By AFP

Saturday, March 1, 2008 5.00pm

Favourite grabs win in Belgian season-opener

Philippe Gilbert of Francaise des Jeux won the Het Volk cycle race on Saturday ahead of fellow Belgian Nick Nuyens and Thor Hushovd of Norway.

The 25-year-old Gilbert, who also triumphed here two years ago, lived up to his reputation as pre-race favourite by romping away to win by nearly a minute from Nuyens and Hushovd.

He broke free 50 kilometres from home on the Eikenberg climb leaving in his wake such big names as Tom Boonen and world champion Paolo Bettini.

Switzerland's Fabian Cancellera led the chase in the final 15 kilometres but he was unable to make much of an impression as Gilbert held on for the victory, his second of the season after the Mallorca Trophy.

"I felt so strong in my legs," Gilbert said. "When I attacked on the Eikenberg I saw straight away that I was much stronger than the others.

"To strike out alone out so far from home was a risk that's for sure, but I just gave it all I had and it worked."

"It's great because that gives me a lot of confidence for the big races to come. My dream to is to win Milan to San Remo. That's the first big target of my season and I think I have proven that I am good enough to win it."

See Cyclingnews.com for more from Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

Results

GENT - GENT RESULTS

1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux4:55:25 (40.417km/h)
2 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis 0:00:58
3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 0:01:06
4 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) Ag2r-La Mondiale
5 Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas 0:01:12
6 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) Agritubel 0:01:13
7 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence-Lotto
8 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 0:01:16
9 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 0:01:53
10 Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Française des Jeux

Omloop Het Volk Stages

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