Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) takes the win ahead of David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) and a stunned Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram). Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Top 3 on the podium: Hushovd, Kopp and Petacchi. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Hushovd Wins Gent-Wevelgem
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) is the first Norwegian winner of Gent-Wevelgem.
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) is the first Norwegian winner of Gent-Wevelgem. Hushovd won a bunch sprint to take the 210-km classic in 4:53:15. David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) finished second, and Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) took third.
The race was ridden in dry, sunny, windy conditions, and from the beginning, the pace was fast. At <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>25 km , Iker Flores (Euskaltel), David Boucher (Unibet.com), and Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole) escaped, but the bunch reeled in the trio quickly. At 40 km , Carlos Zarate (Saunier Duval) and Kenny van Hummel (Skil) sallied off of the front. Sixty-five km later, they rejoined the peloton.
At 115 km , Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) and Bernhard Eisel (Francaise des Jeux) attacked. The bunch kept the duo on a short leash, and their lead maxed out at 1:20 at 130 km . At 136 km , 0:30 separated the bunch from the break.
On the Vidaigneberg, the escapees? lead was down to 0:17. Defending champion Nico Mattan (Davitamon) attacked from the peloton and took Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros), Kopp, Marco Milesi (Liquigas), Nick Nuyens (Quick Step), Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), Gert Steegmans (Davitamon), Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), and Andre Greipel and Marcus Burghardt (both from T-Mobile) with him. On the descent, the peloton reeled in the break.
During the first ascent of the Kemmelberg ( 150 km ), Hushovd began to show his strength. He led for much of the way, but the field did not break up, and after the first circuit of the hill area, the peloton was together.
At 155 km , Wim Vansevenant (Davitamon), Steven De Jongh (Quick Step), Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom), Alessandro Cortinovis (Milram), and Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) escaped. The fugitives forged a 48-second lead before Discovery Channel began to chase. Rabobank joined the American squad, and on the second ascent of the Kemmelberg, the leading quintet?s lead was down to 0:24.
On the run in to Wevelgem, the field split. At 173 km , about 40 riders found themselves in the lead, including all of the favorites except for Tom Boonen (Quick Step), who might have been saving his legs for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. Erik Zabel and Petacchi (both from Milram), Hushovd, Kopp, Davis, Eisel, George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Juan Antonio Flecha and Erik Dekker (both from Rabobank), and Nuyens and Filippo Pozzato (both from Quick Step) were in the break, which had six Milram riders in it. Clearly, this was the break of the day.
Milram drove the break, and in retrospect, the Italian team used too much energy doing so. With 15 km remaining, Lars Michaelsen (CSC) tried to escape, but Milram chased him down. Three km later, Bert Roesems (Davitamon) had a go. The Milram-led group chased down the Belgian, but only 1.5 km remained. Just short of the one-km banner, Pozzato bolted into the lead. For a time, the Italian looked like a winner, but he attacked into a headwind and was caught in the last 50 m . The winner of Milan-San Remo settled for fourth.