Boonen Wins Gent-Wevelgem
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won Gent-Wevelgem. The Belgian won a bunch sprint to take the 208-km race in 4:58:47. Magnus Backstedt (Alessio) finished second, and Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) finished third.
The race was ridden in cold, windy, rainy conditions. The 186 starters held a moment's silence for Briek Schotte, a famous Belgian cyclist who died on Sunday, before beginning the race. Julien Smink (Bankgiroloterij) made an early sally and ran up a seven-minute lead before the bunch reeled him in.
The weather split the peloton and created a lead group of about 60 riders with 90 km left. Many futile attacks were made from this group before Backstedt, Jo Planckaert (MrBookmaker), Peter Farazijn (Cofidis), and Nick Nuyens (Quick Step) escaped with 70 km remaining. Other riders joined the trio until 18 men formed the lead group.
Initially, Boonen was not part of this group because he had crashed and punctured with 65 km left. Teammate Kevin Hulsmans gave him a wheel, however, and Boonen bridged up to the leaders.
On the first ascent of the Kemmelberg, the lead group, which was now up to 25 riders, split, but it reformed on the descent. Six Quick Steppers did the pacemaking and discouraged all attacks. With two km left, Nico Mattan (Bodysol) had a go, but Boonen's teammate Johan Museeuw rode him down. Backstedt surged into the lead, but Boonen took the Swede's wheel and came around him with 200 m remaining. The Belgian finished comfortably ahead of the field.
Many of today's riders will take on Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. How will they fare? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!