Boonen Wins Tour of Flanders
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian star surged away from five breakaway companions in the last nine km to win the 256-km classic in 6:22:00. Andreas Klier (T-Mobile) finished second at 0:35, and Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon) took third at 0:40.
Before the race, the riders observed a moment of silence in honor of Pope John Paul II, who died on Saturday. At 9:40 am, however, racing took precedence. The peloton left the start line in Brugge and moved west toward the North Sea at Ostend.
At 95 km, seven men escaped. They were Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas), David Boucher (Mr. Bookmaker), Samuele Marzoli (Lampre), Francis Mourey (La Francaise des Jeux.com), Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval), and Carlos Barredo (Liberty). By the day?s first climb, the Molenberg, the septet led the field by 4:30. By this point, defending champion Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), who has struggled with illness recently, had abandoned.
On the Wolvenberg, the day?s second climb, Backstedt set the pace. Marzoli was dropped, and Mourey and Boucher slid out of the back on the Oude Kwaremont. On the Paterberg, Boucher clawed his way back on temporarily.
With 74 km left, and 4:00 separating the bunch from the break, Zaballa attacked his companions on the Koppenberg. Behind, the pressure of Wilfried Cretskens (Quick Step), Klier and Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) split the field, with a 20-rider lead group leading a 50-man chase group by 0:10 on the Koppenberg.
On the Steenbeekdries (186 km), the leading quartet led the field by 1:30, and Gregory Rast (Phonak) and Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) attacked from the bunch. The Quick Steppers led the chase, and the two escapees were reeled in.
On the Boigneberg, Backstedt was dropped. Zabel tried another attack, but Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Stuart O?Grady (Cofidis) took his wheel. With 50 km remaining, Zaballa dropped Barredo. Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile) attacked and got clear on the Foreest, but Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) bridged up to him and then joined Zaballa in the lead.
On the Leberg, 0:30 separated the bunch from the break. On the next climb, the Berendries, Ballan dropped Zaballa, and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) attacked from the bunch. Discovery Channel led the chase, and Kroon was snared. With 35 km remaining, Ballan led by 1:00 on the Valkenburg.
On the descent, Zabel tried again and got clear. Roberto Petito (Fassa Bortolo) joined him, and then Boonen, Klier, and Van Petegem joined them. Discovery Channel missed the break and was forced to chase for George Hincapie. The American squad received no help from Davitamon, T-Mobile, and Fassa Bortolo, which were represented in the break.
Davitamon, T-Mobile, and Fassa Bortolo blocked while the break rolled up the road. The sextet lengthened its lead between the Tenbosse and the Muur van Gerardsbergen. As the Muur approached, the bunch led the break by 0:50.
On the Muur, Van Petegem made the first move. Klier and Boonen covered it. Petito and Zabel were dropped but rejoined on the descent. Vladimir Gusev (CSC) and Flecha were 1:00 behind.
On the day?s final climb, the Bosberg, Klier attacked. Boonen covered him. On the summit, Boonen attacked, and Van Petegem, Klier, and Ballan joined him. Petito and Zabel rejoined later.
With 10 km left, Klier accelerated. Van Petegem followed up. Then, Boonen attacked, and no one could respond. His move was not decisive, as he led by only 0:10 with seven km remaining. His next acceleration sealed the deal, however, and Boonen cruised to the finish in Meerbeke unmolested.
During the next week, many of the riders will cross swords at Gent-Wevelgem and at Paris-Roubaix. Who will prevail? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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