Tom Boonen Takes Third Gent-Wevelgem Victory
Tom Boonen made a legendary addition to his palmarès earlier today by winning the Gent-Wevelgem 2012.
Boonen made a legendary addition to his palmarès earlier today by winning the Gent-Wevelgem 2012.
After a leg wrecking team effort by Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team to get themselves to the front of the race, then placing Boonen in perfect position for a sprint victory, he took off up the middle of the road in the final meters and tossed his bike across the finish line to win his third Gent-Wevelgem ahead of Peter Sagan of Team Liquigas-Cannondale and Denmark's Matti Breschel of Team Rabobank.
Only Eddy Merckx, Mario Cipollini, Robert Van Eenaeme, and Rik Van Looy have won Gent-Wevelgem three times.
"This morning at the race briefing we decided not to take risks because of next week's Ronde van Vlaanderen. If we survived the last trip up the Kemmelberg, we would try to do the sprint." Boonen said of the 2100 meter, 4.9 percent average gradient climb with a max incline of a whooping 21 percent.
"It's the key point of the race, about 35 kilometers from the finish. We passed with four or five riders today, so that was really a good sign. I came from the second row. It was a bit close on the left hand side, but I made the right decision because, with the headwind, I tried to stay covered until the very last moment. Then, when I saw the possibility, I decided it was time to do the sprint. I'm in good shape. I already showed my condition on Friday and I am satisfied."
Gert Steegmans, Gerald Ciolek and Dries Devenyns did hard work to ensure Boonen was in the key move of the race. Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan) and Sagan went up the road to try and catch the remaining riders of an original nine man breakaway with less than 33 kilometer to go of the 235 kilometer race.
Two of those riders, Jon Izaguirre (Euskatel-Euskadi) and Anders Lund (Team Saxo Bank), attacked the group earlier and had less than 2 minutes of a gap when Cancellara and Sagan made their move. Steegmans initially tried to bridge on his own, but then returned to a chase group that included Boonen, Ciolek and Devenyns. The Steegmans-Ciolek-Devenyns trio then led the charge. The remnants of the original breakaway were eventually caught with a little less than 28 kilometer to go.
Meanwhile, a group of several sprinters fell off the back of the chase group. Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) slowly saw their race contention slip away as the Boonen chase group caught the Cancellara and Sagan group with 26 kilometer remaining. That left only Lund and Izaguirre dangling up the road, with a one minute gap.
Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep worked at the front to chip away at the gap, encouraging other teams to assist in the case. By that time 17 kilometer remained, the Cancellara and Boonen-merged group caught the duo and Omega Pharma-QuickStep Cycling Team dictated the race from there, according to a team spokesman.
"The team once again was super strong," Boonen said after being celebrated on the podium in Wevelgem and added "Steegmans in particular was a really key rider. The team did their best fight to make the front, they expended all energy they had to try and help."
Devenyns, who worked hard to make sure Boonen was in the key move earlier, eventually lost contact with the group after doing his job. That left Steegmans and Ciolek to work at the front for Boonen. Ciolek buried himself to chase down an attacking Team Sky rider with 5km to go, and once that was done it was up to Steegmans to deliver Boonen as part of the sprint to the finish line.
"Steegmans did something really unbelievable today," Boonen said. "He kept the speed so fast so I could do my sprint.
"After the last climb of the Kemmelberg I was in a breakaway with Fabian Cancellara. I felt good, but that was already the case in Tirreno-Adriatico. It's better to try something than to do nothing at all. In the sprint Boonen was stronger today," 2nd place finisher Sagan said after the finish.
As the sprint began, there was a crash in the rear part of the peloton group involving several riders. Boonen was not one of them, and he took off for the win as chaos erupted behind him.
"I will now try to focus on recovery, eating, and sleeping as well as possible and then try to do my best at Ronde van Vlaanderen next Sunday," Boonen said and added "I am not like Cancellara or other guys who can solo for 50 kilometer. I don't have the engine to do it. I will try to be in control and see what happens.
Commenting on his expectations for the 2012 Tour of Flanders, Boonen told Roadcycling.com
"The Ronde van Vlaanderen course is different. It's harder than in the past. I think everybody will wait a bit. You never know what can happen with a parcour like that. I'm really happy to win Gent-Wevelgem. These races in Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix - I live for races like these. I like these and these are where I have to try and really perform even if I always do my best in every race."