PIC ¸ TIM DE WAELE Kemmelberg takes its toll The Kemmelberg in West Flanders is the most notorious descent in professional cycling. Each year, its steep, cobbled slope claims more than one victim in Gent-Wevelgem. Yesterday was no exception. Despite dry weather conditions, nearly a dozen riders crashed on the two descents of the feared climb. Frenchman Jimmy Casper (Unibet.com) was one of the worst off as he fell face first on the cobbles. He was taken to Ieper hospital where he was diagnosed with concussion and a fractured eye socket. His teammate Matthew Wilson sprained his wrist, while compatriot Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) broke his elbow. American Tyler Farrar (Cofidis) came down and broke his kneecap, which will put him out of action for a month. Milram’s Alessandro Petacchi and Fabio Sacchi both suffered contusions, while their teammate Marco Velo broke two ribs and injured his knee and collarbone. Landbouwkrediet’s Andy Capelle broke his elbow while teammate James Vanlandschoot broke his wrist, thumb and elbow. Belgian Wilfried Cretskens (Quick.Step) suffered a deep cut to his right arm, and will not be racing Paris-Roubaix this Sunday. Wim de Vocht (Predictor) broke his thumb, and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) bruised his shoulder, elbow and knee. The large injury list prompted calls to remove the Kemmelberg from any racing. Cofidis sports director Alain Deloeil told AFP that it was “shameful” and “hyper-dangerous”, pointing to several of his riders who had been injured there in the past. “Among the first riders who pass, some lose their bidons which spill onto the road making it slick. This race is unworthy of the ProTour,” he said. The Belgian cycling federation’s Tom Van Damme gave his own opinion. “The Kemmelberg must go. If it was up to me, then no race would go over the Kemmel. The climb doesn’t make for a selection, but it does wreak havoc. This is a personal opinion and not the federation’s viewpoint.” Bjrn Leukemans (Predictor-Lotto) doesn’t like the descent either. “It’s high time that they should think about whether it’s responsible to keep the Kemmel in the parcours. You can ruin your whole season here.” Past Gent-Wevelgem winner Tom Boonen took a different tack, recognising the danger of the Kemmelberg but not wanting it to be removed. “The problem is that no-one who crashes there gets away with a cut in his finger,” he told Sporza. “I put the Kemmelberg on the same level as the Oude Kwaremont in the Tour of Flanders or the Carrefour de l’Arbre in Paris-Roubaix. They are sections that you have to get over if you want to win the race. But the descent is still extreme. You won’t hear me saying that it should be taken out completely.” Asked what to do about the drink bottles rolling down the road, Boonen replied, “Just ride over the things, and above all, don’t brake.” Predictor-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant agreed with Boonen. “The crashes are terrible, but otherwise you would take a difficult climb like the Kemmel out of the parcours,” he said. “There’s no getting away from the risk, or are we going to prevent bunch sprints?” Forum chat with Scott Sunderland Next Tuesday, April 17th, the Procycling forum will be featuring a ‘live’ chat with Team CSC directeur sportif Scott Sunderland. We are still finalising the details, but it will likely be an afternoon ( 4pm GMT) session. As we did last time, forum members will be able to pose questions to Scott on this forum thread, so if you’re a guest lurker and want to participate, then please register. We’ll do our best to have Scott answer all the questions, but bear in mind that this might not be possible. Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.
The cycling world is divided about whether to race over the Kemmelberg in future, following yesterda