Pozzato poker wins Het Volk
Saturday, March 3, 2007 12.00am
Filippo Pozzato showed his worth to his new Liquigas team by winning the Omloop Het Volk, the openin
PIC © TIM DE WAELE Just as he did to win Milan-San Remo last year, Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) played a perfect game of poker to win the 62nd Omloop Het Volk. The classy Italian motored away from a small breakaway group with less than 500 metres to go to win by a comfortable two seconds. Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), who had been away with Stuart O'Grady for the last 14 km, hung on to finish second, while Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) took the final podium spot. O'Grady and Flecha looked to have the first two positions sewn up until the final kilometre, when the headwind and the work of Pozzato, Nuyens and Boonen pulled them back. Nuyens was the first to jump across the gap, but then Boonen went after him, giving Pozzato just enough of a breather to launch his winning move when the group came together. Pozzato was unstoppable when he went, even though he didn't believe his group would ever catch the leaders. "Suddenly we came very close and I gave it everything again," said Pozzato at the finish. "At the end we were tired, but I won thanks to my grinta
. "It's an important victory for me. I came here for a result. The Ronde [Tour of Flanders] is still a month away, but I hope I can be a bit better by then." Tom Boonen was clearly not at his best classics form, but he was still there. "I was finished in the finale," he said. "But it was thrilling. The public saw a nice race. "I bent myself double 25 times to close the gap. But I didn't have the explosivity to counter Pippo. That was not sprinting, that was crawling. But I was in contention for the win, so I'm on the right track." What happened
A stiff, cold wind blew across Gent's Sint-Pietersplein, bringing with it a chilly rain. But the bad weather conditions didn't stop thousands of fans from pouring into the vast cobbled square for the start of the Omloop Het Volk. It's the traditional opening to the Belgian season, and no cycling fan here wanted to miss it. The 195 riders might have had other thoughts as they signed on, but nasty weather is par for the course at Het Volk. After a 15 minute neutral-zone taking the riders out of Gent, the race proper started in Merelbeke at 11:45. The first part down to Oudenaarde was into the wind, making it difficult for an early break to establish itself. Ludovic Auger (Franaise des Jeux) tried after 14 km, but only lasted 1.5 km. The same fate befell Laurent Mangel (AG2r Prevoyance) at km 26. The rain stopped but the wind, the wet roads, and general nervousness caused several crashes in the bunch. Wouter Weylandt (Quick.Step) and Christoph Roodhooft (Palmans Collstrop) were involved in one, but were able to return to the bunch. Kevin De Weert (Cofidis) wasn't so lucky. He crashed later on and broke his collarbone. The first crucial point came after 51 km when the peloton hit the Oude Kwaremont, a two-plus kilometre cobbled climb that nearly always results in a split. Today was no different, and at the top the bunch was cut in two, with the second group at 1'40 and never coming back into play. All those caught at the wrong end of the race pulled out at the foot of the Muur van Geraardsbergen (km 85). A breakaway of eight did manage to establish itself over the top of the Kwaremont: Johan Vansummeren (Predictor-Lotto), Gert Steegmans and Sbastien Rosseler (Quick.Step), Sbastien Minard and Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis), Lorenzo Bernucci (T-Mobile), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com). The leaders had to work hard for their advantage, and it was less than a minute by the Muur. There, last year's winner Philippe Gilbert (Franaise des Jeux) tried to get across to them, but failed. At halfway into the 200 km race, the eight leaders had 1'24 over the peloton as they hit the Valkenberg, the sixth climb of the day. That shrank to 47 seconds on the Eikenberg (km 112), as first Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet-Tnissteiner), then Jimmy Casper (Unibet.com) and Steffen Wesemann (Wiesenhof) mounted a counter-offensive to try to reach the eight front riders. But punctures slowed Casper and Wesemann down, and all the chasers were reabsorbed by the bunch. The gap grew to almost three minutes as the break hit the Molenberg with 63 km to go. Steegmans and Vansummeren looked to be the strongest on the steep, slippery cobbles, while behind in the bunch, Quick.Step forced the pace to try to create a selection. The main peloton did break up a little over the top, but it came back together. Rabobank and Chocolade Jacques combined forces to bring back the break, as neither team had a rider in it. At 44 km to go, it was all back together, save for Lequatre, who hung on for a few more kilometres. As the race went through Laarne with less than 40 km to go, Bas Giling (Wiesenhof) powered off the front. He was chased by Bert Roesems (Predictor) and Marco Zanotti (Unibet), and the three came together just before the cobbled Krimineelstraat with 30 km to go. Zanotti couldn't handle the pace, and only Roesems and Giling remained in front. The two leaders pulled out a 10 second gap over the bunch, which was now disorganised on the narrow, twisting roads through Kalken and Overmere. Although the sun was out, the roads weren't exactly dry, making a pursuit difficult. Then, on the Berringstraat cobbles with 24 km to go, Gilbert made his move with De Jongh (Quick.Step), Ten Dam and Gardeyn (Unibet), Hayman (Rabobank), and Fischer (Liquigas). The chase group pulled the two leaders back to under 10 seconds as Roesems dropped Giling on the Koningstraat cobbles. But the pursuit lost Gilbert on the next cobbled section, the lethally slippery Heistraatje. The Franaise des Jeux man crashed on a corner, and although he was quickly back on his bike, he was absorbed by the next group which contained Tom Boonen. Several other riders came to grief on this corner when the peloton reached it. Roesems maintained a 12 second advantage until the last cobbled section, the Vogelzangstraat. By this stage, the chase group had grown to 25, and the powerful Roesems was running out of steam. At 14 km to go, it was back together, and almost immediately Stuart O'Grady (CSC) attacked with Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) struggling to catch his wheel. The Australian waited, and found a valuable ally in Flecha. Especially when Tom Boonen tried to cross the 10 second gap alone. Boonen's move saw him gain the company of Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) and Baden Cooke (Unibet.com). With 10 km to go, this group trailed O'Grady and Flecha by 12 seconds. Pozzato was doing massive turns, and looked to be the strongest of the group, but O'Grady was also on a good day out in front. The Predictor-Lotto team had missed both moves, and were trying to get McEwen into a position to win a bunch sprint, but they lacked the firepower. The two leaders traded turns until they reached the last part of the finishing circuit in Lokeren. The pair hit the headwind with 1 km to go with 8 seconds, but the group behind hadn't given up, although Cooke couldn't hang on. First Nuyens attacked to get across, then Boonen closed the gap. That allowed Pozzato to take Boonen's wheel, and when the two leaders were hauled in at 500 metres to go, Pozzato blasted away to win. Flecha had enough to finish second, while Boonen was third. Results 1 Filippo Pozzato (Ita, Liquigas) 5:04:38 (41.36 km/h) 2 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa, Rabobank) 0:00:02 3 Tom Boonen (Bel, Quick.Step) 4 Nick Nuyens (Bel, Cofidis) 5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus, Team CSC) 6 Baden Cooke (Aus, Unibet.com) 0:00:30 7 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel, Unibet.com) 0:00:39 8 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned, Unibet.com) 9 Robbie McEwen (Aus, Predictor-Lotto) 10 Steven De Jongh (Ned, Quick.Step) 11 Philippe Gilbert (Bel, Francaise des Jeux) 12 Andreas Klier (Ger, T-Mobile) 13 Niko Eeckhout (Bel, Chocolade Jacques) 14 Antonio Murilo Fischer (Bra, Liquigas) 15 Mathew Hayman (Aus, Rabobank) 16 Marcus Burghardt (Ger, T-Mobile) 17 Gabriele Balducci (Ita, Acqua e Sapone) 18 Jukka Vastaranta (Fin, Jartazi) 19 Bastiaan Giling (Ned, Wiesenhof-Felt) 20 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu, Discovery Channel) Got a comment? Discuss this in the
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