'Die Mannschaft' wins Gent-Wevelgem

Brilliant team tactics and gutsy riding has given T-Mobile 1st and 2nd in Gent-Wevelgem. Marcus Burg

Brilliant team tactics and gutsy riding has given T-Mobile 1st and 2nd in Gent-Wevelgem. Marcus Burg
PIC © TIM DE WAELE Marcus Burghardt and Roger Hammond have given T-Mobile a 1-2 in the 69th Gent-Wevelgem. The pair used their numerical advantage in the winning five-man break to great effect, preventing a sprint win by the likes of Oscar Freire (3rd) or Francisco Ventoso (4th). Christophe Mengin (Franaise des Jeux) rounded out the top five, with the peloton unable to catch the escape and finishing a few seconds back. "This is the greatest moment in my career," said Burghardt after being congratulated by his teammates at the finish. "I thought that our break wouldn't make it. At one stage, it was hopeless. But suddenly, we had 50 seconds. When the finish came in sight, I knew that I had to attack. I didn't want to take Freire to the finish. I'm unbelievable happy." Hammond was a delighted second today. "I think that we proved that T-Mobile is having a strong spring," he said. "I knew that Burghardt would go and stayed ready to jump on a chaser. The hardest moment in the race for me was when I had to follow Freire. I actually thought that the Spaniards would be too strong, but Ventoso was apparently tired. I think I'm ready for Paris-Roubaix." Freire rode a very good finale, but was unable to match the power of T-Mobile. "I was good, but in the last kilometre I made a mistake," he said. "When Burghardt went, I thought Ventoso was strong enough to close the gap. But Ventoso dropped away quickly and Burghardt had taken too many metres. Then it was too late to close it. I was good, but so were the two riders from T-Mobile." From start to finish The 69th Gent-Wevelgem began in overcast but fine conditions in Deinze. Unlike most years, it wasn't particularly windy and the 193 riders enjoyed 15 degree temperatures at the start. Wouter van Mechelen was the first rider to attack after four kilometres, but was unable to get clear. It took a number of attempts before a proper breakaway was established, when Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne), Christophe Mengin (Franaise des Jeux) and Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) escaped after 38km. It took 8km before the break got its magic minute, having covered 49km in the first hour. But then the gap increased rapidly to 10'50 with 100km on the clock as the race travelled along the west coast of Belgium. There was no wind to break the bunch up into echelons, making for a less nervous run into the hill zone. The leaders reached Poperinge (75km to go) with a 7'50 advantage over the bunch, which was now in pursuit. Quick.Step, Astana, Rabobank, Predictor-Lotto and Milram all had a hand in the chase. The breakaway started first series of climbs - Vidaigneberg, Rodeberg, Monteberg and Kemmelberg - with just 4'43 of its lead intact, and it seemed as though it would be swallowed up. But several crashes slowed down the bunch, as first Servais Knaven (T-Mobile), then Allan Johansen (CSC) came down, then on the descent of the Kemmelberg, Jimmy Casper (Unibet), Wilfried Cretskens (Quick.Step), Luke Roberts (CSC), Wim De Vocht (Predictor), Andy Cappelle (Landbouwkrediet), Tyler Farrar (Cofidis) and the luckless Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) all came down. After the dangerous descent with 50km to go, the front trio had 3'11 over the now splintered bunch. Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step) initiated a counter-attack, taking Freire (Rabobank), Bodrogi (Credit Agricole), Knees (Milram), Guesdon (Franaise des Jeux), Gatto (Gerolsteiner), Schr (Astana), Pozzato (Liquigas) and Leukemans (Predictor) with him. The group was too dangerous to let go, and at 45km to go it had been recaptured. David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) and Dmitri Muravyev (Astana) were next to try, and had reduced the advantage to the three up front to 2'00 by the start of the second Kemmelberg climb with 38km left. But they were then absorbed by the bunch. Saunier Duval's Francisco Ventoso started what was to be the final breakaway on the steep cobbled climb. On his wheel was Marcus Burghardt, who was under instructions not to work with Ventoso as his teammate Hammond was still in front. The two closed the gap to 1'10 as another crash on the descent of the Kemmel took out Sacchi (Milram), Hayman (Rabobank), and Tjallingii (Skil), among others. The big guns, including Boonen, Freire, McEwen, Nuyens and Gilbert, extracted themselves from the main bunch and caught Ventoso and Burghardt at 30km to go. But just as the rest of the field came up to this group, Freire, Ventoso and Burghardt attacked again with 27km to go. The narrow, snaking roads helped the three escape the bunch, and they quickly caught Hammond, Mengin and Brard with 25km to travel. The break now had six riders with two T-Mobiles in it, even though Freire and Ventoso were arguably the better sprinters. Brard didn't last long, and dropped out of the break at 16km to go. The gap had gone up to half a minute by this stage, and it was touch and go whether the bunch had enough firepower to close it down. At 10km to go, the five leaders had 50 seconds. It was going to take a massive effort to bring them back, but even with the likes of Peter Van Petegem and Fabian Cancellara working behind, the gap remained. With 2.5km left, the front riders were half a minute ahead and could now afford to play tactics. Burghardt sat on while his teammate Hammond expended himself with an attack, drawing out Freire and Ventoso. Then at 1.5km to go, the tall German put in the winning move. Ventoso couldn't close the gap, and neither could Freire, who ended up pulling Hammond all the way to the line. Burghardt was strong until the end, finally winning a Belgian classic - a fantastic prize for his first ever race win. Hammond completed T-Mobile's success by going past Freire for second, with the classy Spanish rider having to be content with third. Robbie McEwen (Predictor) led the bunch home for sixth, a few seconds later. Provisional results 1 Marcus Burghardt (Ger, T-Mobile) 4:52:14 2 Roger Hammond (GBr, T-Mobile) 0:00:04 3 Oscar Freire (Spa, Rabobank) 4 Francisco Ventoso (Spa, Saunier Duval) 0:00:06 5 Christophe Mengin (Fra, Francaise des Jeux) 6 Robbie McEwen (Aus, Predictor-Lotto) 0:00:15 7 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned, Rabobank) 8 Baden Cooke (Aus, Unibet.com) 9 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa, Caisse d'Epargne) 10 Alexandre Usov (Blr, AG2r Prevoyance) Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.

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