PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
After a number of missed racing appointments with his MrBookmaker.com team, Frank Vandenbroucke unexpectedly returned to racing at the GP Frankfurt on Sunday and has insisted on his team including him in the Four Days of Dunkirk, which starts today. "This wasn't expected at all," MrBookmaker team manager Hilaire van der Schueren told La Dernire Heure, adding: "Frank himself insisted on it, which is a good sign."
Vandenbroucke had been scheduled to return to racing at the Tour of Picardy later this month after failing to make two racing commitments with his team earlier this year. Vandenbroucke blamed a stomach allergy for those non-appearances, but was subsequently given an ultimatum by Van der Schueren, who insisted the controversial Belgian return to racing in May.
After completing 130 kilometres at Frankfurt and then doing two hours of extra training later that day, Vandenbroucke is back on track for the moment. His team are not expecting him to complete all five days of the Four Days of Dunkirk, but are hoping he might be able to finish the first two or three stages, depending on weather conditions.
"Physically he feels good, but he lacks racing condition," said Van der Schueren. "We will see how much of this race he can do. One, two or three stages? It will all depend on how the race goes. But the order of the day is that he is not to push himself too much."
In common with many other races that are outside the ProTour series, the Dunkirk event is lacking many of the big teams that have traditionally supported it, such as Quick Step, Discovery Channel and Gerolsteiner. Phonak had registered to start before they were accepted into the ProTour series, but have subsequently scratched from the event.
However, there are six ProTour teams on the start line. Likely contenders for the 51st running of this race are Crdit Agricole's Thor Hushovd, Franaise des Jeux's Philippe Gilbert, Bouygues' Thomas Voeckler, and Davitamon's Leon van Bon. The key stage is on Saturday, when the field take on Mont Lambert in Boulogne six times, with the stage finishing at its summit. The route of this stage will be used for the French road championship at the end of June.
Stage 1, May 4: Dunkirk-Marcq en Baroeul, 154km
Stage 2, May 5: Marcq en Baroeul-Lens, 204km
Stage 3, May 6: Livin-Sangatte Cap Blanc Nez, 195km
Stage 4, May 7: Boulogne sur Mer-Boulogne sur Mer, 172km
Stage 5, May 8: Bourbourg-Dunkirk, 166km