthias Brandle (Aut) Footon-Servetto
HDServais Knaven (Ned) Team Milram
HDGeoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team Radioshack
HDTheo Bos (Ned) Cervélo TestTeam
HDMaxime Vantomme (Bel) Team Katusha
HDRomain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
HDMichael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
HDPeter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram
HDDenis Galimzyanov (Rus) Team Katusha
HDStuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank
HDVidal Celis Zabala (Spa) Footon-Servetto
HDKoldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
HDFuyu Li (Chn) Team Radioshack
HDJan Ghyselinck (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia
HDMarkus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram
HDThomas Fothen (Ger) Team Milram
HDGrégory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack
HDSébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
HDJavier Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
HDTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Rabobank
HDMirko Selvaggi (Ita) Astana
HDOlivier Bonnaire (Fra) Française Des Jeux
HDAnthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
HDInaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
HDMatthew Wilson (Aus) Garmin - Transitions
HDFabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
HDCarlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step
HDSteve Houanard (Fra) Skil - Shimano
HDMathieu Drujon (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
HDRobbie Mcewen (Aus) Team Katusha
HDGert Dockx (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia
HDTom Veelers (Ned) Skil - Shimano
HDSteven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
HDJohan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
HDSébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française Des Jeux
HDAnders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank
HDFrank Hoj (Den) Team Saxo Bank
HDJonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank
HDAnthony Geslin (Fra) Française Des Jeux
HDAdam Blyth (GBr) Omega Pharma-Lotto
HDJérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
HDAlessandro Fantini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
HDRoger Hammond (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam
HDMichael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling Team
HDWouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step
HDAllan Davis (Aus) Astana
HDJos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank
HDSteven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank
HDRomain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel - Euskadi
HDRui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por) Caisse d'Epargne
HDKevin Van Impe (Bel) Quick Step
HDMartijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Transitions
HDSvein Tuft (Can) Garmin - Transitions
HDMickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto
HDJuan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team
HDOlivier Kaisen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
HDGerben Löwik (Ned) Omega Pharma-Lotto
HDNiki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram
HDArnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
HDThomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank
HDAngel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
HDArnoud Van Groen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
HDReinier Honig (Ned) Acqua & Sapone

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