Luck deserts Quick Step again

Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini both flattered to deceive in Milan-San Remo. Quick Step will hope that

Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini both flattered to deceive in Milan-San Remo. Quick Step will hope that
Widely touted as the Milan-San Remo Dream Team when it was pieced together this winter, the Quick Step jigsaw had dissembled alarmingly in the weeks and days leading up to La Classicissima. While 2003 winner Paolo Bettini and Italian champion Christian Moreni struggled to shake off illness - eventually arriving at the start line yesterday well below their best - Filippo Pozzato and Luca Paolini were ruled out of their race 'ftiche' by poor form and injury respectively. The bad omens turned out to be all too prophetic yesterday. Bettini's token effort with Credit Agricole's Andrei Kashechkin at the foot of the Cipressa descent was drawn out over just a few kilometres. The Olympic champion's erratic lead-out for Tom Boonen 300 metres out proved equally ineffectual. Boonen, his route to Alessandro Petacchi's wheel barricaded, could do no better than 8th place in the bunch gallop. Earlier, we had been denied the opportunity see Boonen's team-mate and compatriot Nick Nuyens firing one of his trademark salvos by a crash as the group approached the Cipressa. Nuyens finished the race in 162nd and next-to-last place. The recent winner of Het Volk would later require stitches to a cut on his right knee. Bettini, whose build-up to the race had been checked by persistent bouts of flu in January and February, was philosophical about his ride. "I am happy with how I performed," the Italian said last night. "I attacked where I did knowing that it was my only chance in the form I'm in. If we'd had 30 or 40 seconds at the foot of the Poggio, the plan was that I would go for it. I would have attacked again and tried to shell out Kashechkin. It wasn't to be as the gap was only 12 seconds. At that point I had to save energy so that I could help Tom. When I pulled off the front with 300 metres to go it was to try to expose Petacchi to the wind. Unfortunately, it didn't matter because he was by far the strongest." Boonen had no chance to verify this due to his positioning error as Petacchi cranked up his turbo. The Belgian would surely have been better placed had his designated lead-out man, Guido Trenti, not gone missing in the final kilometre. But Boonen later absolved Trenti of any blame: "Trenti had to work too early in the race because we were lacking men," Boonen said. "He also had side pains all day. I am happy to have at least been there for the sprint. When Petacchi accelerated I tried to follow but found myself boxed in."
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